Giulia Censi of Marchagee  |  100x70cm Giclée Fine Photographic Print by Martine Perret (2024)

"My name is Giulia. I was born in Pescara, Abruzzo, Italy on Christmas Day. What a beautiful day to be born, right? It was a bit of a surprise for Mamma. I'm one of four and the only girl – the oldest and the shortest by far! I was raised in a city apartment. In Italy, we have long winters and short summers. Lots of our childhood was spent in summer at the beach, and in winter at home watching television and playing video games. My parents were both self-employed and looking after my brothers I grew up saying: I don't want to have kids ever, ever, ever! And now, I have a little boy and a husband. They are the light of my life.

Back in Italy, my English was awful. I couldn't say much, was taking private lessons, but I wasn't satisfied. I decided that after completing a Diploma in Business, I was going to try and live somewhere for at least a year. It was also a time when I had to test myself at 25. I was going to travel alone as far as I could, and not ask for help. London was a very popular place for Italians but I thought that was too close.

I thought being an Au Pair was the best thing to do. I put down Gaza, Mexico, Japan, Mongolia. I only clicked Australia because it looked far enough away. I received a request from a family in Perth. We started chatting on Skype. My English was so bad that I was struggling to understand them. I felt they were speaking very quickly. I was on my way to Australia on the 20th of January 2011.

When I got to the airport, my luggage was overweight and I was asked to take some kilos off. By the time I did, I was offered a business class seat for free. It was serendipity to me. I found myself in lots of situations where I ended up at the right place at the right time. I'm so grateful for it. I arrived at 3am and had no idea what was going on. I met the family who I was going to spend a year with. In Italy, I was sharing a bedroom with one of my brothers. I came here and had a queen-size bed for myself with my own bathroom. It was amazing. I loved the family and they became a second family to me.

After about eight months I decided I wanted to stay. To extend my visa, I needed to do farm work. I responded to a job ad in Marchagee and found myself on the TransWA bus with my huge, gigantic suitcase. I used to call it 'the dinosaur' because it contained my whole life. The farmer took me to see the chaser-bin. I looked at that thing. Am I meant to be driving this? It was massive and was a challenge to drive. I didn't do too much damage! I was open to anything, and I took everything with enthusiasm.

I met a German traveller who had arrived to work on a neighbouring farm. I looked at him and thought: I don't think I will speak to him, ever! But we kept bumping into each other. Later we were attending the same Xavier Rudd concert in Fremantle. We didn't even know. We both got dropped off at the bus stop in Marchagee. It was just us waiting. We spoke for three and a half hours on the bus. We couldn't get enough of each other. We started seeing each other that day.

I finished my second working visa and needed a sponsorship. I went back to Perth and Tino came with me, but we were struggling. For Tino, living in a shoebox unit in Midland did not work because he grew up on a farm and he needed space. A government job came up which was something I'd always aspired to in Italy, but I could never do it because the system there is so corrupt. I worked as PA to the Director of Strategic & Community Services for the Shire of Mundaring and we rented a house with a big backyard in Mundaring. As part of my job, I organised citizenship ceremonies. I became eligible to apply for my citizenship in 2015 and it did turn out I was doing my own citizenship ceremony, which was hilarious.

Tino was missing the farm and the rural life, he was missing the country. I encouraged him to look for jobs and he came back to Marchagee in 2017. We started a long-distance relationship, which was hard. It meant lots of driving. I quit my job in Perth in 2019 and joined him in Marchagee. That was a shock for me, coming from a corporate environment to the country. Coorow is the closest town from where we live. I have got so much out of Coorow in terms of character building and it has really toughened me up. It's been an awesome experience to be part of this community.

Covid-19 started in March 2020 and this is when I found out I was pregnant. The delivery was very difficult. I suffered a lot and had lots of health problems afterwards. I came back and had the worst postnatal depression. I felt completely isolated and had no family support because our families were not able to visit. We had friends but I had to build a mum's support group. That support group saved my life and my sanity. I met a beautiful Scottish woman who used to visit and help me around the house, which gave me a break because it was a rough and difficult time. Tino was working long hours. He was trying to balance everything. I think he also had a bit of depression even if he doesn't admit it.

I realised I probably needed help. I started seeing a psychologist. It was hard to do the therapy because from here, you have to go to Perth, to have that hour where you don't have your kids or anything else to think about. Anyone would benefit from it. We all strive to be better parents or better husbands/wives. I want to talk about it otherwise if you don't, it becomes a stigma. When I went on maternity leave, it was meant to be for a year. I came back earlier because I was struggling. I needed that day at the office to know I was being useful and doing something. My son started daycare one day a week and then we gradually increased to three.

My husband is a beautiful man, very kindhearted and a hands-on Dad. I think serendipity is just something that happens to you. I found love, a job, and started a family. I came with an open and positive mind, and at times I would feel the challenges. It's not realistic to expect that people should be positive all the time. If you feel a bit vulnerable about asking for help, then definitely ask.

North Midlands Project does so much in that mental health space. We are so fortunate to have them. I remember looking forward to the days I’d come to participate in an art workshop. I used to bring my son in the pram and have that time to (badly) draw and switch off, which I would never do by myself at home because you have 50 other things to do. It's so important to have that beautiful Exchange space in Carnamah where so much happens.

While it comes with its own sets of challenges, I do like living here. The wildflowers are amazing. I never imagined when I was 25 that I would get so excited about going flower hunting. It’s something that never crossed my mind, and now I just can't wait."


Click below to view the full portrait and read each story from the Act Belong Commit exhibition Women of the Hinterlands