Stina Constantine, 28, was in primary school when her family moved to Wagga from Norway. She has recently been crowned the new Miss Wagga in her adopted home city.
It’s been a few weeks since the Miss Wagga Crowning. How are you feeling?
It’s been good. I’ve sort of come to grips with what this role entails, and the responsibility that it entails and the work that it entails.
You had a year of fundraising as part of Miss Wagga, didn’t you, for organisations close to your heart?
Absolutely, and for this community as well, having been here for a number of years now. It’s been great to be a bit more hands on and being able to give back to a community that’s essentially helped raise me.
But it was a lot of work and there was no way I was going to be able to do that on my own. There is a team, that did it and that credit goes to the entire team.
So how did you come to be in Wagga?
We moved out as a family from Norway back in about 2000. I did all of my high school here in Wagga, and a year of primary school as well.
At the end of it, we all returned back to Norway, which is where my parents live. We returned thinking ‘that’s it, that’s the end of Australia’ and we were transitioning back to our usual lifestyle.
But then after about six months, I’ve turned around and said ‘sorry folks, but I’ve got to go back to Wagga. This doesn’t feel quite like me any more. Just let me do my undergraduate degree back in Wagga and then I will see’.
So I did my undergraduate, then I did my postgraduate and I’m still here.
Wagga is very home for me. But home is also where my family are, so if I could just merge Norway and Australia, that would be bliss.
What was it about Wagga?
There’s a question and a half. I think it’s part of the Australian culture as a whole that just became more of my identity, or I became more like the Australian culture than the Norwegian culture, so that was a real culture shock for me to go back to Norway and particularly at such a young age.
I had all of my networks here. There’s a certain kind of person that you’re trying to become and when all of your environment and everything is uprooted and taken away from you, all of sudden you’re left with ‘I don’t know who I am without these connections’, so at 18 years of age – when I was trying to work out who I am, having lost so much just became too confusing – so I came back to Wagga and a place I knew, with people I knew and a place I was still trying to make my own.
That was enough of a challenge for me without overwhelming me.
So how old were you when you came to Australia?
I was 10. I came with Mum and Dad and my two sisters. My older sister started uni out here and we sort of followed her and then ended up staying. She did nursing.
Both my sisters are back in Norway. One has just had a baby – a brand new nephew for me.
How did your family come to be in Norway?
My parents found an opportunity a long time ago where a tie became apparent between Norway and Sri Lanka, and at the time there was a bit of unrest in Sri Lanka and I think my parents decided this was an opportune moment to just let go.
Dad left for Norway, found a trade, was able to upskill himself and within about 12 months, was able to pull my mum and older sister out of Sri Lanka, and that’s when the civil war broke out. It was a very touch and go kind of time.
What did you study in Wagga?
I started off in medical science and biotechnology. Biology was always the way my brain was wired. That’s where I went.
But within six months, I worked out ‘actually chemistry’s not for me, I don’t want to be in a lab for the rest of my life and that’s not where I’m meant to be, I’m meant to be with people’.
Luckily, there was a wonderful careers advisor at CSU and he helped me navigate through that process and navigate through my own developmental journey and I landed in an arts degree, which gave me some space to breath and try out different electives.
One of those electives was psychology and I fell in love with it. I just couldn’t believe I hadn‘t been exposed to this kind of content before and so I then pursued a Bachelor of Psychology, graduated from that and took a year off because I thought I’d try to become a school counsellor.
But to be a school counsellor, you need a teaching degree behind you before having a mental health degree, so I tried to pursue teaching, but it’s not for me. I’m not wired to be a teacher.
So I jumped ship very quickly and went into social work instead and did a Masters of Social Work, and I’ve been working at Country Hope for three or four months.
I also work at Relationships Australia in the children’s contact service. My psychology degree got me in there and now I’m juggling both. They are two part-time roles, and two very different roles as well.
But it is wonderful work.
Once I got into psychology, kids was where I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to do something working with children.
What are you thinking for the longer term?
Wagga is very home for me. But home is also where my family is, so if I could just merge Norway and Australia, that would be bliss.
I do hope to be able to move into the counselling field, in terms of a therapeutic role, whether that be in Wagga or outside of Wagga, I’m, not sure at this stage.
I do like the regional lifestyle.