“I had to find a way to give myself permission to be me. To give myself permission to speak up”
This week on the podcast you’ll meet the remarkable Mel Thomas.
Mel was born into an extremely violent home. Her father was physically abusive towards not only her mother but also to Mel and her sister as well.
Despite her mum eventually leaving her father when Mel was 12, she was already firmly trapped in a cycle of violence.
At High School, Mel found herself the victim of bullying, but also at times an instigator of it.
This continued into her romantic relationships too, where she found herself into one of her first romantic relationships.
That was until, at the age of 18, when she met (as she describes him) ‘one of the good guys’ who introduced her to martial arts, which changed the course of her life.
Mel is now the founder and CEO of the KYUP! Project, a revolutionary self-worth and self-protection program created to break the cycle of violence against women and children.
She has worked with more than 10,000 students and young women around the country and is on a mission to change the devastating statistic that 40% of women over the age of 15 have been affected by domestic or family violence.
Mel’s work has been widely recognised. In 2013, she won a grant from Layne Beachley’s Aim For The Stars Foundation. In 2016 she was a nominee for Australian of the Year and only last month, she won the Game Changer of the Year award from Cosmo Magazine.
In this conversation, we discuss:
* her childhood in an extremely violent home, how the cycle of violence continued into her romantic relationships and the impact it had on her perception of what men (and relationships with them) were like,
* meeting “one of the good guys” and their first date at a martial arts studio,
* the impact of seeing her first martial arts class had on her and what she’s gained from the sport,
* the importance of being taught the life skill of ’ethical by standing’ as a child,
* why she credits Oprah with helping her transform her perspective and life, and how she was able to change the script on her ‘story’ (after the emotional abuse of her father)
* how she found the courage to use her voice and share her story for the first time,
* how she thinks life would have been different if she had the skills she’s teaching kids in her workshops today,
* what she wants women who are, or have been, affected by domestic and family violence to know (as well as those of us who haven’t),
* what winning the Cosmo Magazine’s Game Changer of the Year award means to her.
This is, in many ways, a heavy conversation but one that is filled with much laughter too.
I’ve admired Mel’s work for years from a distance so it was great to finally speak with her and to share her mission with you.
Notes and resources:
If you're interested in having Mel run a workshop at your school or speak in your organisation, you can email her at mel [at] kyupproject.com for details.
Check out the 'Strong' collection of Lizunova jewellery here. All proceeds go towards the cost of running the KYUP! Project education programs in schools.