Strong, independent, young Aboriginal lady.
That’s how 18-years-old Latia Schefe describes herself. Her aim is to drive, inspire and empower other Indigenous communities and children, and she certainly has after the NAIDOC Awards named her as the Youth of the Year.
After enduring what Latia has been through, there’s little doubt as to why she’s utilising her power, determination and strength to have a positive impact on other Indigenous youth.
“In 2005 I was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. I was 6-years-old at the time. There was a bug on my kidney and they couldn’t get it off so they decided to take my whole kidney out.”
Latia was in hospital for more than two months before the doctors realised it wasn’t neuroblastoma. It was actually in fact, cancer.
“I had a tube that went through my nose, down my throat and into my stomach that fed me. Every time they moved me I could just feel pain throughout my whole body and I just broke down crying. I couldn’t handle going through chemo, MRI scans, radiation and all of that.”
During the second year of treatment in hospital, Latia's younger sister was diagnosed with pneumococcal magna three, a disease that is a leading cause of serious illness and death among Australian children under two years of age, with the rates being highest among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
“She was immediately admitted to hospital after that and doctors just swarmed her. Meantime I was still at hospital in a different ward so mum was just jumping back and forth from ward to ward,” she said.
"It tore my mum apart to even think about her daughters laying on their death bed."
“It was a tragedy for my mum, my sister and myself. It tore my mum apart to even think about her daughters laying on their death bed so, yeah it was a relief to get out of there.”
Although Latia did miss one thing about being in hospital.
“I missed the food,” she laughed.
Being in hospital was the toughest experience Latia's had to deal with, but now the two sisters are healthy and happy.
“it is a relief to start doing things like going to school, working, playing sport and being fit and healthy.”
Thinking back to it, Latia couldn’t have managed without the support of her mum.
“She was always there and taught us how to be independent. I want to achieve good things in life. I want to have my own car, my own house, dog. That’s how mum brought us up, independent and respectful.”
Now Latia is on a mission of her own, especially to inspire and guide the young ones.
“I want to be a role model for my younger sisters. I’m proud of overcoming my illness that I had and not letting my past pull me back for what’s to come in the future.”