Local Hero : Sissy Austin
SISSY-AMELIA AUSTIN is a trailblazer. The young Gunditjmara woman, 20, was the first person in her family to finish VCE and study at university, and is now inspiring others as the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officer at Loreto College in Ballarat.
Humble and quiet by nature, Sissy has no trouble stepping up and speaking out when it matters most. In 2013, Sissy was one of two indigenous ambassadors and representatives of the Centre for Indigenous Education and Research (CIER) to World Youth Day in Rio.
Back in Australia, Sissy leads a number of campaigns seeking acknowledgement for the traditional owners of the region in which she resides. With strength and passion, she advocates for the telling and acknowledgement of the story of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. As a way of indicating her respect for her elders, Sissy often introduces herself not only as a young indigenous woman, but as the grandchild of Eileen Austin, and great grandchild of William James Austen.
Sissy works on a number of committees advocating for Koorie youth and is not afraid to challenge and educate organisations and individuals on their cultural awareness and inclusion standards. She does not stand for bullying, discrimination or racism and calls it as she sees it, offering support to all parties to become better equipped to learn and work together.
In collaboration with her friend Amber Lovett, Sissy founded the Namarilly Bagarook Dance Group. Sissy continues to coordinate the group, which performs
traditional dance at local events and celebrations to highlight that Aboriginal culture is alive in our youth and community.
Sissy’s younger brother Will, 18, was inspired by her example, and works to raise awareness of the devastating suicide rates for Aboriginal youth. In 2014, the siblings were the first joint Pride of Australia recipients in the Youth Leader category for their contribution to the Indigenous community.
Sissy Austin, Local Hero Ballarat 2015, pictured with her brother Will.
Photos: Hepburn Advocate