Geelong local Justine Martin has returned to her New England hometown to share how resilience has helped her overcome a lifetime of adversity.
It has been seven years since Justine visited Glen Innes where she lived for about 24 years before she moved to Perth on Australia Day in 2004.
And on Tuesday night she spoke to a room full of people at the Glen Innes District Services Club about how she has coped with a lifetime of hardships to become an award-winning artist, businesswoman and motivational speaker.
She was also there to sign copies of her recently released children's book Same Same but Different.
"There were quite a few people crying in the audience and I was crying up on stage at one point," Justine said of the session which included friends she grew up with in Glen Innes.
"I shared a lot more than I normally would. It was raw, it was emotional and it was honest."
Justine was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis MS in 2011, has lived through three major heart surgeries, and is on "wait and watch" for melanoma on her leg, lymphoma and leukemia in her bones.
"When I got diagnosed with MS and my world crashed around me, I thought, 'what's my purpose in life going to be?'" Justine said.
Doctors told her she would never work again.
Instead, the mother of two picked up a paintbrush at her local art studio and began creating works of art that would ultimately sell in Australia and around the world for thousands of dollars.
Throughout her incredible highs and lows during the previous 11 years, Justine has also opened six businesses including Juzt Art, Van-Go decals, publishing company Morpheus and has also won multiple awards.
Today, she helps motivate others by sharing how she pushed through those unimaginable setbacks and obstacles, in private consultations, speaking engagements, podcasts, and books.
"I strongly believe that my story is someone else's survival guide," Justine said, outlining a few of her top ten tips to resilience that includes self-care, movement and mindset.
Being in a routine and having strategies in place has also helped her through the pain of finding her partner "dead on the floor" from a suspected heart attack about four months ago.
"It's been very difficult," Justine said.
"And being known as the Queen of Resilience doesn't mean I bounce back straightaway, it means that I have the coping mechanisms there to face such hard adversities."
She also helps those who have been through domestic violence, after she suffered a broken arm when her former partner threw her against a wall.
"So, I can touch quite a lot of lives with my story because I have been through so much."
A return to Glen Innes
Justine was born in Geelong but moved to Glen Innes where she lived for about 24 years, attending high school, running the Jangles Fashion Hut, and sitting as the chair on the marketing committee for the Glen Innes Chamber of Commerce.
She was also head steward for the ceramics section at the Glen Innes Show, secretary of the Rural Youth Branch, and an active member of the local Jelly Beans Tug-of-War team.
She left Glen Innes in 2004 and went to live in Perth before moving back to Geelong to be closer to her family in 2011.
Returning to Glen Innes after a seven-year absence, Justine said it just "blows her away" that people were asking her to sign her recently published children's book Same Same but Different.
The story follows the adventures of Pansy the dachshund as she meets a variety of characters to ultimately learn they are all the same but different in a world of diversity and inclusion.
"From a small town, people can reach great heights," she said.
"One of my sayings is, 'time is the most precious commodity on the planet, you can't buy it, reuse it, sell it or borrow it. So be careful what you spend it on and who you spend it on'."
Justine is currently working on a number of projects, including an online course to teach people the skills of resilience.
She is also scheduled to attend an awards night in Brisbane and the Gold Coast in November where she has been nominated for a number of her recent achievements.
Justine continues in her role as an MS Ambassador to make people aware of the chronic invisible disease that pften leaves her with shooting nerve pain, fatigue and mobility issues that require her to use a walking stick or a wheelchair.
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