Youth Worker / YouTuber
With the glittery influencer/ top-chick status sans the diva ego, Brisbane beauty Julia Hunt is mature beyond her years. She is also gut-wrenchingly real. Real about her anxiety, real about her love, and real about the struggles that she faced (and still faces) as a young woman maneuvering her way through life.
A girl that hated high school and was “ influenced easily into not valuing myself”, Julia spent the majority of her childhood in the hospital getting surgeries, casts, and physiotherapy for a disability called Clubfoot. A condition that she was born with. With so much stigma surrounding her condition, Julia launched a YouTube channel and filled it with honest accounts of her life and living with Clubfoot. But this isn’t even a quarter of her story.
Here’s the part where I tell you how impactful her #careerstory is, and why you need to read it. But, that doesn’t feel BIG enough. To be 100% honest, Julia’s story has reignited something within me. It has really reinforced why it is I do what I do. It’s like that first pash from your boyfriend, the one you had on a beach somewhere (you know the type?), when everything was exciting and fresh and hopeful, yeah that’s what it is… hope.
Julia has reminded me what it’s like to be a modern woman in this day and age. What’s it’s like to live with adversity, but have a voice. But most of all she has reminded me just how crucial it is for woman and girls to have positive content and stories to read in their lives. Stories that remind them that we all go through sh*t and that life isn’t a shiny pic of a girl with perfect skin, on a beach, in her perfectly fitting bikini.
I will never stop telling real stories…
Let’s dive in!
Hey Julia, let’s jump right into the good stuff. Can you tell us where you grew up and how that experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I grew up in Sunny QLD and spent the best bits of my childhood running around with my pet chickens as the youngest of three girls in a family of five.
The thing no one talks about through school, and something that culturally what we are all taught to repress… are the worst bits of our childhood.
Those are the bits that can often negatively shape your mindset and sometimes even your ability to love yourself unconditionally. My own worst bits were spent in hospital getting surgeries, casts, and physiotherapy for a disability I was born with called Clubfoot. Clubfoot is a really common disability, affecting 1 in 1,000 births worldwide, however, there is so much stigma around it because it’s very rarely spoken about. In fact, I was the first YouTuber to ever upload a film about it!
Basically, I was born missing a calf muscle on my left leg and I walk a little differently to other people, which meant it took me years to feel confident in my own skin. After being bullied in my first year of high school about my leg, I developed some anxiety related to my looks which quickly spiraled into depression, regular self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.
All of this came tumbling down on me and by age 16 I was experiencing the worst of it – as I struggled through school and the pressures that come with being a young woman.
My current life and my career were all shaped by an experience I had during this time in my life, on a night when I felt incredibly upset and alone. The night was like many others I’d struggled through previously, although for some reason this time I decided to search on the internet for authentic stories of recovery from other women who had been my age once and felt the way that I did. I wanted to find words or videos from people who had spoken honestly about being in a dark place and getting out of it.
Essentially, I was looking for a role model and for proof that “this too shall pass”. You know what I found that night, though? Nothing. No one on the internet was writing about real life anxiety or depression. I couldn’t find anything online which said
“I’ve been where you are girl, hold on, you will grow stronger and you will get through this.”
I don’t know why, but that really sparked something in me, and on that night instead of feeling worse about myself, I felt a rage that motivated me. Why do people keep such universal human experiences to themselves? I wondered. It was at that moment that I decided I would become a person who shares their journey and a person who is honest about what they went through. I wanted to get my brain healthy again so that I could one day help other 16 year olds who were feeling misunderstood. That is why I am a Youth worker, which in my case means that I work at two different refuges with young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Ummm ok, so that was the best intro ever Julz, so excited for the rest of this interview. Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I hated high school to be honest. I went to two high schools… The first one was a public school called Wavell State High, and the second one was an all-girls Catholic school called Mount Alvernia College. On the whole, I’m pretty strong-willed and protective of my values. I believe in standing up for yourself and for what you believe in, so going to a rough state school initially probably wasn’t the best idea for a tiny blonde girl with a disability. I got picked on, I made friends with the wrong crowds and I was influenced easily into not valuing myself.
The second high school I went to was filled with beautiful souls, there were so many girls there who were fun-loving, happy and healthy. However, by this stage in my own life, I myself wasn’t happy or mentally healthy so unfortunately, I really struggled at the second school, too. The theme for me throughout my whole life is that I have always been great at dealing with and talking about other people’s emotional experiences.
In high school, I was your go-to girl if anything in life got too much for you. I facilitated many more DNM’s in the out-of-bounds areas than I think anyone else at that school did, was always very empathetic, great at keeping secrets and loved supporting other people one-on-one.
That high school sure had some stories, and I felt honored to be trusted with a whole heap of them. My one wish is that I had recognised earlier on what a great skill listening actually is ,so that I could have started studying to become a therapist straight away.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
Not at all. I left high school in Brisbane and the next year moved to Sydney to pursue a career in acting. I was an actor for nine years out of high school before I started to follow my innate purpose of helping others more seriously.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I don’t remember ever actually being presented with the opportunity to do so. I think it’s a really valuable thing to do work experience placements and get a feel for different industries, in my own case it might have helped me to recognise my skills a little earlier than I did.
Did you go to College, University, TAFE or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
My mental health was so rocky during grade 11 and 12 that I actually dropped one subject and took up a TAFE course at film school which taught me how to operate a camera, record audio and edit a film. After high school, I did a one-year Diploma course in Theatre Performance which I absolutely loved, it enabled me to feel more confident having a career in the performing arts.
More recently, I’ve completed a certificate in Youth Mentoring and also got halfway through a counselling degree before switching to my current studies, a Bachelor of Psychological Science at University. Once I graduate from this degree I hope to complete my Honours and Masters, too. It’s a six-year degree all up and will qualify me to be a Clinical Psychologist. Counselling was great, but I wanted to step it up a notch and knew now was the best time to start.
If I was coming straight out of high school and wanting to become a Youth worker, I would complete a Certificate in Youth Work at TAFE. It is all you need to start getting experience and working in my industry and is a great launch pad for further study.
CHECK OUT SOME OF JULIA’S WORK ON HER YOUTUBE CHANNEL HERE:
Wow, what a journey. So many awesome courses Julz. So how did you get the job that you are in now?
It’s a pretty cool story actually!
As an actor, I had to have a side job so that I could earn consistent money and live the life I wanted to as I pranced around from audition to audition, so I got a job in retail with Lululemon Athletica. Not only did I get to wear lycra to work, but I was also asked to write down my goals for the year and share them with the team. I am completely unsure why, but in my goals I wrote down that I wanted to volunteer at a young women’s refuge. Well, can I just tell you that the laws of attraction are a real thing, and the following week I met a girl who was a worker at one of the refuges I’m currently employed at.
I started volunteering there soon after and continued volunteering whenever they needed me for three years (that’s how you know you really love something) before they interviewed me for a paid part-time relief worker position. After I got a bunch of experience at Jacaranda Cottage, I called Project Youth – another organisation that purely exists to help young people in difficult situations. I applied for a casual position at their Crisis refuge/s and after I had been a casual employee for a few months, went to another interview within the organisation and was offered a more permanent role.
Now that I look back I can see it took a lot of dedication, time and energy to get into a paid position that I love but it was all 100% worth it, and I think the fact that for a long time I was just following my passion and was unaware that I was shaping a career ended up working in my favour, because it never seemed difficult or punishing, and to this day it still doesn’t. I couldn’t love my job more.
Jacaranda Cottage sounds like such a great organisation. Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.
Like I explained above, my first job was with Jacaranda Cottage. Jacaranda is a refuge for young women aged 16-24, and is medium-term accommodation which means that if you’re accepted into the house then you can stay there for 12 months. The young women who live at Jacaranda have sometimes already lived in housing and have come through what we call a crisis refuge, AKA the first port of call for young people in difficult situations needing accommodation.
Another incredible organisation I work with is called Project Youth, I am employed at one of their crisis refuges which is staffed 24hrs a day, 7 days a week and provides young people with accommodation for approximately 3 months. Both Jacaranda Cottage and Project Youth do incredible work and really do provide a platform for growth and change in the lives of young people. Every day I’m at work is a highlight because I get to witness lives slowly changing for the better. It’s pretty special stuff.
How rewarding, your work is so needed Julz, Just like us, you are changing lives everyday. It’s so rewarding, but sometimes that reward doesn’t come without hardship. What is the hardest part of your current job?
I think for a lot of people the work can be pretty taxing. For me, a lot of my natural instincts allow me to thrive in this space and when a crisis hits, I am at my most calm. I sometimes joke that I should have worked in emergency services! One of the things I love most about Youth work but which can also be difficult at times is how important it is to put the needs of others before your own.
When I step foot into the service each day, I am letting the thoughts about my own life go so that I can truly show up for others. This is difficult if you have a lot going on in your own world, but can also be greatly rewarding because it reminds you what’s important in life: Human connection, listening and providing a safe space for vulnerable people. In any sort of client centred or therapeutic role whether it be Youth work, Social work or Counselling, there is a degree of needing to know and understand yourself before you will be able to show up for others.
Like I said, I have natural instincts which make this work environment ideal for me, but natural instincts alone are not enough to be truly helpful and successful in this line of work. It takes training to reach an understanding of your own communication, conflict and emotional regulation styles. Working in this industry means committing to a lifetime of continuous personal growth, the details of which are always covered within University degrees and TAFE courses.
I actually find this stuff really fun and love understanding why I am the way I am, and how I can use it in my favour to help others.
What does a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
This is the best thing about my job! Because you’re dealing with people and not systems, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day at work.
I drive to the service, which is actually just a regular house with an office attached to it for the workers. I say hey to my amazing colleagues and sit down for a half hour change over with them where they tell me what’s happened on their shift so that I am aware of what’s going on for each resident that day.
I then read the notes made by workers about the young people which tell me things like how they’re doing emotionally and physically, where they are that day and any incidents which have occurred within the service or in their own personal life. Once I know what’s going on, I hit the ground running and do whatever is needed to support the young people living at the service. Sometimes this means tasks like going shopping, cooking dinner with the young people and general things that keep a household running. Other times this means conversations with a young person about their emotional state or using my training to help control an incident. It’s so exciting, you never know what type of shift you’re going to get!
Ahhhh, sounds incredible diverse and interesting. What an awesome career. Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
Growing up it was always my big sisters! I have two incredibly successful older sisters who showed me not only how to chase your dreams, but also how to be really kind to other people and lift them up as you do so, and I love that.
As far as inspiration for my particular career though, that would have to be my first ever supervisor in the Youth workspace. Her name is Chris and she is the coordinator at Jacaranda Cottage. The first time I met with Chris it was just to let her know that I was interested in volunteering at the service, and honestly, I had never met a kinder human. I just always wanted to be like this woman and knowing her has really inspired me to better myself. She is funny, smart, switched on, emotionally supportive and has a really great way of speaking to people so they feel valued. She has been a mentor for me over the years and I’m so grateful to now call her one of my close friends, too.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
The world is changing rapidly, everyday industries are moving to accommodate new advances in technology, jobs get cut and workloads change. If you are interested in pursuing a career in the social services area, DO IT. This is an area where you will always be able to find work because people can’t get counselling, support or the feeling of safety from a computer.
If you’re interested in this career, start taking part in workshops that promote personal growth and teach you about effective communication styles. Do your own reading, see if it still interests you, and then go for it. If you have great people skills, then the industry needs your magic.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT JULIA’S STORY, AND LIVING WITH CLUBFOOT HERE:
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Website: https://themighty.com/ I just love real humans talking honestly about real life challenges. Every day in your life will not be perfect, you are likely to come up against some pretty difficult challenges, that is just the reality of life, and this site really talks about that and helps to smash the stigma around mental health and disabilities.
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: I love Ella Endi’s account @nakedwithanxiety. She posts funny meme’s and always knows just the words to calm an anxious gal’s worries!
- Favourite Podcast: I’m a major nerd deep down, so I actually love podcasts that talk about the human mind, but I don’t have any one favourite. Search on your podcast app and any of them are winners! I’m a sucker for audio books, too. That way you can really dive into the information. Favourite topics of mine are psychosomatic illnesses and how the brain suppresses traumatic life events.
- Favourite Netflix Series: “Don’t call me crazy” with BBC Three. I don’t watch much Netflix to be honest, but this series is awesome. It’s a three-part documentary series that looks at teenagers who have been sectioned under the mental health act. Probably not for everyone, but I would love to work within a service like the one it’s filmed in some day, so for me it’s valuable insight.
- Favourite all time book/s: Aerobics for the Spirit by Robert Morley, I picked this book up one day in an op shop for 50 cents and it quickly became my favourite book. It’s an older man writing beautifully candid words about his life experiences, I’ve learned a lot from it.
- People: This is a tough question to answer, I love almost all humans! I think the bravery I see some young people face the world with is pretty admirable, so I’m going to round this question off by saying: My favourite people are those who choose to face challenges with resilience and an attitude of “I can get through this with the right support”.