‘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.’
‘Doing my first degree when I was 38 which I loved and sailed through and I got a first. I studied Drama.’
What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
‘Aim for RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London) – do the degree early! That is where I wanted to go but my parents wouldn’t let me. I became a registered nurse when I was 18 instead.
‘I’ve only stopped performing on stage in the last five years because I’ve had a lot of problems with my teeth and I won’t go on stage with no teeth. I can’t annunciate properly but I’ll have new teeth in soon.’
Will you go back to stage then?
‘Only to do cabaret – I love cabaret. I didn’t find cabaret until I was actually doing my finals project. I love singing and dancing. I shall return!’
‘In Hong Kong I just didn’t have the time to enjoy things. It’s too rushed and you can’t really observe stuff in detail. We don’t have a second to relax and enjoy life so for me, I want to take back the time. Here, at least I can get back free time and the lifestyle. And the food and the air. The air is so important because Hong Kong is so polluted.’
‘I think I’m going to take the Australian lifestyle back to Hong Kong with me. I’ve been back to Hong Kong twice since living here and now I’m just not used to how people walk so quickly and how rude they can be. I’m so used to now getting off the bus and saying thank you and stuff. I think I’m just going to keep doing that in Hong Kong.’
‘I’ve got to say I’ve been very fortunate with a lot of the kids I’ve had over the years. They’ve said to me, “Miss, you’ve always just been there. In our broken English, in our horrible writing, you’ve just been there. You’re stable. You’re with us. You listen to all our sob stories and all our successes.”
‘Even if it’s minor, I’m there; with them. I think they just need that one person that brings them stability at school – that one person they can go to. Someone who is willing to listen. That makes a difference to somebody’s life.
‘We run a homework centre at school that started for ESL kids only then opened up to everyone. We advocated to get more assistance because there was such a need. The kids just know you’re there. They know you’re going to listen.’
‘If you’re not there, they’ll hunt you down and drag you there! We are hunted!’
‘One of the more interesting jobs I’ve attended was carrying a 220kg naked man out of a brothel. We had to take him out of the window because they couldn’t manoeuvre him around.
‘We also get calls for cats in trees and snakes in gardens. We got called to someone who had a parrot up a tree and thought we could get it down. It obviously had just flown off. We also get calls for various drug labs on fire. Only about 10% of our calls now are to actual fires.
‘The first sign we did coincided with Mardi Gras and was very successful. Shortly after that, we had the buffalo incident. People started paying attention to what we were putting up so we’ve been trying to maintain it ever since.
‘We can get away with having a bit of fun with our signs because of the local demographic here in Newtown. One other station tried it but it’s a different audience. They don’t have the buffaloes to start with!
‘I think it’s all due to frustration. I see that show Madmen when they come up with slogans and I think maybe that’s what I really wanted to do in life. It’s a missed calling!’
‘My father died before I was born and there was a lot of arguing at home between me and my mum. It was just her and I so there was no mediator so it’s been very intense.
‘When I was in year 10, my mother and I had one of many very big fights and I ended up leaving and living with my friend for 3 months but then after that I came back. My mum left the next day to go to New Zealand for 6 weeks and so I was apparently a responsible teenager and could handle that. I had a job and all the rest so it wasn’t that bad.
‘After she got back we managed to live together for another 3 months but everything was getting worse and worse. There were definitely forms of abuse whether or not she realised it was a different thing.
‘I got in to crisis care and from there I have been living in a local refuge called Lillian’s for the past two years. Sadly though, the government has decided to cut funding to Lillian’s so it will close at the end of October.’
How do you feel about the refuge closing?
‘I find it’s helped me through so many things living there – through my depression and anxiety – as well as finish my HSC. My biggest fear when it closes is that I will end up with nowhere to go. That’s scary for me because it’s just a stable environment and it feels like home. There are so many other girls there as well and the bonds that you form with them are not like any others.’
What would have happened to you had you not been there?
‘I probably would have bounced from crisis refuge to crisis refuge which isn’t a good thing. That would have been difficult for me. There are people who have been through that and they’re ending up on the streets and I don’t think that’s a good thing.’