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Future Generation: Bianca Elmir

Emma Macdonald

Bianca “Bam Bam” Elmir is a boxer striving for a place in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

She has been ranked number three in the world as a bantamweight and has won three Australian titles and one Oceania title. A former political advisor for the ACT Greens, Bianca holds a degree in International Studies and Development and will follow her passion for international aid work once she has fulfilled her boxing ambitions.

Using her profile as a mentor to provide self-defence training to women and support victims of domestic violence, she is currently preparing both her autobiography and supporting the production of a documentary film of her boxing career titled Bam Bam. She is a diversity champion for Muslim women, a passionate advocate for Aboriginal reconciliation and has supported Australian foreign prisoners abroad gain access to legal advice. She has worked as an HIV/AIDS and sexual health educator among young people in the eastern Cape of South Africa and fights to support the disadvantaged at every level.

Can you pinpoint where and when you discovered your strong social conscience?

I think I first discovered my social conscience at home watching SBS World News. I was about seven or eight years old and I remember feeling so moved by the images before me. I can’t remember what civil war I was watching but I remember seeing kids my age walking in despair and parents clutching children; eyes wide open. I felt I was there with them and I remember feeling both despair and anger that this could happen to another human being.

Then I also remember being called ‘Abo’ at school over and over again because the kids at my school couldn’t quite understand why I was brown-skinned and looked different. I remember saying, ‘I’m not Aboriginal but even if I am, what’s wrong with that?’.

I also knew that looking different was a point of contention and I made the decision at a young age that I wanted to fight for people who were mistreated, similar to what my mum had done since I could remember. When I was sent to Lebanon at age 13 on my own to live with my grandparents, I remember one time looking outside a window and seeing kids younger than me searching through rubbish. In Lebanon, conflict and poverty were everywhere and I remember thinking this is actually the real world, not the cosy suburbs of Canberra that I was used to.

What possessed you to put on the boxing gloves six years ago?

Kickboxing was the first combat sport I ever did. I remember it felt so good and I remember the first day of class like it was yesterday; learning how to throw my first punch. It felt so good having control of my body – moving it in motions it had not moved in before.

I was in a room where it was actually OK to hit people and in fact they invited it, and if you did it well you could be a champion. I felt comfortable in my own skin when I could express myself physically. Kickboxing was wickedly fun and I had an outlet for all the energy that seemed to consume me so much. It was also at a time in my life where there were many uncertainties going on and going to kickboxing would prove to be one of the only places where I felt safe to be myself. After I won an Australian kickboxing title, it was announced that women’s boxing would be included in the next Olympics. So I hung up my Thai kickboxing shorts and purchased some boxing boots because I would now be fighting as an Amateur boxing; this is when I moved to Stockade Training Centre in Dickson and met my new coach Garry Hamilton.

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What do you think about when you are fighting for a title?

I used to think about demolishing the person in front of me and breaking her apart but now I think of technique and flow. I try to be relaxed and I will spend a good 20 minutes dancing before any fight. I like being playful and chatting to people before I fight which is so different to the younger fighter I once was. So now just before we touch gloves in the centre of the ring, I do look at her from the other side of the ring and I think to myself ‘I will beat you, I am ready and I have done everything I need to prepare for this moment.’

How important is learning self-defence for women and how do those physical skills change their mind-set”

Well, I can speak for myself that as a woman who is 5.2 tall and always being smaller than everyone around me, having a skill that can get me out of trouble if I need to has given me immeasurable confidence. I would never inflict my boxing onto anyone on the streets, but I know that I could get myself out of a lot of situations if I was forced to, not all of them, but some. Of course, my immediate response would be to run away from danger.

I think it is so important for women to learn self-defence and not necessarily to learn how to fight because I understand that fighting is not for everyone. A woman knowing how to protect herself is an integral life skill in our modern society considering the disproportionately high number or women who fall victim to violence. Everyone should feel safe in our society, particularly at home where women suffer the most at the hands of their partners. Regardless of gender or age however I do believe that women are particularly vulnerable and to know a few basic things can make the difference between life and death. And anything that can allow women to feel more confident in themselves is a good thing!

Read the entire Future Generation series here

Photography by Martin Ollman

This article originally appeared as part of our Future Generation editorial in Magazine: Future for Winter 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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