Marlie’s Story - Standing for what you believe in | Youth Insearch


Wed, 19/08/2020 - 00:00



Youth Insearch Leader and climate activist Marlie Thomas was 14 when she attended her first Weekend Workshop. Since then, she has attended 23 Weekend Workshops, 8 Virtual Support Groups, and 1 Mini Session, and has completed Leaders Training. 


My life before Youth Insearch

I grew up with my Nan. My mum left me with her. Mum would come and go, in and out of my life, and it made me feel bad because she raised my brother but not me.

I saw her here and there and wasn’t until I was about 11-12 years old that we started to make a bond.

At 13 I lost my best friend to suicide. I didn't know it was coming, and it affected me because I didn't see it, and I didn't know he was feeling like that. I wouldn't talk or eat - I felt numb. I got close with his family at that time as it was a hard time.

One of the ways I coped was with cannabis, and I was also self-harming. I thought it happened a lot.

About 3 months after I lost my mate, I was talking to a friend who I thought was a mate. I met up with them from social media and he sexual assaulted me. I took him to court, and he was charged, fined $1,500.00, and registered on the sex offenders register. I didn't feel safe about it and I put an AVO out on him.

I was suicidal, as I had lost trust in both mates. I started seeking older people’s attention - people in their 20s. At 14 I decided to move out with a 24-year-old. I thought I was cool. He took all my money I had, and after that happened over a year, on the night of my birthday, I attempted suicide.

I was told what I'd done and that I went to the hospital - I told Nan - and the medical ward made me feel worse. The experience really scared me, I was thinking I shouldn’t be here, but was I the same. I went through three counsellors and a few psychologists, but I wasn't connecting with them. I was referred to a man at headspace, but I couldn't connect with men, so headspace referred me to Youth Insearch.


My Youth Insearch experience

The first camp I attended I threw a chair across the room. I was rude to Jennie Linton. I wanted to punch people in the face because I wasn't open to the stuff that was being talked about. By the Saturday afternoon I felt a huge burden come off me and I felt lighter, having spoken with a Youth Leader, Tash.

The second camp in the sexual assault session I stood there, I got the better of me, and I took the microphone. When I opened up it felt really good.

The third camp I broke down some more walls in the parent and adolescent hassles session. I talked about my family and how bad I felt. I had never spoken about this before and that was really good.

Without Youth Insearch I feel I wouldn't be me. I would be a lost cause. I don't know how others that don't have Youth Insearch cope.


My journey to becoming a Leader

I was feeling better by opening up and everything was going pretty well. I did my Leaders Training, I spoke to mum and my brother, and I really gained a positive bond with mum - although I did keep my distance as she had addiction problems and I didn't trust that. I tried, because if anything happened to her because I hadn't tried, I am not sure how I'd deal with that. Every day was a fresh day at that time with her.

Then I did a year of being a Leader and it was really good. My life was cruisy now because I stopped drugs and alcohol, stopped self-harming - all because I had worked through the traumas from my childhood. I gained employment at KFC and engaged more at school. I went to year 11 and in 2020 started TAFE doing a Cert 4 in Community Services. I've also had a part time job at a cafe which I had to give up due to being full time student, as working two jobs at the cafe and Coles through the COVID-19 pandemic was very high pressure.


How Youth Insearch helped me cope

In September 2019 I lost my brother. It was unexpected and he was someone who was always there. I could go months without seeing him, but everything was the same when we did catch up. I was so shocked. I had no feeling at all, and I kept asking myself why I was not angry. It was 6.30am and I had 46 missed calls from Nan. I cried when Nan told me but after that, I couldn’t.  There was zero emotion. I was numb.

I put my walls up, but because of Youth Insearch, I knew I couldn't keep doing that. After 7 to 10 days I got together with my family to arrange the funeral, he had been sent off and we had to wait for him to come back and I had to be in a little funeral home picking a coffin. I didn't like that feeling. I was still head in the water. I went to the viewing, and he appeared to be asleep, and when I touched him it freaked me out. I pulled that silk thing back after I saw his cuts. I touched him on the face, and the good thing was that he was peaceful.

I have had bad days when I think about how I used to talk to him. It is a weird thing - we weren't close, but I used to ask him to come home, if I needed him. I worry about his son and that he wasn't seeing him. His little son runs around as a 3-year-old does.

I felt like Youth Insearch gave me the strategies to cope when I was not okay. I now have a full life, worked through the emotions in the time, I am working and studying, as I know I had to keep going.


Standing for what I believe in

The day after my brother’s funeral I went to Sydney.

I had this friend from UTS - an aboriginal climate change activist who was protesting to stop the mines. He knew I was supportive of the cause and paid for me to stay in Sydney so we could go to a big protest at the domain.

In front of 80,000 people I was asked to speak about Gunnedah and how it has affected it and the weather. I poured my heart out, and I lead them on the march with 80,000 people following me. If I had slowed down, I was getting trampled and there were police everywhere. It was a legal protest. I was on the news and on the front page of the Sydney paper, and I had the best time - speaking about what I believed in. People were chanting at me - I was like, OMG. I had good vibes; I was telling my countries story and was honoured to be representing my aboriginal culture as a proud Gomeroi woman.

Media people, people with cameras, were all there following the protest. There are four big mines cutting into sacred aboriginal sites, and the rally was to raise awareness around what the mines are doing - its money, jobs - and the emotions that come out from their operations.


How Youth Insearch has impacted me

A lot of my responses to questions in my interview for a new job recently were great, as I could relate them to Youth Insearch and how I had helped them. People who have experienced it and what I’d been through and this is what I got to give back to them, they aren’t alone, people helped me, now it’s my turn to help them.  I will be moving soon and started working with young people who are at risk of being involved with Child Protection to help them and their families through their challenges or changes that need to be made.

Sometimes you can be feeling fine and then you get a Snapchat memory that brings you back to what was happening this time last year and then feel bad again, but when you sort through it, you are ok afterwards.

I would like to say that without Youth Insearch I don’t know where I would be. I want to give back what I have received and help others go through the program to change their lives. I just love what I do. It's going to be a part of my life forever and whenever I can help someone, I will help them.

I’m enjoying being able to help virtually in the Support Groups etc, but I hate not being able to hug them, it’s really difficult; well, it’s not the same. I can't wait till they go back properly, and we see each other face to face.


Marlie's Media Coverage

Read all about Marlie's activism in these awesome articles - credit to the media outlets who covered this story.