‘I used to work on breakfast radio every morning on triple j and I’d wake up at 4.30 and leave the house when it was really dark and no one was out. But there’d be an old lady that slept out the front of our apartment door. She was there every day for a year.

‘It was kind of weird as I would always ask her if she needed anything but there was always a disconnect between her and myself. I guess that comes down to communication and what I can offer someone in that situation.

‘It’s not just money – it’s a blanket or do you need a phone call, or an OPAL card? Do you need a shower or do you need to use the bathroom? It’s those things. Taking part in the Newtopian Sleepout is definitely opening my eyes up to everything.

‘I’ve learnt a lot about homelessness so far – about how prevalent it is and how difficult it is to get out of the system. So many Australians, and I have as well, get caught up in this mind-set that we have Centrelink, why don’t you just get the dole, you know? You never really understand the complexity of any issue until you place yourself within that community. Not that I’m necessarily doing that just by sleeping in Newtown Square for one night but certainly just by being a part of this program I’ve learnt a lot more about homelessness. It’s made me more aware of what I can do as an individual in everyday circumstances that I will now be more aware of.

‘The thought of homelessness is terrifying. There are so many things that life could throw at you in any situation. I guess we all have our time at being “the one” at one stage or another and for now everything is good in my life and that’s why I’ll help out while I can.’ 

‘It’s really important to accept that there are differences between us but those differences aren’t an obstacle; they’re actually a way of helping us connect. Just because we are different and we come from different backgrounds doesn’t mean we can’t combine our energy, skills and experiences for the benefit of everybody.

‘Everybody’s got something to contribute. You’ve just got to find a way of helping that person contribute. Be open to engaging with people. All you have to do is talk to them – just a conversation. That spark can take a person anywhere.’

‘I have Stage IV cancer – it’s under control at the moment. I value every moment. I value the time I’ve got. I value friends and just the beauty of the world around me. You don’t have to go out in to the countryside to see beauty. There’s beauty here. There’s beauty everywhere. I seem to notice it more. I notice things more now. I don’t need to do spectacular things. I get pleasure out of very simple things in life.’

If you would give your ten year old self words of wisdom, what would they be?

‘I can’t remember when I was ten. I think I was a rebel then and I’m a rebel now. I would have said, “Keep it up kid!”’

‘In the last few months of her life she aged 20 years in two months. It was really hard to see her deteriorate like that and not be able to do something about it. My mum battled different cancers for 10 years. She beat it twice and then it returned as a metastisised cancer in 2012 and was considered terminal. She was on a trial medication for around a year that had similar effects to chemo. That did slow things down but in the end it was just a slow deterioration. I think that’s the really horribly fascinating part of it is the way that it begins so innocuously. In the beginning it’s just a bit of pain and you almost wouldn’t even know there is too much wrong but then it’s like a slippery slope.

‘I was 23 when she passed. It was traumatic – the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. In a way I think that I kind of died that day with her and a new me was born. I really feel fundamentally different from the day before that.

‘Starting Busk for a Cure was a way to fill some sort of existential purpose as I was slowly watching my mum pass away from cancer. I love busking – it’s one of my favourite things to do. It’s so humbling and nobody ever needs to stop and listen or give you any money yet they do. I think there’s something so pure about it because you know they’re giving purely because they like your music – there’s no ulterior motive.

‘I know my mum would be proud. I just wish I could show her who I am now.’

‘I feel like my ancestors are always present. I know that there is a chief from my grandmother is always to the left of me. I don’t know who he is but I know that he is always there. I’m still trying to understand when they actually reveal themselves and when they don’t. I don’t want to be selfish and think that they’re my babysitters. I do feel that I carry them inside me and that whenever I do really need help or guidance, they will come through and either reveal themselves in something or reveal what I need.

‘I feel more comforted about death as a result. I think it’s because I don’t know whether my spirit will stay when I leave but I feel comforted that at least my ancestors are here because if I have children, they will still be looked after. If it’s not by me after I’ve moved on but someone will always be there. That’s such an important part of our understanding of our culture is that everything you do is to ensure the safety and protection and preservation of the next generation in this life and the next life.

‘I’m not scared of death. I’m scared of pain for sure and the process of dying and how that happens. If I was to be scared of death, I would be scared of what there is to understand about spirituality. There is a lot of power in that and there is a lot to be scared of in the unknown but it’s also cool. Most of the ancestors that I interact with are beautiful and really lovely and caring and are just trying to help but it’s just about being aware and knowing and being respectful.’

‘As long as I can remember I’ve seen people cry and grieve and celebrate life by singing and dancing in the name of a person’s life.

‘I’m Tokelauan Fijian – my mother’s Tokelauan and my father’s Fijian. Both sides have quit similar mourning processes but on my Fijian side the whole mourning process is 100 days. On my Tokelauan side it’s 10 days.

‘I found out my nanna passed away when I was 17 and I was on a plane from Australia and thrown in to 2 weeks of planning, organising, crying, cooking, singing, dancing, praying with my family from 7am to 4am, 10 days in a row.

‘Sitting with her body and my family for ten days – actually sitting and talking to her and holding her and seeing that it was real; there was no tangible life left in her – that really helped me.

‘In my mother’s culture, when you begin the mourning process you have these things called Leos – each community or family member that’s connected to the person who’s passed away will come together with their family and present to the immediate family of the person who’s passed away gifts, prayer and song.

‘So many people came to my nanna – it was leo after leo after leo. Each time we did a leo, I grieved again – even when I thought I had nothing left in me.

‘If you know the songs and dance, you get up and join in – even if it’s not your family. The power of the call of community and the call to celebrate was so revealing for me because it was really my community and my family saying you’re not alone.

‘Going through that entire experience really slapped me in the face because it taught me about the importance of sitting with death and sharing your grief. It also taught me the importance of celebration for a person’s life.

‘You share everything throughout the process – there is no hiding; there is quite literally nowhere to go away and just be private. It can be very overwhelming too but I personally found a lot of comfort in it.’