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Healthy again, and "sure as hell proud"

Angela Gala says after a rough childhood with an alcoholic mother and a father who wasn't around much, life's starting to really look up, since she's been involved in a local Red Cross employment program.

The proud Butchulla (Fraser Island) woman had just turned 16 when her mum was diagnosed with cancer. Three months later she died, leaving young Angela feeling completely on her own.

"That's when I got into quitting school, having marijuana, hanging around all the wrong people, doing all the wrong things," she says, from her home town of Hervey Bay, on Queensland's Fraser Coast.

But Angela got to the point when she realised she needed to change.

"I thought, 'I don't want this life anymore. I don't want to be the drug addict with all these bad things in my life. I want to do something with my life.'"

She signed on for a youth empowerment program, and slowly Angela developed self confidence and self esteem, eventually giving up drugs.

Her Red Cross support worker, Errol Rafter says now Angela lends a hand as a volunteer and mentor for other young people.

"Angela's currently doing a healthy living course, regularly lends a hand at Red Cross events, is a lot healthier and has dreams of one day working in a job supporting others," Errol says.

Angela says she loves being involved in the Red Cross program, and helping out with youth and the elderly.

"Now I'm confident to shake someone's hand and say 'I'm Angela Gala!' whereas before I wouldn't have been able to do that. I would have curled up in a ball and cried."

Since her mother died, the young woman has been living independently - and says she's enjoying learning new skills to keep her little household running.

Best of all, since becoming involved with Red Cross' programs her health has turned around.

"Within myself I feel like a different person but I think that's me adapting to being myself after being not myself on the drugs. It's just all me pointing towards being a better person.

"It's a little bit uncomfortable still working out how I fit and live without drugs but other than that I'm still pretty healthy and coping."

Angela says she's appreciated the support to help her rebuild her self esteem and identity.

"I'm proud of my culture without a doubt. As a pre-schooler I remember racism used to be a big thing, but as I've grown up I've learned to live with my culture and be proud of it.

"I'm Aboriginal and I'm Torres Strait Islander and I'm sure as hell proud of it."