The inspiration behind Tegan Murdock's brand Love Yourself Sister goes way back to her childhood. She's a proud Aboriginal woman from the Barkindji nation in far west NSW. She was born in Albury, and moved between here and Dareton throughout her childhood, and now considers both her home...
In Dareton, she recalls living in a tin hut on a small mission called Namatjira Mission where her family were moved to for a few years, before they were relocated into town. Days were spent building cubby houses in the bush, making mud pies and playing with her cousins. It’s where her free-spirited nature was born.
Yet, there’s also another side to her story. “My childhood was full of beautiful moments, but also filled with trauma,” she says. “I saw too much as a child, too many people in my family being hurt, too much alcohol abuse. I lost too many family members because of pain that they couldn’t get help for.” Today, that trauma has inspired her to embark on a mission to remind women that they are enough, just as they are. “Growing up, I faced too many cruel situations and saw my family go through too much hurt. I wanted to create a movement where I could empower my people to really love and embrace who we are.”
Along with empowering women, Tegan has also found solace in weaving, which she now describes as her “medicine”. Her mother taught her to weave a few years ago and she not only discovered her passion for the traditional craft, but also found a way to stay connected to her culture. She went on to create another business, Ngumpie Weaving, which not only sells beautifully crafted woven baskets (check them out here), but also hosts events where women can come together and learn to weave.
Here, we speak to the remarkable mother of two about what it’s like growing up as an Aboriginal child and the racism she faced, what it means to be anti-racist, overcoming depression, the joy of motherhood, and why she’s on a mission to empower women to love themselves.
Follow @ngumpie_weaving @tegan_murdock | Go to loveyourselfsister.com
You are from the Barkindji nation in far west NSW – can you tell me about your childhood, where you grew up and what some of your most vivid memories of your childhood are?
I was born in Albury, NSW, but I moved between Albury and Dareton all throughout my childhood – both towns are home for me. Dareton had a big impact on my life as this is where I spent most of my childhood.
I lived in a tin hut on a small mission where all my family were moved to for a few years before moving into town. It was called Namatjira Mission. I have the best memories from my time out there, the free-spirited girl is where it all started. Our days would be building cubby houses amongst the bushes, making mud pies and running around with all my cousins that lived close by.
I was never bored because there were always fun things to explore. Sitting around the fire while Mum and Nan cooked yummy food was always nice, I was always surrounded by family – Mum, Dad, Nan and Pop would ration what we had so that they made sure that no one missed out on food.
The red dirt and bush is a part of me and will always be who I am. Lake Mungo, Lake Victoria and the Perry sandhills were my playgrounds growing up, Mum and Dad ran youth groups where they would take kids out on country to sit, listen and learn about culture. My fondest memories were out Lake Mungo where I first learnt about the Emu in the milky way from my late uncle Roddy, he was known as the ‘king of the bush’ he held knowledge passed down for generations and generations. I cherish moments like these where you sit and listen to elders telling stories.
My childhood was full of beautiful moments but also filled with trauma.
I saw too much as a child, too many people in my family being hurt, too much alcohol abuse, losing too many family members because of pain that they couldn’t get help for. The trauma that has been passed down, plays out big time in our communities and this is why I choose to lead a healthy life so that I can be a leader for my people.
What did your parents teach you about racism growing up?
We never really spoke about it, we would just see the impact and that’s how I came to know about it. I would face it when I would go into town from the mission, we wouldn’t be served at shops, you learnt to wait a long time for our turn. Living on the mission, Mum told me that almost every weekend they would be living in fear from the KKK coming into their homes and running riot amongst everyone. I remember when I was around 6 or 7 we had to all gather at a family members house because the KKK were running through our homes burning, smashing everything and hurting family. They would hide in the surrounding bushes and just put fear into us all. I would have nightmares, and I would always struggle to leave my family because that fear was built in that I could be hurt.
We would always fear white people, and we would never feel comfortable due to the trauma that was caused. I would see racism all around me, comments like Abo, coon, boong and gin were always thrown around. As I got older Mum and Dad would tell us to ignore the comments and be the bigger person but sometimes it would get too much and you would just break.
I was a very good netball and basketball player and this is where the opponent would make racist comments to try and put me off my game. Most of the time I would dread going to play another game but the love of it was too strong so I kept persisting. Eventually, they just saw u as normal people then the comments stopped. My brothers, however, would face it more than what I had.
Tell me about the move to Sydney – was it an adjustment – what challenges did you face and how did you overcome any challenges?
Moving to Sydney was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, even at the age of 22. I would never go to school camps let alone move away from my family. I had separation anxiety so being away from family was hard, I’m pretty sure I cried every day, for the first six months – I’m not sure how my husband put up with me.
I adjusted by making sure I had regular visits back home and made sure Mum and Dad would visit me. Starting work in Sydney was huge and a hard adjustment, my husband had to drive me to work as I worked in Chatswood [on Sydney’s North Shore] close to his work. I was too scared to drive myself, coming from a small town with little traffic to city life was very daunting.
I had numerous jobs when I first moved, but would only ever last in the job for a few months or so, being black and going into an all-white workplace was so hard. I had racism at an engineering company where I worked, I had a degrading feeling from a workplace where I worked in Mosman and faced racism in a workplace in Frenchs Forest. You would get uneducated people telling jokes and talking down to Aboriginal people, while I was sitting at my desk working. It was hurtful and would make you feel like you amounted to nothing.
Your brand is about empowering women to embrace their own unique beauty, to help them understand that they are here for a reason, they are to live life to the fullest and not to be caged in – where did this inspiration come from? Can you share your experience with depression and anxiety?
And this is where my brand ‘Love Yourself sister’ came from. Growing up, I faced too many cruel situations and saw my family go through too much hurt. I wanted to create a movement where I could empower my people to really love and embrace who we are. We are not defined by other people’s opinions, we are not defined by our past we are all uniquely beautiful, brave and strong enough to stand tall and honour our paths, we don’t need to have validation from anyone else.
I came up with the name while sitting in a personal development course – I had just uncovered a whole heap of things for myself and I just remember sitting there telling myself that I need to spread this message of self-love, that self-love is how we can save ourselves. No one else can come to save us until we can recognise it in ourselves and so after the course had ended I created my Instagram page originally just for a reminder for myelf, but I then opened it up to the public and I started getting messages saying thank you for your what you’re doing you’re helping me on my journey on healing.
How old were you when you had children – and looking back, is there anything you wish you did differently?
I had Mia, my first Daughter, when I was 24 and my second 18 months after. Living away from my family as a first-time mum was so hard, but I struggled through and from that had postnatal depression. I was alone and had no real support. So differently I would’ve chosen to move back with my mum!
What have you learnt about happiness? What is happiness?
I’ve learnt that happiness doesn’t come from anyone else, it’s all within. Once you realise that you are worthy and enough within, then that’s when your happiness will shine through. You won’t need to seek it from anyone else because you are happiness.
Can you take us through your career path, your days modelling, and how you came to found your own brand Love Yourself Sister?
Growing up I just wanted to work and start a family, I didn’t have a career in mind, wasn’t interested in university or even owning a business. My first job was picking grapes with my dad, pop and brothers on a grape block in Coomealla. Then once I started year 7, I worked at the local IGA supermarket stocking the shelves. Once I had finished year 11, I started working at a bakery in Albury then from there I got into office Administration. I loved working with computers so really enjoyed this job. I have done Admin for as long as I can remember. When I had kids, I stopped working for six years while being a stay-at-home mum. My husband worked hard for us, so that I could stay home and be here for our girls. But then a few years ago my mum taught me how to weave baskets, and this is what I do to this day. I run weaving workshops, do weaving in schools and businesses. I love the idea of bringing this healing element to the community and also to keep sharing culture.
I’ve done a few small photoshoots for my modelling and one fun runway last year, it’s not something that has been a big part of me, but I have wanted to do it since I was younger. I thought it would be a nice way to be a role model for my people. I realise now that I am a role model without being a model as such.
Your mother taught you how to weave – can you share how it helped you to heal? And how did you come up with the name Ngumpie Weaving?
My beautiful mum taught me how to weave a few years ago. She had tried prior to this but it just wasn’t my time to learn. I learnt after getting off a family cruise and from that day I haven’t stopped. It has allowed me to feel connected to culture whilst living away from home, it has allowed me to slow down and be grounded amongst the craziness of the world. Weaving to me is medicine, you zone out while creating and forgetting all the troubles of the day. I guess this is something my ancestors used for healing and connection to country.
The name Ngumpie Weaving came from my Nanna Shirl, she used to call me Ngumpie when I was growing up, and Ngumpie in our Language means ‘Beautiful”, so when I decided on creating a business this was the only name that stuck out for me. My Nan is no longer with us, but I feel her presence with me all the time.
How can we talk to our children about what being anti-racist means?
I would say just simply teaching them to love and respect all human beings. Because someone looks different to us, they still breathe the same air, share this land. Love wins every time. Encourage our children to learn about all cultures and people
A year from now, what changes do you want to see in the world around anti-racism?
I’d like to see more love, understanding and kindness being spread. I’d love to see more Aboriginal culture being highlighted and showcased in businesses. I’d love to see more Aboriginal representation in the media. I would love to see the Aboriginal flag on top of the Harbour Bridge.