Matty Mills on working with Catherine Martin

I went to live with Dad in Tamworth [in northern NSW] when I was 11. Meeting him for the first time didn’t feel real, but we built a strong relationship quickly. Dad had a girlfriend and three kids but the pressure of our presence caused his family to fall apart.

I connected with my culture and heritage through Dad. I learned about Aboriginal women being the matriarchs and leaders of the clans. Meeting my five aunties, I learned that these women are opinionated and strong-willed, but most of all they are the carers of the family and they take charge in the community.

I was a very strong-minded teenager, always thinking about how to do things that felt impossible. Then in Tamworth I met Philippa [Pip] Powell, who became an amazing friend and mentor. When I was 14, she helped me write a letter to Shore, a private boarding school in Sydney. It secured me a scholarship as its only Indigenous student. Pip took me to the entrance interview, then paid my rent when I moved to Perth to go to university. Without her, many of my achievements would have been close to impossible.

I was about 17 when I realized I wasn’t romantically attracted to girls, but my first love was a beautiful girl called Hannah. That was something that needed to happen for me. I feel grateful that I had that teenage experience before being comfortable enough to come out.

The beautiful thing About Aboriginal culture is the acceptance of people who may be queer, non-binary or trans. It goes back to talk of two-spirit people: people who have the power of two in them.

I’ve been with my partner, Paul, a paramedic, for five years. Paul is selfless and empathetic, and so supportive of my dreams. He’s a huge inspiration to me.

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In 2020, I was Baz Luhrmann’s executive assistant on his latest film, Elvis, as he wanted an Indigenous person to help run his affairs. His wife, Catherine Martin, was the film’s designer and producer. She is incredibly gifted and has this ability to bring ideas to life. She also possesses a great sensitivity around art.

Catherine and Baz work together collaboratively, and I got to see that dynamic. Catherine also became a bit of a mother figure to me. Beyond the filming, she’s also a great friend.

Getaway screens Saturdays at 5.30pm on Channel 9 and 9Now.

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