Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

A People Investigator; the Most Interesting Person I Know with Stephanie Hunt

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

A People Investigator; the Most Interesting Person I Know with Stephanie Hunt

Article excerpt

TONIA Fitzcosta grabs my hand and pumps it up and down vehemently, proving far stronger than her petite frame would suggest.

She grins and says in a broad Cockney accent, "So what's this most interesting person thing all about then?" I can tell this is going to be an interesting interview.

At the outset Tonia tells me, "I came to Coffs Harbour really by mistake." After an hour it becomes obvious Tonia has fallen into most aspects of her life, if not by mistake, then certainly without much planning. Yet, at 45, this mother to 15-year-old Lily and clinical coordinator at the Junaa Buwa Centre for Youth Wellbeing says she is exactly where she is meant to be.

"I know I'm doing the job that I was put on this planet to do," she tells me. Junaa Buwa is a residential program for young people who are at risk of entering the Juvenile Justice system and whose crimes are associated with drug and alcohol abuse. Tonia joined in 2011 as a team leader, managing the 10 to 15 youth workers and guiding the case managers and councillors.

Tonia got the job fresh out of her sociology studies at SCU, a degree she had started once her daughter went to pre-school. "I'd always loved social sciences," she says. "It's a bit like being a people investigator."

Tonia has a history as a "people investigator". Back in England, a twenty something Tonia spent five years working for a private eye. Having met an ex-CID policeman at a party, she stumbled into a job doing surveillance work, serving summons and tracing people who had run out on their finance.

It proved an education in people. "I got to be really friendly with the local hoods." She laughs. Venturing into the big council estates in the middle of London was scary. "But I've always had a real good rapport with people on the wrong side of the law," she explains.

Tonia brings that rapport to her role at Junaa Buwa. Typically 70-80% of the class is made up of Aboriginal males. …

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