This is Allens

Grace Stals

Grace is a paralegal with interests in litigation, competition law and technology.

This profile was published during Mental Health Month where some of our people shared their stories and perspectives on mental health.

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My interest in law began when a solicitor from the Welfare Rights Centre helped me through an incredibly tough period of my life.

I grew up in the Blue Mountains of NSW. Home was an abusive place, and at 16 I left knowing I couldn't live like that anymore. I was in Year 11, working part-time and became homeless.

Around the same time my mother - who I'd never met - contacted me and said she had terminal ovarian cancer and not much time left. Between all of this and being denied Centrelink support on a legal technicality, it just got too much. Eventually, the Welfare Rights Centre solicitor supported me to overturn Centrelink's refusal, at the Social Security Appeal Tribunal.

That assistance made me realise the transformative power of legal professionals. I'd always been quite academic and loved school, but this was a real watershed moment. I knew I wanted to commit my life to help people in the same way he (that lawyer) had helped me so profoundly, by enabling me to stay at school.

I am privileged in so many ways, just to be here. I really do feel I can do anything I set my heart and mind to. My past is a secret weapon. I can empathise, I can relate to other people in a social way, and I can navigate tasks using my resilience and diversity of perspective. I come to the table with a thirst for learning, a thirst for improvement, and a thirst for innovating. In a work context, this translates to being open-minded and very receptive to thinking about clients and their problems in different ways.

Choosing to prioritise things above my mental health for so long, really emphasised just how important it is. Humans are incredibly complicated creatures. We need to listen and be open, not just to those and the world around us, but also to ourselves and what we're feeling.

If this story raises concerns for you or someone you know, reach out to your General Practitioner, or call:

Lifeline – 13 11 14 within Australia

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 46 36 within Australia

My mental wellness survival kit 

Books The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. It perfectly balances psychology with down to earth anecdotes to shed light into how the human body and mind respond and adapt to trauma. I cannot recommend this highly enough – it really changed my life!

Film The Grand Budapest Hotel and Monsters Inc.

Song (Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding.

Words Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.

Podcast Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell.

App Headspace app! It makes squeezing in even 5 minutes of meditating so simple, and has different meditations for different life stages or situations.

10 quick questions

  1. When do you feel happiest? Anytime I can get outdoors! Growing up in the Blue Mountains, I have a huge soft spot for a leafy green landscape, flowers and fresh air.
  2. What are you afraid of? Birds flying near my head, climate change and the office kitchen running out of tea.
  3. What's the best compliment you've ever received? 'I always believed that you could do it.'
  4. Who would compose the soundtrack to your life? Ms Lauryn Hill and Loyle Carner.
  5. What's a cause that's important to you? Family violence and homelessness. Both are so prevalent, yet so hidden and misunderstood.
  6. What's the best thing that's happened this year? Getting to go to my sister's wedding in February – just before the pandemic set in. All my siblings live interstate or overseas, so it's really special being able to see everyone in the same place.
  7. Who's your pop culture icon? Too hard! Probably a three-way tie between David Bowie, Yayoi Kusama and the entire cast of Kath & Kim.
  8. What's the most important thing you've learnt about being human? Everyone is complex, bizarre and flawed. I think it's better to be open-minded to those differences than to assume you already understand them.
  9. How do you practice self-care? Meditating, staying active, setting boundaries, drinking tea and cuddles with my chonky cat (and study assistant) Jiji.
  10. What one thing do you do to offer kindness to others? Actively listening, and giving time generously.