With inspiring resilience, recent CQ University graduate and single mum, Melissa Parter, has continually overcome obstacles to emerge stronger, and will be stepping out onto the field to represent Queensland in indoor cricket in 2020.
A proud First Nations woman, Ms Parter began her early career as a butcher and drove heavy machinery across the Northern Territory.
However, she was involved in a serious motorbike accident which affected her greatly.
“That was a big setback for me, I experienced depression and anxiety. It was a big turning point in my life. My family played the most important part at the time … the thing that kept me alive was the thought of losing them,” Ms Parter said.
“Through intensive counselling and making those decisions to talk about what I was going through, it led me to realise that … things happen for a reason. I had to try and reset my mind, and know it was minor setback, and I had to get back up and keep going.”
Returning to work, Ms Parter landed a role working in logistics in Emerald, not long after she fell pregnant and returned to Mackay.
“Unfortunately, the relationship started to break down. A year after we had our first child, there was domestic violence, alcohol abuse. I then started getting counselling.”
“We fell pregnant again and I thought this might be the thing that really brings us back together, and change our ways, start making us happy and provide a safe environment for our kids. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.”
With a young baby and five months pregnant, Ms Parter became a single parent.
“I managed to get myself on my feet, and I had some time to think. I started to think about what I wanted to do with my life. Becoming a single parent, where was my future? I’ve always worked … I’ve always had an income. I had to really think about what I was going to do in the future after my second child.”
Not long after her youngest was born, Ms Parter enrolled in university. Initially she began in a Bachelor of Arts, but through the University’s STEP program decided to pursue social work.
“As a girl I experienced a lot of challenges, I always thought in the back of my mind I wanted to be a youth worker or something along those lines, to give back to that age group.”
“I went through tough times being brought up by a single mum who worked hard to provide for me and my brother in the big city and with my Dad, experiencing his severe mental illness of schizophrenia.
“Seeing him in mental institutions, it was really confronting. I think it has given me a lot to think about in terms of the severity of impacts that mental illness can have on not just that one person, but everyone involved. That was a big drive for me to do social work,” Ms Parter said.
“As an Indigenous woman, to be able to be a face in those settings, to support our mob – because there is so much stigma around mental health …I just want to promote healthy living and that it is okay to talk to someone, services are there to access – speak up.”
During her time studying Ms Parter was an avid community member, volunteering for Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), Mackay South’s Junior Rugby League Club as part of the coaching and management staff, and also served as secretary on the committee for the Mackay After School and Vacation Care service.
With her children involved in social sporting, Ms Parter decided to join herself – reconnecting with her love of sport.
“When I moved to Emerald, I played A-grade men’s indoor cricket at the age of 15. Indoor cricket was a big passion of mine growing up and I come from a big cricket family. My uncle and all my cousins play cricket, we always played backyard cricket in the summer and that still happens.
“I came to the point where I wanted to be back at it again particularly with the social aspect. I started playing socially here in Mackay … a couple of women got together and we took a women’s side up to Townsville and we got asked to go to Brisbane to represent North Queensland just recently in September – it was out of that that I got selected to play at the next master’s championships in Darwin.”
With the new year getting closer, Ms Parter continues to push herself to achieve, and to strive for more – always reflecting on the journey she’s walked so far.
“I keep surprising myself, I’m learning that if you set your mind to things you can achieve them. Dreams can come true if you put your mind to it … It’s a mindset, keeping positive and surrounding yourself with good people and people who support you.”
By Rachael Knowles