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Torres Strait beauty shines in Australia’s first Aboriginal Model Search

Temanu O'Brien-Schmidt

Indigenous model: Temanu O’Brien-Schmidt is preparing for a major runway experience. Photo: Emilie Ng.

INDIGENOUS beauty Temanu O’Brien-Schmidt is planning to put the “small islands” of the Torres Strait on the map if she becomes Australia’s next Aboriginal Supermodel.

The Torres Strait Islander and Lourdes Hill College Year 8 student was selected as a national finalist for the first Aboriginal Model Search in Australia, to be held in Sydney on October 1.

“I first decided to enter just to give myself confidence and … to show more Aboriginal faces in the modelling industry,” Temanu said.

After competing in various baby shows as a child, the Aboriginal Model Search will be her first chance to show the fashion industry she has what it takes.

“I’ve loved modelling ever since I was young,” Temanu said. “It just gives all women confidence.”

Now she’s excited to show the world the beauty of the Torres Strait people. A descendant of Torres Strait Islanders from the Mabuiag and Badu islands, the aspiring model is also from the region’s largest line of pearl divers.

When she takes to the catwalk next weekend, Temanu will showcase her family origins in a handmade dress sewn by her grandmother Irene Schmidt.

Temanu and grandmother Irene Schmidt

Big dreams: Temanu O’Brien-Schmidt hopes to put the Torres Strait Islands on the map as a finalist for the national Aboriginal Model Search in Sydney next week.
Temanu is pictured with her grandmother Irene Schmidt who made the dress she will wear at the finals. Photo: Emilie Ng.

The culturally inspired dress, which is a requirement of the competition, was inspired by the traditional dress worn by Torres Strait women on Thursday Island, and includes a special lace trim that is usually added for special occasions.

The 13-year-old will also wear actual shells collected for pearling on the islands, and a hand-woven belt and footwear that she created with help from Brisbane-born Aboriginal elder Aunty Joan Hendriks.

The colour of her dress also has significant meaning, representing the Catholic high school the Year 8 student personally chose to attend for its Christian values and academic rigour.

Temanu said it was “super exciting” to represent the Torres Strait Island people in the model search. “Because they’re just small islands, just to get them out there and show how much our culture means to us will be exciting,” she said.

Mrs Schmidt said her granddaugther had a natural talent for modelling.

“This all started because I wanted to put her in a baby show,” she said.

“Mum said no but Dad said yes. 

“From that day forth I don’t think there’s a baby show she hasn’t won.” 

Mum Deidre Schmidt said she cried after her daughter confidently won the judges’ hearts and was named a finalist in the Aboriginal Model Search.

“I didn’t think she had a chance but the judges saw something there and she went straight through to the finals,” Mrs Schmidt said.

“We were absolutely overwhelmed.

“It gives the kids great life skills and Temanu just loves being a girl and dressing up.”

By Emilie Ng

Catholic Church Insurance

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