As a child she was nicknamed ‘dead rat’. As a woman she was assaulted. This is how Bobbi fought back
Bobbi Lockyer is a proud Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul, Yawuru woman and an award-winning artist.
But behind the mum-of-four’s success story is a tale marked by abuse, self-harm, trauma and domestic violence.
WATCH IN THE VIDEO ABOVE: How Bobbi found strength through adversity
The 36-year-old has faced more battles than most, but Bobbi says her experiences have ignited her passion for “sticking it” to those who did wrong by her.
Bobbi tells 7Life gone are the days when she was bullied for looking like a “dead rat”. She has used her experiences to fuel her internal fire and she is not looking back.
“I was constantly bullied for being Indigenous,” Bobbi says about her childhood.
“Kids would say ‘do you even brush your hair’ or ‘you’re so ugly’ and even ‘your eyebrows are so big’.
“Now people get their eyebrows tattooed just to look like mine,” Bobbi laughs.
Whilst the Kariyarra Country (Port Hedland) local can joke about her childhood days now, she reveals it has taken her decades to come to terms with the racism rooted in Australian culture.
“There is such a stereotype being Aboriginal, whenever there were stories in the news the kids at school would always go ‘you’re all the same’ or ‘you’re going to end up like this’.
“It was really hard being one of just a few Aboriginal kids,” Bobbi confesses.
‘I was constantly bullied for being indigenous’ – artist Bobbi Lockyer
Voicing her dreams of becoming an artist, she was quickly told to find a different career path or a “real job”.
Bobbi devastatingly reveals she reached her breaking point during her teen years and she began to self-harm.
The bullying left a young Bobbi feeling empty and not wanting to be alive.
With no “self love” she confesses she loathed herself and would steer clear of representing her culture in any way.
So even though Bobbi held on to her dream of being an artist, whenever she drew people they were always “white and blonde”.
“I never saw someone like me … someone brown on magazine covers. So when I drew, I only drew what I thought people wanted,” she reveals.
Bobbi continued to fight for her art and she eventually became a photographer and did some graphic design work.
She went on to have four children, however she also suffered through a domestic violence situation.
“Slowly his control grew over the years,” she says of her relationship.
“There were times when it was physical … and others when he would degrade me and swear at me.
“He often gaslighted me, he made me think I was the one going crazy like I was imagining things,” she reveals.
‘I never saw someone like me … someone brown on magazine covers’ – artist Bobbi Lockyer
“I kept going back to him, and when the police got involved and they made him leave the property for 24 hours, he just came back,” she says.
“I knew I needed to get out but I just didn’t know how.”
Along with her beautiful sons, Bobbi found refuge in her art.
In February 2008 Bobbi’s partner pleaded guilty to unlawfully assaulting her in circumstances of aggravation in which he received a $400 fine.
And finally came a turning point.
After an incident, a police officer took Bobbi and her newborn baby aside.
“She (the police officer) just told me if I was serious about leaving she could help,” Bobbi recalls.
With the help of her mum and sister, Bobbi took her four sons and left.
It’s been five years and she has never looked back.
Her life slowly begin turning around after her mum encouraged her to get back into painting.
“Painting was so healing. I was depressed but the more I painted and created the happier it made me feel … it made me feel like myself again,” she admits
“It was the start of our new life,” she beams.
And that was only the beginning.
Now identifying as a member of the LGBTIQA+ community, Bobbi is 35 and thriving.
She is a Nikon partner, has photographed magazine covers, has had her work showcased in Beijing, had her designs walk down the runway at Paris and New York Fashion Week and was NAIDOC Artist of the year (2021).
Bobbi is breaking the cycle.
Partnering with The Body Shop, the artist designed gift tags where the profits would go directly to Amnesty International’s fight to raise the age of criminal responsibility – a cause close to Bobbi’s heart.
“There are such stereotypes that Aboriginal kids are into crime and it breaks my heart,” the mum says.
Bobbi also joined forces with Australian blogger Constance Hall on her Free Her campaign advocating for the collective human rights of women and girls in prison.
“It is really special to know I can make a difference with my creations,” she adds.
And she has.
The proud survivor is not only making art that moves the world. She is creating real change on our doorstep.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.In an emergency, call 000.