STANDING UP FOR EQUALITY
I first connected with Angie Greene as a fellow student studying Holistic Counselling at Australian College of Natural Medicine. Angie was the gorgeous, cheeky, fun-loving young girl straight out of school. I was the dorky mature age student.
My age did not phase Angie. She befriended me as she would befriend any girlfriend. She did not see my age, she saw me as a peer and she made me feel valued just for who I was. She even invited me out to clubs with her friends. I never went, but I probably should have. I’m sure they were having fun and it shows how inclusive she was.
Jump forward 14 years and Angie is now the founder and CEO of a not for profit organisation called Stand Up Events. Her strong belief that we are all the same has led to creating this organisation dedicated to fighting for gender and sexual equality in Australia, especially in the arena of sport.
This is a must read for anyone who loves to be inspired. It gives hope that we can create social change to make our world a safer and happier place.
We first met as fellow students at the Australian College of Natural Medicine’s Holistic Counselling course. What led you to have an interest in counselling and alternative therapies at such a young age?
I always knew that I wanted to work in a space where I thought that I was helping people and I naturally gravitated towards this course straight out of school. As a real youngster, I knew that I was a deep thinker and quite emotional. I was always interested in hearing and learning about other people’s thoughts and feelings. I felt that I was good at listening to people in my personal life and coming together to work out ways to ‘make things better’.
I loved the idea of alternative therapies from a personal and professional level. We are often conditioned to think that Western Medicine is the only option to assist with our health. I was so interested in learning about natural medicine. I am not opposed to medication for mental/emotional heath, however, I do believe that everyone should know all their options.
This was just the beginning of many more years of further studies. When was the moment you began to think about starting your own Not for Profit organisation?
I was 27, 10 years after starting this course. I had studied for six years in total with a gap in between courses.
I discovered Stand Up when I felt really flat and lost. I had just completed all of my placement hours and felt massive anxiety because I realised that being a psychologist/counsellor was not what I wanted to do. This was very hard to swallow as I had invested so much time, energy and money in my studies and I am someone who cannot simply ‘go to work’. I have to be completely passionate or in love with what I do.
I decided that I wanted to be completely selfish and be on my own for a three to four month period. I felt really lost and had lost a lot of confidence in myself and what I thought I wanted to be. I promised myself that I would work on myself during this time, to really think about what it is that I wanted to do next.
Once I had the funds, I went overseas for three and a half months, completely alone, and it was the best thing I have ever done in my life.
People would not naturally think this of me but I can be very self-conscious and question myself and my abilities a lot. I promised myself that not only would I discover what I really wanted to do, but I would gain confidence by challenging myself while overseas.
As I spent so much time alone, I thought a lot and wrote a lot. With no other noise around me, I asked myself what is the one thing in life that I am passionate about and that has always been people and social justice. More specifically, the non-hetero and gender diverse community. This is when I realised that I was going to do something about it, 27 years old and overseas at the end of 2014.
Through your organisation Stand Up Events you have become a voice for the LGBTIQ community, especially in the area of sport. How are you managing this responsibility?
I certainly don’t see myself as a voice for the LGBTIQ community. I see myself as someone who stands alongside the community. I have never seen myself as a ‘straight’ person standing up for LGBTIQ rights. I have always seen myself as a person who wants to see equality and inclusion for all people. It has not ever felt like a responsibility. It has always felt like the right thing to do.
There are also so many wonderful people who really want to see change in this space and it is not down to one of us, but all of us.
I was so excited to see you step onto the stage and accept the Aria award for the best female singer in 2016 on behalf of Sia. How did this moment come about and how did you feel?
It was the most bizarre and surreal moment of my life – professionally and personally. It came about when a few months before hand, The Marriage Equality Campaign asked if I would like to be an Ambassador for Marriage Equality. I was completely shocked that they asked me and I was incredibly touched and, of course, said: ‘Yes.’
I had not really heard from them since they asked me and in my mind, I thought to myself; ‘they have regretted asking me, they have realised I don’t have a profile, all I want to do is help but I don’t want to feel like a stalker’. I then got a call from Clint McGilvray, who is by far the biggest unsung hero from the campaign, who told me that Sia had chosen someone to accept her award on behalf of Marriage Equality at The Arias and that someone was me.
I was in shock. I thought he was kidding … I did not really understand. I called him back that night and said: “Look, I really don’t want to devalue myself or the work that I/we do, but I just really need to make sure that you all know that no one knows who I am, I don’t have a profile, no one will know who I am if I accept her award.” I absolutely sung out laughing when he responded: “That’s exactly why she has chosen you.”
Apparently Sia and the campaign wanted someone who no one knew and was just an ordinary every day Australian – which I loved. The whole Yes Vote came down to people. Grassroots, every day people. I was incredibly proud to be a very small part of that.
I see that as a result of your organisation, Stand Up Events, Monash University has embarked on a series of research projects into the best approach to change homophobic behaviour in youth sport. This must feel like a huge step in a positive direction. What changes to you believe need to be made?
From the very beginning I said to myself that I was not content unless we were working towards making real, impactful and measurable change. We have spent years creating awareness and gathering the funds we needed to hire Monash University to create world-first research into why homophobic language and behaviour is still so prevalent within male team dominated sports.
What we have discovered is that from grassroots to the larger governing bodies (AFL, NRL and others) homophobic language is still rife regardless of whether it is unintentional or not. The impact that this has on the sporting culture and non-hetero people in general is a negative one and it needs to change. Simply put, not everyone feels comfortable being their true selves in male sport and this has a ripple effect on mental and emotional states.
Based on the research that we gathered from Monash University, we created customised preventative programs with current AFL players to implement into grassroots male sporting clubs – aged 16-20 years. Our goal is to eradicate language and behaviour that makes people want to leave sport, or makes them feel unsafe/unwelcome in sport, which is far too common. We hope that the work we have done with Monash gives us more credibility in this space as we can show that what we do has a positive impact on the culture.
You have been instrumental in creating a platform for well-known and not so well-known sports people to speak up about mental health and sexuality issues. What has been your proudest moment or a time when you felt this is why I do this?
I am very bad at appreciating the big or small wins. I find myself always thinking to myself: ‘OK, that was amazing. Now, what is next, what else do we need to go to help.’
There have been private moments that have happened behind the scenes that have melted my heart. Moments where I feel incredibly honoured that someone has shared something with me.
I have moments where I struggle for copious amounts of reasons. I constantly run into hurdles all the time. The thing that keeps me going, or when I say to myself “this is why”, is when I receive emails or private messages on social media expressing that something we have done has helped them or helped their family. There is no other reason why we do this. It is all about people. That is all that matters.
You are very soon about to welcome into the world your first child. What would you like this world to look like? This is a big one I know, maybe just three things you would like to see for your child.
A world where my baby and every other child or person can be exactly who they are, unapologetically.
A world that is not run by criminals but by smart and caring people.
A world that they feel safe in.
How are you planning on navigating your work life after your babies arrival? I often struggle with this question for mums, as dads don’t often get asked it. But I think people like to know and it may help other new mums trying to juggle with this new stage in life.
I have been asking myself this a lot lately. I am the sole employee of the NFP at the moment and, therefore, I did so much work up until this point so Stand Up can run while I have a little break to be with my baby.
I am incredibly lucky that I have an amazing support system around me but, I will be completely honest, I have no idea what it will all look like. I do not know yet the nature of my baby, I am unsure of how I will be coping as well. I certainly have ideals of how I would like it to look but realise that it is impossible to know until it all happens.
I am incredibly driven about what I do and, ideally, would love to be able to work like I always have. I am an optimist but also a realist. At this stage, I believe it will be about working smarter and being as organised as possible.
I believe I can do both but at this stage but I don’t know what that looks like. I am also not a proud person and If for any reason I cannot uphold the demands of Stand UP, the Committee and I will always work out what needs to be done to make sure Stand Up is always being run efficiently. It’s not about me. It’s always about the bigger picture. Having said this, I really do believe and hope that I can work out the balance of being a new mum and a CEO.
I always finish with a question about self-care, it’s a bit of a nunchi theme. How do you look after your own mental health and all over well-being?
I did not look after myself for a long time when first starting Stand UP and I ended up burning out hard. I still find it difficult to navigate, but for self-care I now know:
Set boundaries for myself – both personally and professionally
Speak to a professional
Saying “no” to things when I need to put myself first
Get acupuncture twice a month
Attend meditation and healing events
Write down affirmations.
It has only been the past year where I have really noticed how important self-care is and, for me, it takes a lot of practice. Now that I can see what it does, I really try and do what I can to make it a priority.