Happy home here to stay

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

Some might call it an eye­sore and oth­ers might call it free­dom of ex­pres­sion, but re­gard­less this colour­ful Fin­ley house — and quite lit­er­ally the colour­ful char­ac­ter that comes with it — is here to stay.

Just un­der 12 months ago, Gwenda Dar­ling (pic­tured) moved from New­cas­tle to Fin­ley af­ter a trau­matic di­vorce.

To help cope with the ex­pe­ri­ence the 65 year-old has gone to the ex­treme level of paint­ing her Howe St house rain­bow colours.

She said it was a rem­edy to help her over­come de­pres­sion.

‘‘I have lived with bi-po­lar and de­pres­sion since I was 15 and now I have a di­ag­no­sis of fron­totem­po­ral de­men­tia,’’ she said.

‘‘I suf­fer quite se­vere de­pres­sion from time to time and a sui­cide pre­ven­tion speaker once said ‘if it makes you feel good do some­thing cre­ative’.

‘‘I bought the house and peo­ple said I was go­ing to paint it pink, but I found that a bit bor­ing. A friend joked, ‘why not paint the house rain­bow?’ and I thought ‘why not?’.

‘‘Even be­fore I bought the house, I told the neigh­bours I was paint­ing it rain­bow. I think they as­sumed it would be pri­mary colours, like a tra­di­tional rain­bow or the ones we see com­monly with the LGBT flag.

‘‘While I’m a sup­porter of LGBT, I felt ge­lato rain­bow was dif­fer­ent and I wanted it to be known as ‘ hap­pi­ness house’,’’ Ms Dar­ling said.

She wants peo­ple —par­tic­u­larly chil­dren — to like the house and smile when they ad­mire it.

‘‘If it brings a smile to a kid who’s hav­ing a bad day on their way to school, then that’s made my day.

‘‘If a truckie driv­ing up the street is feel­ing bad and the house makes them happy, then I’m happy.’’

Ms Dar­ling is aware not ev­ery­one likes her colour scheme.

‘‘It po­larises the com­mu­nity and you ei­ther love it or hate it. There has been an anony­mous com­plaint to the Ber­ri­gan Shire say­ing wasn’t in keep­ing with the streetscape, but there are many in­ter­est­ing things around Fin­ley.

‘‘There’s a house with a cat on it, so what is the ‘nor­mal’ street scape? Is it un­mown lawns and bro­ken fences?

‘‘If peo­ple aren’t happy and don’t like it, then drive straight past and don’t look at it.’’

It’s easy to recog­nise Ms Dar­ling, who roams around Fin­ley with her pink hair, pink clothes and two ser­vice dogs.

Not sur­pris­ingly she has earned the nick­name ‘Pink Lady’ with the town’s younger chil­dren.

‘‘Kids don’t even know my name they just say ‘hello pink lady’,” she said with a smile.

‘‘Gwenda is a hard name to say for young kids — and a lot of kids do call me Gwenda.

‘‘I have worked in child pro­tec­tion and coun­selled young peo­ple; we must con­nect with chil­dren be­cause they’re our fu­ture.’’

Be­hind the bright pink hair and clothes is a great grand­mother who’s fight­ing ev­ery day with re­cov­er­ing from a tough child­hood, rape and a di­vorce.

Ms Dar­ling said she never had a nor­mal child­hood and it wasn’t un­til 15 years ago she could fi­nally cel­e­brate a birth­day.

‘‘At 43 I was raped and sur­vived that. I had my first birth­day party at 50, which was a pink party and that’s when my child­hood started.

‘‘Prior to that, I lived through incest, al­co­holism and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. I sur­vived all that.

‘‘Now I be­lieve that if telling my story helps one per­son, then that’s a good thing.

‘‘I joined Blue Voices — part of Beyond Blue — and it helps bring for­ward aware­ness of sui­cide and de­pres­sion.

‘‘It’s okay to be some­one who lives with de­pres­sion and you can still be in the work­force and func­tion.’’

Ms Dar­ling takes her love of pink can be seen through­out her home with its pink car­pet, walls and even pink shower cur­tain.

She is plan­ning to paint her kitchen bench­tops with a spe­cial rain­bow splash­back.

To go with the rain­bow house are colour­ful or­na­ments in­clud­ing a pink fly­ing pig made from a small gas cylin­der and other bits of scrap metal.

Adding to her art flair are old bed bases serving as a side fence and lead­ing into her back yard are five large painted doors.

Her aim is to cre­ate a mini utopia for chil­dren to play in her front yard.

‘‘The kids know if they come here they get lol­lies and it’s a fun place.

‘‘I have a lit­tle fairy gar­den in the cor­ner of the front yard and the kids will sit and play; they’re al­ways wel­come to come and play.

‘‘I go to the parks with the dogs and the kids love them. They love the at­ten­tion; it takes a com­mu­nity to raise a child.

‘‘We need to give kids some­thing pos­i­tive to think about and make them feel good.’’

■ Any­one re­quir­ing cri­sis sup­port can con­tact NSW Men­tal Health Line on 1800 800 944 or Life­line Aus­tralia on 13 11 14. Beyond­blue also of­fers sup­port on 1300 224 636.

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