Learn from mistakes, change your life

By T Whitsed

Stan Yarramunua has come a long way since he was making trouble in Shepparton as a teenager.

The Yorta Yorta man came to the area with his father when he was 15, after spending his childhood travelling from place to place.

‘‘From the age of seven, I remember being with my father in Ballarat and hitched from there straight to Adelaide,’’ he said.

Living a tumultuous and often rough childhood, Mr Yarramunua started the Shepparton Warriors, a local gang which caused some work for police.

But it was a run-in with a local detective that changed the now artist, musician, actor and social worker’s life.

‘‘I remember being at the police station once after being pulled in for doing some stuff and one of them pulled me aside and goes — ‘there’s something different about you; why are you doing this?’’’ Mr Yarramunua said.

‘‘It suddenly just hit me right between the eyes and I thought — ‘I think I need to change my ways’. And I did.’’

Leaving Shepparton when he was about 18, Mr Yarramunua had the chance to work at Galiamble Rehab Centre in St Kilda as well as Turana (now Melbourne Youth Justice Centre), where many of his childhood friends had ended up.

It was during this time he realised he needed to seek help.

‘‘The drinking gave me wings to fly but it took away the sky,’’ he said.

For the second time Mr Yarramunua was hit with a message which changed his future.

An older man named Jackie Chris reminded Mr Yarramunua of just how insignificant he was in comparison with the rest of the world and told him he should help someone else.

‘‘It was August 5, 1993, and I was bought to my knees,’’ Mr Yarramunua said.

‘‘I had a spiritual awakening and whatever was in me, left me.

‘‘I haven’t had a drink since and it’s been 24 years.’’

In the years that followed, Mr Yarramunua cemented his position as an internationally-renowned artist and musician and is now on a journey to teach younger people about his culture and to inspire people with his story.

‘‘As Aboriginal people, we’ve got to be responsible and we’ve got to give away this thing to keep it; whatever it is,’’ he said.

Locally, Mr Yarramunua dedicates his time helping out at The Cottage, having mentored general manager Josh Simm.

Seeing the changes in the community during the years, he said it was time to come together as a community and be good role models for the younger generation.

He hoped his new book A Man Called Yarra had inspired many young people to make positive changes in their lives.

‘‘A lot of young men and women are getting in touch and they’re saying (the book is) very inspirational for them,’’ Mr Yarramunua said.

‘‘Because the worst situations in life, I’ve learnt, are for the best.’’

For an extended profile on Stan Yarramunua, see Weekend Life in Saturday’s News.