father in Western Australia. But her shyness hid an inner strength: her father was a well-connected bikie who sold amphetamines, and when she was a teenager Shelley was recruited to deliver drugs to customers.
“You can imagine the stuff she would have seen at that time, the places she would have been,” says YSAS Project Manager Dom Ennis, who worked with Shelley in the early 2000s.
Although Shelley had been born into this criminal subculture, she was determined to live a different life from the one she had been dealt, and so she decided to leave Perth and start again in Melbourne.
But life in Melbourne was far from easy for a young woman with no family ties or connections. Back in Western Australia Shelley had used mostly cannabis, but in Victoria she started using heroin and doing sex work. Things seemed even worse than they were in Perth, and she contemplated giving up and returning home.
When Shelley accessed YSAS services, the focus was often on her drug dependency. However, during the periods when she managed to control or stop her heroin use, her life was still difficult and dispiriting; cutting out drugs didn’t suddenly fix all her problems. “She reminded me that a young person’s happiness, wellbeing and capacity to manage life was more important than whether or not they were using drugs,” says Dom.
In Shelley’s case, perhaps the most important factor was the stability she found through YSAS. Once her basic needs were met, she had the freedom and confidence to think of a future beyond the immediate gratification of heroin use. Eventually, she re-enrolled to finish high school in Victoria.