Aldona Kmieć left Poland in 2004 when the country joined the European Union and doors were flung open to the West. A decade on, she finds herself living and working in Ballarat where her photographs, particularly her portraits of fellow migrants, have drawn attention to the city’s rich multicultural fabric. She has also found time to renovate a large 1875 cottage in the historic inner city suburb of Soldiers Hill.

Cottage Cottage

Step inside Aldona Kmieć’s double-fronted Victorian cottage and it is the light that you notice. From the soft, delicate and sophisticated lightshades to the natural light spilling into the hallway, light plays a subtle yet central motif in this home. Given Aldona’s northern European origins and her work as a photographer, it makes sense. She works from home, and follows the light around the house throughout the day. “I do have a bit of a fetish for lights and lamps,” she says. “I am not allowed to buy anymore.”

Cottage Cottage

Skilled at languages, Aldona worked in hospitality and studied photography in London before following her heart to Australia. An “adventurous conversation” with a family member led her to Ballarat in September 2010, after stints living on the Gold Coast and a short mid-winter stay in Melbourne. Twelve months later she bought the dilapidated cottage near the centre of town and set about restoring it.

Cottage Cottage

“Ballarat was grey, rainy and cold but I loved the old buildings, the architecture and the climate was European,” she says. “After so many years of living out of suitcases and travelling I was looking for a base I could work from and also a sense of community.”

Cottage Cottage

This story was originally published in the October/November 2015 issue of Australian Country. Order the back issue here.

Click here for more creative corner.

Words Sue Peacock
Photography Kim Selby


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