Anything is possible in life but sacrifices must be made in order to achieve your goals. But nothing is ever easy. To be successful, you’ve got to struggle but it’s all worth it in the end.
I was born on Thursday Island and raised on Prince of Wales Island in the Torres Strait. My heritage is of Torres Strait, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.
Sadly my Dad passed away when I was very young, so Mum found herself alone as a single mother to four girls. Mum did the best she could to help us girls get a good education and tried as hard as she could to support us. She faced significant challenges, including limited English skills and a lack of education. Despite these challenges, she was determined to help us kids and would often ask neighbours to help us kids with homework or filling out our school forms.
I remember thinking at the time that no matter what happened in my life, I would never be in my Mum’s situation. I promised myself that I would have the skills and education needed to support kids of my own one day.
From that point on, I became a very determined young lady.
At 16 years of age, I fell pregnant.
At the time I didn’t know if I could go through with having the baby, but my Mum played a big part helping me finish school. I remember her telling me:
You still continue your education, and I will be there to support you.
So with the support of my Mum as well as my future husband and his family, I had a healthy baby boy and went back to school to finish Grade 12. During this time, my husband and I also became foster parents to my younger sister.
Later in life, my husband and I started our own cleaning and gardening business in the Torres Strait. We’re really proud of our business as we encourage Indigenous employment and provide opportunities for people who don’t have a lot of work experience or formal qualifications. At the moment, 90% of the people who work with us are Indigenous. During this time, we had four beautiful children and life was good in the Torres Strait.
Once our kids started reaching high school age, we decided to move to Cairns to offer them better education and work opportunities. What started as a temporary move soon became permanent as we realised how much our children were embracing these opportunities and began to excel.
So now my family is based in Cairns, and my hubby is flying back and forth between the Torres Strait to run our far-flung business. This means that for most of the time, I’m running our Cairns operation (including payroll, finance, purchasing, sales, and doing cleaning and gardening) as well as raising our four children. I’m really proud to say that since moving to Cairns, our business has flourished and we have been able to hire even more Indigenous workers from the area.
We have recently begun to work with Access Community Housing, and we deliver a lot of cleaning and landscaping services for them.
Also on top of this workload, I’m a volunteer health and fitness coach. I love going out in the mornings to pick up ladies from across my community to help them lose weight and look after their health.
What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?
NAIDOC Week is very important to us because it’s a part of our lives and a part of our culture. It’s the heritage of our children and grandchildren, so we keep that strong and we encourage culture in our home though teaching them language and traditional cooking.
My husband teaches our children Torres Strait language while my Mum and myself also teaches them words from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.
We’ve made sure that our kids have grown up proud of their heritage and celebrating this every NAIDOC Week.
But this year’s NAIDOC Week theme is particularly important to me as each and every day I try to be an example to other Indigenous women.
I didn’t have the easiest of upbringings. My Mum couldn’t help me do homework, she couldn’t help me do basic reading, and she couldn’t even read a book for me. Despite these challenges, I was determined that I was going to become a successful person in my life.
I feel like I can now show other Indigenous people that no matter their background and struggles, they can be a success if they believe in themselves and work hard.
I feel that my role now is to be an example and a leader to show people how to be successful. That you can have kids, you can own your own home, you can run your own business, but you can still help people in your community.
I really value the women I work with and support them both at work and in their personal lives. They all love me as I’m not just their boss, I’m a part of their family now (and they are part of mine). When I show them love and look after them then they look after me too and that’s how I treat my workers. They’re all reliable, they’re all happy and they love coming to work. It’s just a fun, happy environment to be in when we go to work.
Helping people makes me happy, and I’d rather lead a happy life than a sad life.
Why do you think you were nominated?
When I work with Access Community Housing and find out a cleaning job is for struggling families and personally paying for it, I drop my price instantly.
For me it’s not about the work and the money, it’s about helping people – maybe this is one of the reasons why the Access team nominated me. Because the team at Access work with people who are homeless or struggling to find a place, I try to help those people out myself – especially if they are paying for those jobs themselves.
What message do you have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women this NAIDOC Week?
Anything is possible in life but sacrifices must be made in order to achieve your goals.
This is the only reason we became successful as we make a lot of sacrifices. When we moved to Cairns in 2015, it was heart-wrenching for my husband and I to leave our family behind – it’s been hard for the kids too.
But nothing is ever easy.
To be successful, you’ve got to struggle but it’s all worth it in the end.