Derby Hairdresser Chats and Chops Her Way into Local Kids Hearts

Published on Thursday, 24 March 2022 at 3:01:54 PM

Image: Jaala with local children in Derby.

When Jaala Ozies shifted back to Derby after more than 20 years away, she knew she wanted to give back to the small town that had long held a special place in her heart.

Having left in her teens to apprentice as a hairdresser in Broome, Ozies’ career has taken many twists and turns in the 30 years since. From driving heavy machinery in the mining industry for a decade, to working for Centrelink and Community Services, change and adaptability has been a constant theme for Ozies. Jaala is also studying towards her Masters in social work.

Now 44, Ozies is coming full circle, cutting children's hair at the Derby Youth Centre at the same time as studying to be a social worker through part-time distance learning with the University of Queensland. She is also undertaking local community placements at Derby Aboriginal Health Service and elsewhere, and is interested in specialising in social, emotional and cultural wellbeing.

Initially interested in settling in Broome, Ozies eventually decided to purchase a family home in Derby late last year, as the town is more affordable for her and offers opportunities to “give back to community, and the next generation”.

For many children, Ozies free haircuts have been the first professional trim of their life, and she says it has been a really special way to get to know Derby’s young people.

“It has been discussed that all hairdressers should do a course in psychology, you do become close to clients and there is a natural intimacy that builds when you are touching someone's hair – often for the first time.” Ozies says.

Becca, a Derby youth worker for the Shire, says local kids adore Ozies’ visits, and she can perform as many as 20 haircuts in an afternoon.

“They love the attention, they love her calm, gentle manner, and just having someone look after them in that way can be quite special and a very different, tactile way to build a bond,” Becca says.
“Jaala is also from here, so she knows how to talk to the kids in their own way, and they know how to talk to her. That’s pretty amazing from the perspective of building trust.”

Working with local kids is important for Ozies as she herself was going down the wrong path as a teenager.

At 14, Ozies’ parents supported her to undertake an apprenticeship as a hairdresser with Trevor at Shaggahs Hair Studio in Broome. Ozies says the intervention – and the kind, persistent attention of her parents and Trevor – has set her up for life, and she has always been able to fall back on her hairdressing skills.

“When I started with Trevor, I was absolutely not work ready,” remembers Ozies.

“I didn’t know how to speak to clients, and my literacy and numeracy were basically non-existent. Trevor taught me how to count money and gave me women’s magazines and the dictionary to read to improve my literacy skills. He took a number of young Indigenous girls under his wing and really invested so much time and patience in us.”

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