Growing up in Perth, at 15 her schooling abruptly ended after years of exasperation at an out-dated syllabus and attitudes. In particular, it was one Social Sciences teacher’s response to her questioning why there were no pre-colonisation histories taught at school:
“My teacher answered, ‘There are none to teach’. This – on top of an earlier family trauma that had a profound impact on my education – was the final straw for my secondary schooling. It took me ten years to re-enter formal education.”
Olivia moved out of home and continued to support herself.
“I had to be fearless as to where I applied for work and why. I worked for fast food restaurants, tried a hairdressing apprenticeship and even got a security guard qualification.”
The jump from retail to administrative work through an Indigenous identified position as a library assistant at the University of WA gave Olivia the skills to move on to the Rights Management area at the ABC in Sydney.
All the while, Olivia had met her husband and was soon raising a baby – and, as challenging as it was, she then relocated to Melbourne and worked in a series of Indigenous-related roles at organisations including the ABC and Koorie Heritage Trust.