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By Madeleine Gray on October 5, 2017 in News

Picture: Anthea Williamson

Hairdressers are notoriously good talkers, but they’re also excellent listeners. They build up huge social networks comprising people from a vast cross-section of industries, and as anyone who has left a salon looking 100 times better than when they came in knows, hairdressers can also be totally ingenious.

Hairdresser and owner of two TONI&GUY franchises in Bondi and Randwick, Kelly Wright, has decided to utilize her “absurd skill-set” to make a difference in the lives of remote Indigenous communities in Australia by working with them to create sustainable housing from the very plastic pollution that fills our world more and more every day.

Wright’s journey to running her now registered charity, Deciding To Make A Difference, began in March last year. A friend of hers was working on a charity project with the remote community of Jilkminggan in the Northern Territory, running a clothing drive to stock an op-shop in the community and raise money for a female Arts and Community Centre.

Wright shared a post on social media, asking people to drop off clothing to her TONI&GUY store. The post went viral, with 28,000 shares, and it became a national project with donation drop-off points at TONI&GUY stores around the country.

Wright was invited to the op-shop opening, and instead of feeling satisfied with her help, she instead realised how much more needed to be done.

“I thought, ‘they really don’t need the clothes; what they need is houses,’ ” she recalls.

New housing had not been built in Jilkminggan in 17 years. There was, and is, limited access to electricity, clean drinking water, and sanitation. Frequent flooding means only a small amount of houses are inhabitable at any one time.

Wright says, “Australian people are living in rural Australia in dilapidated housing that you would not let your pet live in. These people are Aboriginal, but that is not the point. They are Australian, and they are living in third world conditions and housing. That is not okay.”

By the time Wright arrived back in Bondi, she had started a blog, and the beginnings of her charity.

“As most hairdressers do, I thought that I could solve one of the world’s biggest problems.”

Wright has now teamed up with Nev House and architect Ken McBryde to design and create sustain- able housing for the community of Jilkminggan using plastic waste. Crucially, though, the community is being continually consulted throughout the process.

One building, to be a drug and rehabilitation centre, has now been funded and will work as a model.

“Every house after this will be created by consultation with the family who will live there, as everyone has different needs and desires,” explains Wright.

“We’ll build around eight houses with similar engineering, but different elements, like height, windows, and so on, and then families can make informed decisions about what will work for them.”

“Further, we will help com- munity members get accredited in various trades, and then they will build the houses themselves,” she adds.

The next step is acquiring corporate funding and getting volunteers with skillsets, like web development and graphic design, which will reduce the amount of charity money going into administrative costs.

To learn more and to get involved, please visit decidingtomakeadifference.org, and email hello@decidingtomakeadifference.org.



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