‘I always worked with fabric even as a kid. I started working in the rag trade as an apprentice cutter in Flinders Lane in 1962 and then was heading in to bridal and thought; if I’m going to do bridal then I need to know something about hats. The very first piece of felt I picked up and blocked, I went, “Ahhh, that’s what you’re meant to do.” You’re working in three dimensions rather than working in flat pattern work.
‘I still do a huge amount of sewing but now I teach hard and soft sculptured costume. It’s kind of a combination of millinery and costume. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had lots of big jobs and lots of fabulous work to create. The last job I did was Aladdin – it was lovely… but Star Wars, Phantom and Moulin Rouge were also great.
‘I’ve been a milliner for 55 years and I just turned 71. That was why I had the blue beard done because it was my birthday – my birthday beard.’
‘Sometimes us Sistergirls don’t like to identify as transgender. We come underneath the umbrella of transgender however we like to be called Sistergirls because it is a cultural identity. A lot of Sistergirls face discrimination and rejection from their own family and often feel isolated and are left homeless. We face stigma and discrimination in the community as well as cultural barriers to transition openly.
‘A lot of us travel to larger cities to seek refuge and solace and sometimes that isn’t even there in the larger cities. There was a lot of trauma growing up and now I’m still living with depression and anxiety. It’s funny, but I feel safer here than being back at home.’
‘I’m a Sista Girl from the Tiwi Islands. A Sista Girl is like a woman that is trapped in a man’s body. I feel more like a woman and am more attracted to a man than a woman.
‘There are a lot of Sista Girls in the Tiwis. We all support each other and help each other a lot. We look after each other when we have issues and problems. When a Sista Girl is depressed or feeling down, we go there and have a talk to her and make her feel like she is loved.
‘Sometimes we find that some people don’t accept us. Somehow we’ve managed to live with it but we know that we have other for support as well and that people that love us.
‘I chose to come to the Mardi Gras in Sydney because I want to find freedom and acceptance. I also want to get the message out to other Sista Girls not to feel afraid or alone. I want them to know that there are other Sista Girls out there that are like them as well.’