'My sister Stella is a magnificent human being whom I love dearly... I have always been amazed at Stella's particular ability to see the positive in any situation, given that she endured a very difficult start to life... I remembered that she used to write in a journal whenever she felt sad and I asked her if she still did so. That in turn sparked a conversation that would lead to this book... For me, this book is my sister's legacy" – Rebecca Gibney
Stella Gibney grew up in 1960s New Zealand as the fifth child in a family of six. Life was tough enough with an alcoholic father, but unlike her brothers and sisters, Stella suffered a number of abusive incidents during her formative years - abducted by a paedophile when she was just six years old, and later, falling pregnant under the pressure of an older boy at the age of fourteen.
When Stella's father finds out about her pregnancy, he demands she has an abortion. But when Stella's sent to a board of doctors, they decline the request, arguing she is fit to deliver the child (much to her delight). Stella gives birth to Corey who she adopts out to a good home - near missing an opportunity to hold her baby even once, back when midwives whisked adopted babies away from birth mothers. But thanks to the understaffed hospital, Stella's handed Corey a few hours later, for just one feed. It would be the last time Stella would see him for another 22 years.
From there, Stella goes through a string of confused, problem-stricken relationships before moving to Australia with the man she married who she believes is the love of her life. She has two boys by him but sadly the relationship turns sour, becoming one of emotional abuse. They divorce, and Stella ends up raising the two boys on her own before moving to Sydney and starting a new business that would eventually end in bankruptcy.
Determined not to let years of abuse and domestic violence determine her life, Stella finds solace in writing her thoughts down in a series of journals. Through writing, Stella begins to understand her feelings and gain control of her life. Over the course of 16 journals, Stella learns to move on and focus on the positives.
Today she has completely turned her life around and become the happy, confident person she had always wanted to be for both herself and for her now adult boys - including her adopted son Corey, who she's reconnected with today. She now shares a special bond with her three sons and Corey's adoptive mum.
It Will Get Better is the inspiration true story of one woman's courage to overcome abuse and heartache to create a better life.
Stella Gibney was born in New Zealand in 1960, the fifth child in a family of six. She moved to Australia in 1989 and now lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches where she lives happily with her two sons and works in the hospitality industry.
It Will Get Better
Allen and Unwin
Author: Stella Gibney
Question: What inspired you to write It Will Get Better?
Stella Gibney: From as early as I remember I have wanted to make a difference in the lives of others and this was my opportunity. I wanted to share the things I have been through and what I have learned from it in the hope that if it helps one person overcome some of the difficulties they experienced as I did, then sharing my story was worth it.
Question: Do you think you could have written It Will Get Better without the help of the journals you wrote?
Stella Gibney: I am sure the reason I remembered in so much detail the events of my past was because of journaling. It's like the saying goes if you write something down you remember it. My journals were like confiding in a very dear friend and it's easy to remember those special moments when you confide your innermost thoughts to someone, and, that is what my journals were to me.
Question: Was it difficult to relive certain aspects of your life?
Stella Gibney: Writing my story took me on an incredibly emotional journey as I reflected on, and wrote about experiences from my past. I would often be in tears as I recalled certain memories, however, it didn't seem to surface any unresolved pain. It is my hope that I have healed the girl inside through the many years of journaling and counselling I have been through.
Question: What do you hope readers take from It Will Get Better?
Stella Gibney: If one person is encouraged to believe life can be better then it has been worth it.
I would also be encouraged if anyone, after reading my story, was inspired to pick up a journal and write, particularly if it helps them work through whatever they may be going through. Or, if a parent gets to know their child's emotions because they have encouraged them to draw it in a picture or write it down, as I did with my children, then that would be incredibly satisfying to have played a very small part in encouraging that to happen.
Question: What did you learn about yourself whilst writing It Will Get Better?
Stella Gibney: I have seen from start to finish the story of my life and what an incredible journey I have been on, and through it all, I have finally learned who Stella is. After so many years of not knowing who I was it is finally good to be me.
Interview by Brooke Hunter