On the 19th of October this year, I attended Ted X Macquarie University. For those of you who haven’t heard about this amazing ‘messenger movement’ TED is a global foundation devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’.
It was an amazing day, with a fabulous line up of Australia’s aspiring entrepreneurs, researchers, futurists, sustainable thinkers and scientists, all discussing ways to ‘Futureproof’ our world. Whilst all the speakers on the day were amazing, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the profound message of one ‘Supernova’ by the name of Bee Orsini.
Whilst only twenty four years of age, Bee already has a long list of achievements to her name, sharing the stage with Sir Richard Branson, and being named on the ‘100 women of Influence’ list by NAB and the Australian Financial Review.
Queen Bees Influence doesn’t stop there either. As the Oasis Schools Ambassador, she has presented to more than 20,000 students nationally, running youth homelessness workshops. She also presents to groups of school students, inspiring youth to take personal responsibility in enabling world change, and making a difference.
Bees ‘purpose’ was not handed to her on a platter. Often passion is born from pain, and in Bees case this pain included family dysfunction, abuse, alcoholism and gambling. Over time, dealing with this level of insecurity, instability and hurt within her home life, led her to depression and self harm. Drug and alcohol addiction followed, and it wasn’t too long before Bee had no-where to call home.
And thus the story of ‘Queen Bee’ begins…
The universe clearly had a bigger plan in mind for Bee, when in a twist of fate a friend pointed her to The Salvation Army Oasis Youth Support Network, who supported her in rebuilding her future. A future glittering with hope. Bee stayed connected to Oasis, and was eventually offered a role as one of several champions to be a voice for homeless youth. The rest is ‘Supernova’ history!
Having heard Bee’s story, you can imagine how excited I was when she agreed to be the first ‘world changer’ I have interviewed for Confessions!
As a SUPERNOVA in raising awareness of homelessness, you have obviously been driven by a sense of purpose and passion in your life. How did you discover your ‘WHY’ and once you found the star you were aiming for, how did you execute your dreams?
For me, it was when I was 20 years old. I was part of a leadership development program at Oasis, the youth refuge I was seeking support from. I had a group of people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. It was the first time in my entire life; I truly understood that I could achieve something great, and that my life was worth something of value.
The support of a network of people strengthened my resolve and I felt an overwhelming need to add my voice to the issue of homelessness so that other young people experience communities which provided the same love and support. Once I figured out this was my “WHY”, I started to immerse myself in the issue by researching, spending time with people who were game changers in the sector, other young people, leadership development platforms and made the career change from a Team Leader at a Legal Firm to a platform to a Schools Liaison for The Salvation Army.
I was encouraged to dream big and not be afraid to try new things – campaigns, events, partnerships, activities to see what would work as effective ways to work with young people to respond to homelessness.
Some speak of luck. In pursuing your passion do you feel that you have been guided by luck (fate,synchronicity,providence), or was your success as simple as setting a goal and executing?
At first I used to think it was fate that brought me to where I am today. I used to think everything in my life happened for a reason and that I was born to experience homelessness in order to be able to “find my calling” and that I was super lucky (and sometimes felt very guilty about this). However, I think every single person has a game changer story; life experiences which when harnessed positively can make a huge impact. I now think that it comes down to self-awareness of that potential within yourself then decision of whether or not to act on it.
I do consider myself extremely lucky to get the support that I did at a moment when I really needed it. There are young people experiencing homelessness who aren’t that lucky, who fall through the cracks of our society. I remember clearly being at a fork in the road – working at the Legal Firm where I was doing very well. Life was great but I hid that part of me which had experienced homelessness. I could’ve kept going but I knew there were still thousands of young people who were struggling, and so I recognised an opportunity use my experience to be a force for good. Then came the goal setting and executing!
Confessions Of A Supernova is very much about embracing a purpose greater than our individual identity. Do you feel that your ‘purpose’ in life was something you were born with, or is purpose created by life experience alone?
I think life experience creates purpose – I didn’t realise this when I was growing up and I lived without purpose but I always desired for something more. I believe that my values were instilled in me as a small child because no matter what crappy decisions I made in my life, I always cared for people and I always had a strong moral compass. I got that from my mum and that life experience helped to shape me into the person I am today.
However, ultimately – I believe that purpose is something that we were born with simply because the fact that we are alive is incredible; it’s a miracle when you consider the process that got us here – when you think about all of that, it doesn’t make sense that we’d be here to live only for ourselves.
Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 other people throughout their lifetime so I choose to embrace my purpose as something I was born with, and something we all are born with.
It is the sharing of stories that creates change in the world. What moment in your life, made you passionate about raising awareness of homelessness?
Sam Cawthorn speaks about a “Kairos moment” and I immediately thought experiencing homelessness would be mine but it wasn’t. An effect of this experience was that I gained some perspective and saw my family’s situation for what it really was. I had a moment where I looked a family member in the eye and truly forgave them, for everything – the abuse, the hardship and all. I felt the tenseness in my chest come undone and slowly but surely the healing process began in my family. I realised then the importance of family, and I had to do something for young people who don’t have a family capable of providing the love and support they deserve.
I knew stories were the way to educate, empower and equip people to respond to homelessness so I set out to become a great story teller. One thing that has always been important to me in the power of sharing positive stories, stories that highlight courage, resilience and overcoming adversity. There are too many negative words and negative stories; I want to give people hope.
You can make one wish upon a STAR to enable world change. What is your wish, and why?
To quote Tony Robbins (and Sam Cawthorn), I wish that every single person in the world to live by the notion that it is “Your decision, not your condition that determines your destiny”, not just about themselves but within all others. Looking beyond the labels, judgments, stigmas and (not so great) past decisions and instead focusing on person, the human being behind their “condition”, we have the power to change the world. It may sound a bit sugar-coated but I truly believe the change for any “condition” such as homelessness starts with us as individuals and our ability to redefine the way we take control of our thinking and actions.
We all have someone in our life that has ignited a spark in the soul. Who is that person in your life, and what was the one thing that person told you, or you heard them say that changed your life?
John Harris is that person, father figure, mentor and hero who changed my life. There are so many great things he said to me but it was also what he did that made the most impact. When I was working at the Legal Firm, he met with me regularly to complete coaching modules, called to check in with me, encouraged me and challenged me. It was his consistent, long term commitment to seeing me succeed that really empowered me. If I had to choice one thing he said that changed my life it was “Awareness doesn’t equal change, it equals the choice to change”.
This statement had a profound impact on me and reminds me that we need to position ourselves at the top of the cliff, not just at the bottom waiting to catch someone who falls. John changed my perspective on everything in life; he turned my glass half empty into a glass half full and taught me that anything is possible if you have the will to do it.
The unexpected face of homelessness: Bee Orsini at TEDxMacquarieUniversity