IMAGINE having to carry a gun with you every time you stepped outside. Imagine you had six foot walls with barbwire fences surrounding your house for protection. Imagine having a panic room inside your house with a security button that calls for help. Imagine coming home to your house and finding everything you owned was gone.
This was the life of Orange resident Lara Cowling.
“It was pretty bad,” she said.
“Our house was robbed three times. And when they robbed you they cleaned you out.
“It was gut-wrenching.”
Ms Cowling was born and raised in South Africa.
She grew up in Kempton Park, near Johannesburg, in the Gauteng province.
Many people would think Ms Cowling’s lifestyle was a nightmare, but the 40-year-old said it was just the norm.
“You live like that day in and day out, you become immune to it,” she said.
But after a while, Ms Cowling was fed up with living in fear and the amount of crime in the city and she decided to join the reservist, a volunteer-based police force.
Ms Cowling was in the reservist for six years, and started out as a constable and progressed to sergeant.
“I had a lot of training ... [the reservist] was very popular. It was visible policing.”
Although she was loving working on the beat, Ms Cowling made a bold decision to pack up her things and move to Australia.
That life-changing decision seven years ago was the best move she had made.
She started out in Sydney, worked for a graphic design company, completed an equine massage therapy course at TAFE and joined the Sydney Pistol Club.
And within three years she packed up her things again and moved to Orange.
“It was through my TAFE course that I discovered Orange and I was immediately attracted to the place,” Ms Cowling said.
Ms Cowling became an Australian citizen and got a job at Charles Sturt University as an administration assistant in the division of student administration.
“It’s a great job. I do a lot with the students and the different faculties.
“Maybe it is because I didn’t go to university. It has been an education for me.”
However, her passion for pistol shooting never died down and she joined the Orange District Pistol Club.
Her enthusiasm for the sport has seen her rewarded with NSW selection and gained her recognition at this year’s Australia Day awards.
“I’ve been very lucky to have some good shooters at Orange. The likes of Dean Brus and David Oates, they are good mentors,” Ms Cowling said.
Ms Cowling will be one of four Orange shooters to represent NSW at the International Sport Shooting Federation (ISSF)/Pistol Australia (PA) National Championships in Adelaide next month.
It would be the second time Ms Cowling has represented NSW at the national championships.
“I like to shoot three times a week then shoot matches on the weekend,” she said.
“I try to shoot at different venues. Try to mix it up a bit.”
Last weekend, Ms Cowling competed in the Australian International Shooting Limited (AISL) Australia Cup Two event in Sydney.
She finished eighth in the 10-metre women’s air pistol with a score of 363 out of 400, and fourth in the women’s sport pistol with a personal best score of 570 out of 600.
The top three positions in the women’s sport pistol were held by Australian representatives who will contest the World Cup next week in Sydney.