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Proud Hillite returns home

Tuesday, 14th January, 2014

(From left) Chantel Fitzsimmons, Serena Williams, Val Staker (formally Williams) and Teanna Fitzsimmons. (From left) Chantel Fitzsimmons, Serena Williams, Val Staker (formally Williams) and Teanna Fitzsimmons.

By Nick Gibbs

Despite leaving the city at just five years old, former Broken Hill resident Serena Williams has always felt drawn to the outback and made a promise to herself that one day she would return.

Over five decades later and with two adult daughters of her own, Miss Williams has finally been able to keep her childhood promise.

“There has always been an empty hole, I’ve always wanted to return,” an emotional Miss Williams told the BDT as she relived her last memories of the city.

“We left with my mother under difficulties, I remember leaving in a hurry on the train and a heartbroken and confused father,” she said.

The family left outback NSW for the Newcastle coast, but Miss Williams always felt her formative years played a pivotal role in developing the qualities she has carried into adulthood. 

“Country people are more open, more down to earth and I think that’s where I get it from,” she said.

It seems the laid back attitude was not the only thing Miss Williams took from Broken Hill, with evidence of a broad country accent being passed onto her daughters Chantel and Teanna.

“They used to get told they talked differently at school,” she said.

“I’ve raised them to be nice, grounded people and it’s paid off. Teanna has a great career in social work and Chantel has completed her PhD in Neuroscience.”  

Amazingly, the three girls were able to return to Miss Williams’ childhood home as her former step mother Val Staker still resides at the original address.

“She always welcomed us with open arms, she was never insincere,” Miss Williams said.

“I recognised the chain-linked fence and chillis and said that’s the house, but it has changed so much, it definitely didn’t look like this when we were there.” 

The trip to Broken Hill is the first opportunity the girls have had to holiday together.

It was Chantel’s idea who always knew of her mother’s longing to return and was keen to see her family as she cycles around Australia in the name of charity.

The trip is raising money for Angel Flight and Neuroscience Research Australia and has so far taken in the top half of the continent as well as Geraldton, Margaret River and across the Nullarbor Plain to Adelaide.

“We are doing the trip completely unassisted with no support vehicles and carrying all our own food and water,” she said.

“People everywhere have been very supportive, a lot have opened up their homes and offered us a meal.”

Chantel took the opportunity to break up her trip and fly to Broken Hill after spending her birthday and Christmas on the road.

The next leg of the journey will take in the Great Ocean Road and locals can get behind this worthwhile cause by visiting www.carecycleoz.com

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