It's uncommon to find a best friend in a woman who was born over 150 years ago.
But for Hill End-based artist and author Rebecca Wilson, her friendship with Kate Kelly has been a source of inspiration and fulfilment.
For too long, Kate Kelly has been known simply as the sister of the famous bushranger, Ned.
Ms Wilson has spent a decade researching Kate Kelly to understand her story and raise her profile from being just a footnote in the history books.
"I felt a real obligation to do her name, justice. It became a burning sort of desire to tell people her story," she said.
"I really like Kate, I'm fascinated by her, and I like the fact that she's been in my life for so long. I like her tenacity, her grit, and that she just kept on going through adversity. She was very true to herself, fighting for the things that meant something to her and initially, that was her family."
Kate Kelly was an integral part of Ned's gang and led an extraordinary but ill-fated life.
She was an expert horsewoman and regularly acted as a messenger and decoy for Ned's gang, and often led police through dense bush with her horse's shoes back-to-front to disguise her tracks.
Following the death of her brother, Kate and brother Jim toured Melbourne, regional Victoria, Sydney, and Adelaide where they regaled theatrical tales about the gang's exploits.
But the police were quick to shut the shows down, and soon Kate could no longer find work.
In 1885, Kate moved to Forbes and changed her name in an attempt to start over and found employment at Cadow Station as a domestic servant, coincidentally hired by Rebecca Wilson's relatives.
But unfortunately, Kelly did not live a long life and died in 1898 at the age of 35, drowned in a lake at Forbes, western New South Wales.
It's not clear how Kate Kelly died, but Ms Wilson's book, Kate Kelly: Sister of an Outlaw, is an attempt to tell the story of how she lived.
Ms Wilson first became enamoured with Kate Kelly after her late uncle told her stories that had been passed down to him by relatives.
"I think it's easy for oral history in particular to be dismissed but it's actually very important because if we don't capture those stories and record them, then they disappear. And all those little stories add up to the whole story."
They were positive and heartfelt stories about a woman who had historically been side-lined in place of her brothers, or mentioned only as their alcoholic sister.
Over the course of ten years, Rebecca Wilson combed through thousands of archived articles and artefacts to learn more about Kate Kelly, a journey that has seen the artist live like a pioneer, exhibit work across Australia and speak in London.
"Some of the stories didn't lead anywhere and that's part of research, you have to be open to going down any avenue, knowing that some will take you to a dead end, others will just open up a labyrinth of more information, and some are just little gems," she said.
When Ms Wilson first arrived in Hill End, she took a job pouring gold bars at a mine, something she never thought would happen.
During this time, Ms Wilson's life mirrored a pioneer's even further as she lived in a small makeshift hut without electricity and running water.
"I think I was just looking for a more simple life."
An artist by trade, Ms Wilson found colour and vibrancy in the stories of Kate Kelly, but also trauma and tragedy.
Ms Wilson found that Kate Kelly had been diagnosed with 'milk fever', now known as postnatal depression.
"Women's health issues were a recurring theme because a lot of the Kelly story has been told from a male perspective, and your physicality, how you exist physically in the world really affects how you experience life," she said.
"I wanted to try and understand that level of suffering or trauma, and the things that made her who she was, and the issues that we all deal with in life. Because everybody faces hurdles and obstacles. They just come in different forms."
There is a crackling warmth and gentle understanding in Ms Wilson's voice when she talks about Kate.
"Maybe we're attracted to things that mean something to us".
A turning point for the project was when Ms Wilson fell seriously ill, and was constantly in and out of hospital over a two-year period.
"It was hammering me, and so I ended up with quite a lot of recovery time. I wasn't well enough to stand in the studio so I just thought, now's the chance to really knuckle down."
Rebecca Wilson is now focused on sharing Kate Kelly's story and exhibiting a series of paintings inspired by her life.
"It's very fulfilling to have seen it all the way through, every avenue that I wanted to pursue, I have pursued with this project and to have her story on permanent record is really satisfying."
Kate Kelly: Sister of an Outlaw has been selected as the Great Festival Read for the upcoming Bathurst Writers Festival and her paintings based on years of research are now on display at Gang Gang Gallery, NSW.
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