When Melissa Redsell became pregnant at the age of 16, she never dreamt she would go to university, or forge a successful career, let alone create a thriving charity helping young mums-to-be.
The Warner resident and founder of A Brave Life has done just that and this year published a book about her experiences – titled Living a Brave Life.
She’s also found a more suitable home for her charity – A Brave Life – with Moreton Bay Regional Council recently granting her a $1-a-year lease at Black Duck Cottage at Murrumba Downs for the next five years.
“I was constantly told I had ruined my life, that I would amount to nothing and my life was over,” Melissa says.
Determined to prove her detractors wrong, Melissa graduated from high school seven months pregnant.
“When my daughter was 10 months old, I decided I wanted to do something to benefit her, and to benefit myself,” she says.
Melissa enrolled to study nursing, juggling motherhood with studying.
“I failed first-year science, not once but twice. I didn’t have anyone tutoring or guiding me. I was the first on my family to ever go to university on both sides, which is amazing considering I was the teenage mother,” she says.
“Again, that was a pivotal moment because I had a choice to make there and then – fail and drop out or (accept) it’s OK to fail and repeat the first-year science and then do less subjects in the second year.
“That’s what I did. It took me four years to do a three-year degree, but I got there and I always say to the young women I work with it’s not a race. We all fail at things and we have a choice, do we let that failure define us?”
In November 2022, Melissa was named Queensland Australian of the Year in the Community Hero Category. She will represent Queensland at the Australian of the Year ceremony in Canberra in the lead-up to Australia Day in 2023.
About Melissa Redsell
Melissa completed her last nursing placement in a hospital emergency department in Townville and loved it. She impressed her supervisors and was offered a rare graduate position.
“I was the third person in 10 years who had been offered a graduate position, straight out of university into emergency,” she says.
She worked there until she and husband Jaymes moved to Brisbane in 2000 where she continued to work in emergency.
An interest in midwifery was always in the back of her mind and, soon after the birth of her second child, she started a midwifery degree.
It’s a field she has been working in for the past 19 years at Redcliffe Hospital.
During her work as a midwife, Melissa has seen countless teenage and young mothers in hospital struggling to cobble together newborn baby essentials, complete education or imagine a bright future.
It reminded her of the time she felt her life was spiralling out of control and of an act of kindness that stuck with her.
“I remember one day, a friend of mine turned up at the house and she had a basket. In it were cloth nappies, baby wash and wipes and a lot of handmade stuff, but it was all brand new,” she recalls.
So, Melissa started buying newborn essentials and creating packs which she gave to organisations supporting young women in 2015.
When others learned what she was doing, they wanted to donate goods and money and suggested she set up a not-for-profit organisation. Her charity, A Brave Life, was born.
The charity now gives 800-1000 baby bundles to new mothers each year across South East Queensland and beyond.
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