‘My mum passed away when I was about 19 so I had to look after my brother and sister on my own. They were 12 and 13 at the time. I don’t know how I did it. It’s hard looking after teenagers at any age. I managed for about 4 years and then I couldn’t do it anymore so my sister went to live with my family up in the country and my brother went to my dad.’
What do you miss most about your mum?
‘The fact that I didn’t have to be responsible. I miss her all the time. Every day.’
‘The saddest moment in my life was when I went to Long Bay Jail. I spent 2½ years in there. I robbed a 7-Eleven in Matraville. I was an alcoholic and a drug addict.’
What did it teach you?
‘Gratitude. Loss of freedom. It taught me to be humble. It taught me to respect others – that you can’t take other people’s money or belongings. I’ve turned all that around in my life. I now go down to Mathew Talbot every Tuesday and feed the homeless. I give back; try and make up. I haven’t been back to prison since 1999. I intend not to go back. I’ve got 3 businesses and I went to acting school.
‘It’s hard when you’re in prison because you’re judged by the police first and you’re judged by the judge and jury. Then you’re judged by Corrective Services and then you get out of prison and you’re judged by society.’
What was the hardest thing when you came out of jail?
‘Getting accepted again by society – them not knowing that I’d changed. There are some people in society that want help; that want rehabilitation. I’ve learned my greatest lessons from my biggest mistakes.’
‘I remember going towards the station and then everything goes black. I had a traumatic brain injury and was in an induced coma for 6 days. They weren’t expecting me to be walking or talking very much at all but miraculously I got out of hospital about 2 weeks later.
‘I was crossing at a pedestrian crossing and was run down by a station wagon. A year and a half later, I’ve finally been able to think about things like this and try and find the person who saved me.
‘The only information I have is that her name starts with an M – Melanie or Melissa maybe. I’m told that she gave me first aid – possibly CPR – and it very well saved my life. She called the hospital in the first couple of days probably 3 or 4 times just to check in and the hospital staff tried to take her name but it all got lost in the paperwork.
‘Not only did she probably save my life on that night but knowing that there was someone like her out there has helped me recover and has probably saved my life throughout this year. It’s given me faith to pull through.
‘I just want to let her know that the person that she stopped and saw that night covered in blood is alive and incredibly grateful. I hope to meet her one day just to say thank you. I’d like to be able to explain it with a deeper meaning but in the end it just comes down to two words. There are a million ways to say it but the message is just “thank you”.’
‘They always thought I was a freak – that I wasn’t normal. I just wasn’t the average Joe as they say. It pretty much lowered my self-esteem and I thought I can’t dress this way or be this way and I have to look the same.
‘I used to live in a country town but now that I’ve moved here I have the chance to be myself instead of hiding away. It’s like I’m free now.
‘You can’t let other people’s expectations get you down. Just follow your heart and what you really want in life. If you want to be yourself then why not do it? Nothing is standing in your way. It’s only yourself that’s stopping you.’
‘Recently I broke up with my wife. Having to walk away from that and say I can’t do this anymore was really hard.’
What did you learn from your marriage?
‘Never confuse your projection of someone else with what they are. What you think someone is isn’t necessarily what they are and no matter how much you want to be someone else, they are them. Whoever it is, you’re going to be with, you have to accept them with no conditions.’
‘I felt my parents just didn’t understand. They didn’t see what I saw. Not many people understand what you want to do and what you see; what your vision is. It held me back and it made me feel really insecure about myself at the time. I just had to keep going…and I have to keep going.
‘After school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was kind of lost so I just kept on with my dancing. It made my parents angry but it’s a hard road trying to be a dancer. I have a troubled relationship with my parents and don’t live at home so the Ted Noffs Foundation Street University helped me to work on my art.
‘As long as you persevere, have faith and the right support then you will get there. You will show people that this is what you were meant to do.
‘Parents just need to support their kids – that’s what they need. It’s going to be a hard road for both sides but continue to support and see where that gets them. It will take them far.
‘For young creative people, be confident. Post your work online. Tell people about what you do. Show people. Don’t hide it. Don’t keep it to yourself. Go and open up your work for the world to see. There will be someone who is interested.’
Eliam formed The Pioneers dance group who will perform and model at this Thursday’s Fashion Parade at Noffs Shop Newtown launch from 6-8pm – 461 King Street.
‘Salvador Dali said something interesting. He said, “The only difference between me and a mad man is that I’m not mad”. Agreed he used a term that is now offensive to people but his point is well taken that you can be as eccentric as hell; really eccentric to the point that colleagues and friends call you weird, right? But that’s not mental illness.’
Would you consider yourself eccentric?
‘Oh, hell yes! I cultivate it. I do it deliberately.’
‘I’ve been a homeless alcoholic on the streets. I’ve been an addict walking the streets when I was 16 years old up at the Cross and there were no real outlets to get help then. I think one of the strong contributing factors of depression is… when you isolate yourself. You can’t isolate when you feel bad. Just pick up the phone; it’s not a backbreaking thing to do. We have the technology now – mobile phones; the internet. There are support programs anywhere and everywhere. There are phone numbers advertised on TV. You know, Beyond Blue and all that.
‘When I was younger, there was nothing you know. I just got barely through by the skin of my teeth; I really did. It was really hard dealing with depression then. There are better support avenues out there now. You need to talk to someone. Even if you’ve got one friend, one is better than none – there is always someone around.
‘Busking is like my best anti-depressant. It fills that void. It’s a guarantee that every single time I go busking, I go home feeling on top of the world. It’s always 100% guaranteed.’
‘I used to be a high school teacher in maths and geography. 30 odd years ago I went to England and I was teaching over there for a long time – long enough to get married, have a daughter, get divorced. You know…the usual story. When I came back they’ve changed the rules on me. I’m no longer qualified. They consider me a new starter. I haven’t got a specialist teaching qualification so despite the fact that I’ve got 30 years’ experience including head of department I can’t teach without going back to uni for another year. I can’t afford that so I’m making scarves to keep myself above the streets rather than below them.’
‘If I sell a few scarves a week, I’m happy. The first couple of scarves buys all the wool I need. The next one buys me food for the week and the next one puts some petrol in my home.’