#Centrestage Celebrates Women Leaders & Practitioners on International Women’s Day (IWD) 2019
WHERE ETHICAL FASHION MEETS THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN IN REMOTE AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
Over the past five years, the inspirational young Grace Skehan has been a practitioner of community service delivery in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, primary education and has founded her own ethical fashion line that employs Indigenous people. Now living in Darwin, Grace is a non-Indigenous person, and a non-identical twin, who hails from Alstonville, NSW near Byron Bay.
Grace tells of how it all began….
5 years ago, I was a passenger in a troopy driving four hours out of Alice Springs, into the desert. I had signed up for a 4-week volunteer program in a small community called Yuelamu. Little did I know I wouldn’t leave the NT, end up with a full-time job, and spend the next two years working with Indigenous people from eleven different communities from several different language groups, right across the Central Desert Region.
Starting off as the outside school hours and weekend Sports & Rec Youth Worker in Mt. Allen, Grace accepted a role as a Regional Coordinator after only five months permanently out-bush on the ground. Grace speaks of how she still feels guilty about taking that promotion so early on, and questions whether it was premature. It’s possible this could have something to do with the pressures young people experience, working harder feeling the need to ‘prove’ themselves.
Grace found working in very remote Indigenous communities the most amazing experience, however soon found it exhausting and unsustainable due to a lack of support. Whilst it was difficult to leave, Grace realised that she might make a bigger impact in empowering Indigenous young people by becoming a teacher. After receiving a scholarship to complete her Masters in Teaching, she relocated to Darwin to do just that.
Since then, Grace has worked diligently on her self-care, developing her confidence and has formed a better understanding of what makes her happy. After reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin; which talks about how what you love doing by fourteen years of age, will most likely be what you enjoy most as an adult; she decided to go back to the basics and do what she loves. Grace laughs and says, we are just often told that we grow out of it!
Since Grace had always enjoyed sewing, textiles, and had a burning desire to make an ethical fashion line that also creates Aussie women jobs, she has since founded an ethical fashion label. ‘GracieDesignsNT’ works with organic cotton, hemp, recycled materials, and fabric from Indigenous prints she purchases supporting from women in remote Indigenous communities.
In order to gain more skills in tailoring and being an entrepreneur; which will in-turn benefit remote Indigenous women if Grace can build and grow her business; Grace currently volunteers with a successful designer named Adriana Dent, from the label ‘Albertini’. Adriana has become Grace’s mentor, role model and confidante. With salt-of-the-earth honesty, Grace chuckles, “It’s one thing to know how to sew and make patterns, and another to make money by doing it!
Grace is the happiest she has been in a long time, as she continues to teach young Indigenous kids in high school education, develops GracieDesignsNT and learn from her mentor. She swears that the two best pieces of advice for starting somewhere in achieving your dreams is ”learn before you earn”, and “start small and just see how it goes”.
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