Lisa Toolin
Remote Community Youth Worker

1. Tell us a little about your story and your purpose.

 I was born on Yuin land, where I have spent most of my life. There, I was raised by two incredible parents, who taught me what it is to work hard, to have strong moral principles, and to do everything in life with kindness. 

 I have always known I wanted to work with the Aboriginal community. The reasons can be narrowed down to; a love for the people, appreciation for culture, and anger at the inequalities and blatant racism that exist in this country. After university I worked for a NGO, mentoring Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander students, before moving to Central Australia, to work as a youth worker in a remote community. I often describe this move as “the best decision I’ve ever made.” I spend my time working alongside remarkable community members, hilarious kids, falling asleep to the sound of singalong (community gospel singing), and sweating more than I’d like to admit. 

 I am a white woman, born of privilege, existing on stolen land. There is no question of the advantages I do and will experience throughout my life. Yet, I believe deeply that every person born of privilege has a choice about what they do with it. What they do with their voice, their power, the inequalities they choose to protest against, the unfair systems they challenge, the type of world they want to help create. This is my purpose, to always use the voice I was given to stick up for what is right, and to contribute what I can to ending inequalities. 

 2. What has been your biggest challenge to date?

 My greatest and constant challenge throughout my life has been living with Bipolar Disorder. I am someone who is in love with life, and all the people in mine. And I wish I was someone who could feel all of the joy that comes with this, all of the time. Yet, like anyone who struggles with a chronic mental illness, there are times I can’t feel it. Therefore, finding strategies to live with this illness and stay healthy has definitely been my greatest challenge.  

 It is also very challenging living in such a remote place, and being so isolated from my friends and family that are back in NSW. However, I believe strongly in the work I do, in creating a space for kids to be kids, for young women to come together, a safe place to have fun, and this gets me through the harder times. 

3. Who are the women that have made the biggest impact on you and your journey so far? And what have you learned from them?

 The women who have made the biggest impact on me are my mother, my sister and my friends Eliza and Kiyrrawr.  These women have always made me feel worthy of love. What I have learned from them, in my experience, is that if you are lucky enough, you can overcome anything if you have strong women walking alongside you through life, who love you unconditionally. So I try to be this person for other women and girls. 

 I have also been impacted in a massive way, and have a special place in my heart  for all of the First Nations women and girls who I have lived and worked with. From these women, through conversations and telling story, I have learned more about the power of love, the importance of family, and knowledge of Anangu culture than I could have ever imagined. 

 4. What is your hope for women and girls in the future?

 My hope is that in the future every girl is able to grow up healthy, knowing they are loved, given an education, opportunities, feeling confident and strong in their culture, falling in love with those that treat them with kindness, and being a part of happy families.  

 5. If you could have told your younger self anything, what would it have been?

I’d tell her that rock bottom will teach you lessons that mountaintops never will.

 

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