A Cultural Tapestry: A Journey Through Diverse Australian Landscapes

Introducing Elle Blacklock, an Associate Partner at YarnnUp and a proud Ngarabal / Birrpay woman, who has woven her life’s journey through many beautiful Countries and Communities across NSW. Elle’s roots run deep across various places – born and raised on Dharug Country in Western Sydney and Lower Blue Mountains, as well as Gomeroi Country in Tamworth, and now residing on Gadigal Country near Redfern.

Elle’s story spans Ngarabal Country in northwest NSW in Tingha and Glen Innes, as well as Birrpay Country from Dingo Creek on the Mid North Coast of NSW. A testament to the richness of her identity, she also acknowledges her European heritage from her mothers side.

In this insightful Q&A session, we delve into the influences and experiences that have shaped Elle’s remarkable journey and driving her passion for change and social justice. Read on as we uncover the story behind those who shaped Elle, woven with diverse cultural threads and driven by an unwavering spirit of inclusivity and empathy.

What or who are your biggest influences?
My family is everything to me and family values are at the forefront of everything I do in my personal and professional life. I’m blessed to have 6 beautiful nieces and nephews who have been the biggest light in my life. Being an Aunty has taught me some of the biggest lessons in this life and my love for them is unconditional and knows no bounds, they will always be the biggest blessings in my eyes.

I’m the baby of my sibling group with two big brothers Shae and Corey, and one big sister Fabri. My brothers and sister are the rocks in my life who have truly shaped who I am. I cherish our special bonds.

My dad is my main inspiration, his influence in my life goes far beyond being a parent. My dad grew up in an era where there was extreme racism and government policies at that time didn’t recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people as humans. My dad was 12 years old when the 1967 referendum to include First Nations people in the constitution was passed.

Despite the racism and hardships my dad faced as a young person, he remained positive and had a strong drive for success in his sporting career. Dad played with the Newtown Jets in 1981 and 1982, including the famous 1981 NSWRL Grand Final between Newtown and Parramatta. He played 31 games for Newtown in those two seasons and scored 13 tries. He also played with Penrith between 1976 and 1980 and finished his Rugby League career with the Canberra Raiders in 1983 and 1984.

My dad has always emphasised the value of education and lifelong learning. He always encouraged me to pursue my passions and to never stop seeking knowledge. He believed that education was key to unlocking endless opportunities, and his words have motivated me to push myself academically and embrace a love for learning. I think dad was always so adamant about getting an education because the opportunities that are around now for First Nations were never there for him and the generations that went before him.

Through his strength, resilience, BIG HEART, and kindness, he has shaped the person I am today. I am forever grateful for his guidance and love, and I strive every day to make him proud.

My mum is equally an inspiration, she has been a rock for all of us. As a single mum she did the best raising us kids and held everything together. I will forever be thankful to her for the values she instilled in me. She has played a role in the independent woman I am today.

What’s your favourite childhood memory that still brings a smile to your face?
All our family trips away come to mind, one in mind is dad taking us up the coast to see family and friends. We’d spend days at the beach, there was always a footy game on the sand, and around sunset we’d go pipi gathering. We’d take what we needed to make a pipi curry… it was truly delicious.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
I can’t say I’ve jumped out of a plane or anything like that, but that’s on the list!

The most adventurous and soul fulfilling was when I had the opportunity to volunteer in a remote community called Alekarange/Ali Curung, 377 km north of Alice Springs, land of Warlpiri people. Alekarange is red dirt country surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes with a very unique beauty.

I volunteered at the primary school as a teacher’s aide. This experience grounded me, and it made me re-shift some of my priorities when I came back to the hustle and bustle of Sydney.

What is one pivotal moment that you feel changed the course of your life for the better?
I think the moment that changed the course of my life for the better was when I discovered my passion for learning and knowledge. This moment sparked a love for learning and set me on a path of intellectual growth and personal development. It has shaped my decisions, career choices, and overall approach to life.

I am currently studying at Monash University, completing a Masters of Indigenous Business Leadership.

Do you have any hidden talents that most people don’t know about?
I am a self-made chef. Cooking has always held a special place in my heart, a love that flows from memories cooking with my dad. One of our signature dishes we use to cook together was Mud Crab Salad. Cooking for me is more than just a hobby, it’s a deep connection, and brings me happiness to cook for people I love.

What’s your go-to comfort food after a long day?
Pizza and pasta, carb on carb.

If you could travel back in time, what era or historical event would you visit?
Given the chance, I would love to travel back in time and experience the beauty and diversity of our Country before the arrival of European colonisation. Imagine seeing the way of life, spiritual connections to lands, waterways and seas before buildings and roads came.

What’s your favourite book or movie, and why does it resonate with you?
“Remember the Titans”, which is based on the true story of a high school football team and the racial tensions they faced while trying to integrate in 1971 Alexandria, Virginia. The film stars Denzel Washington…need I say more!

It resonated with me for its powerful message, for its portrayal of resilience, friendship and pursuit of equality between blacks and whites.

I am a huge fan of Brene Brown, a researcher, professor and author. Brene is known for her work on topics such as vulnerability, courage, shame and empathy. My favourite book is “Rising Strong” where Brene explores how we can rise strong after facing setbacks, failures, and difficult experiences in our lives. She emphasizes the importance of embracing vulnerability, recognizing our emotions, and owning our stories to cultivate resilience.

How do you unwind and de-stress after a busy day?
I love heading over to Coogee for a coastal walk with my kelpie Tully.  

What’s one thing on your bucket list that you’re determined to achieve?
Learn Gathang Language, the language Birrpay people speak so I can pass it down to our babies. 

If you could invite three people, living or passed, to a dinner party, who would they be, and why?
My Dad, Nan and Pop.

My Nan passed away before I was born, I often think about what a special relationship we would have had.

Now that I’m older and have more of an understanding of how good I have it because of those that went before me, I would absolutely love the opportunity to be able to sit with them and yarn and hear all their stories.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and how would you use it?
This is a hard one! Sometimes I wish I could read peoples minds! Imagine being able to read thoughts and understand people’s emotions effortlessly. I feel like you could connect with people on a more profound level with empathy and understanding.

Elle Blacklock, YarnnUp Associate Partner

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YarnnUp acknowledges the profound history of this country.

We honour and recognise the fact that First Nations peoples, our people, have cared for and safeguarded the lands we now call home.

YarnnUp acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of this land. To the Elders past and present, please accept our respects on behalf all nations and language groups. We thank you for allowing YarnnUp to work across the beautiful lands of Australia.