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Meeting Stella

Last week TGC ran a program for 13 beautiful Indigenous participants. Because of this program being slightly different to any we had done before we wanted the girls to have a guest speaker who is relatable for them.

This special someone had to be able to discuss important issues such a culture and identify with the participants.Let's just say- Stella was the right choice! Stella was captivating, honest, inspiring and real.

Take a squiz at some of the questions that Stella answered for the girls.

Can you tell us all a little bit about yourself? This can include your childhood, teenage years and your career to date?

I am 21 years old and am a Worimi descendant from the Port Stephens/Myall Lakes area. I was raised and still live in the Wollongong region. My main passion is the ocean; I love surfing, SUP-ing, snorkelling and free diving! I finished the HSC in 2012, now I work full time for the National Parks and Wildlife Service as a field officer (my Monday to Friday job), but on the side I am also a photographer and Instagram content creator “aka promoter”. I have worked with some of the leading brands in the surf and swimwear industry like O'Neill, Billabong and south coast local business Kokoh Bikini.

I have read on your IG profile that you are a proud member of the Worimi nation (who are saltwater people). Can you tell us about when you embraced that and how this changed you?

My Aboriginal heritage comes through my Dads side of the family, we actually only found out about this around 10-15 years ago. Since then I have fully embraced this culture!

A lot of our people feel shame, including me sometimes, it can't really be helped when for over 200 years our culture has been taken away from us and we're constantly told we are an inferior race, but we're not! We are the strongest group of people out there, we haven't gone anywhere and were still here as the longest living culture in the world! We need to be the generation that puffs up our chest and raises our chins to put an end to the ongoing generations of our people who have low self confidence as a result of past government policies and wrongdoings. Find something that makes you feel strong inside. For me, it's knowing my identity and finding strength in being out in Country. Spirituality is a very important thing, mine has only gotten stronger over the past few years. Country makes me feel whole in my heart, calm in my thoughts and so happy.

What's the first thing that pops into your head when I say these words:

Body image - perspective

Self love - confidence

Race - pride

Identify - choice

Woman - strength

How have you struggled with body image and self esteem?

I know school can be tough, I used to get bullied for being so quiet, girls would gossip and tell other people not to talk to me because I didn't talk much and that was weird to them. I just didn't feel a need to talk unless I really needed to or had something to say. So I used to get even more isolated, which didn't help my self confidence at all.

When I was in year 7 my older sister developed anorexia and was hospitalised for 2 terms. It was one of the hardest times in my life and also for my family. To see her so sick, literally like a bag of bones, her mental health was in such a bad place, she was a completely different person. She got to the stage where she wasn't allowed to walk or leave her hospital bed because it would burn up too much energy and she didn't have those calories to waste. She even had a tube put down her throat and was force fed. Thankfully she recovered, and I am so blessed to have my big sister back. Even though she is older than me she is smaller and much more petite than me, the anorexia had stunted her growth and development. So sometimes that’s hard for me, to feel so much bigger in size compared to her, but I then realise that hey I'm healthy, I have a strong body (I need muscles for my surfing and my work).

Everyone has their own securities, for me it is my skin. Since birth I have suffered with eczema rashes on my body. I go through stages where I get so dry that my skin cracks and bleeds. Creams can sting when I apply them, but the worse pain of all is when I go into the salty ocean. This is really hard for me because I love the ocean so much, I'm a saltwater girl and surfing is my favourite hobby. When I get really bad outbreaks of eczema, it's so hard to feel comfortable in myself, and I get really sad about it, it can effect how I feel about a lot of things going on around me. What I’m trying to make you girls realise is that we all have enough worries of our own, so we need to refrain from judging and critiquing others because that’s just extra weight on peoples shoulders if your making someone feel bad about themselves.

You are a professional photographer and really in tune with social media with a strong presence yourself. In your experience how do you believe social media portrays real life?

Don't be tricked by what people post on Instagram and facebook, these posts are the highlights of our lives so don't think that's the norm! If it were true what our feeds looks like, I would always be on holidays in warm tropical climates getting around in a bikini all day everyday! Also don't be fooled by fads like slimming teas and waist trainers. Instagram promoters get requests from these kinds of companies and are paid to promote them! I know because I get these requests. Though I turn them down because I'm not here to make a quick buck and fall into the trap of spreading a false message. They are targeted at vulnerable girls and to be honest I think they are completely stupid! Why would you want to take a laxative tea that makes you get diarrhea? Or an elastic strap to go around your waist that scars your body, as well as affects your bones and breathing. There is a reason why corsets are a thing of the past. Waist trainers are a waste of time and money! I also want to let you know that I don't use photoshop to manipulate bodies when I'm editing my pictures from photoshoots, I think that's totally wrong!

You work as a National Parks and Wildlife Service ‘field officer’, I assume this a male dominated field. How has/does this impact you?

I am the only female worker in the area, and only young person! The rest of my team mates are all at least over 40! Working with all males has really helped me to toughen up and cut out the b.s in life. Nobody blinks an eyelid if I come to work without my hair and teeth brushed, I don’t have to impress anyone. The majority of people at work really respect and value me, in fact a lot of the time I am treated like their daughters. The training I have gotten has really helped to boost my confidence, I never thought I’d be doing some of the things I’ve had to do, like firefighting, being winched from a helicopter, being a part of marine mammal rescues, operating chainsaws, driving tractors, bobcats, forklifts and 4WD-ing tricky tracks through the bush (among many other things). I am pushing the boundaries for a job that was previously seen as something that only males could do. I work really hard and am physically exhausted at the end of the day but I love what I do, this has been my dream job for many years and after a long hard journey I finally got into it!

What advice would you give these beautiful girls?

We as girls need to raise each other up, because it's so easy to get down, so compliment other people if you like something about them, because it will literally make their day. Today I want to push you to say one nice genuine thing to someone!

Who are some women who inspire you?

Funny enough they are all Indigenous women (in no particular order):

Evonne Goolagong – tennis legend and mentor to me

Jessica Mauboy – pop singer

Samantha Harris – fashion model

Thank Stella! xx

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