The search to find the next Miss Universe Australia is underway, with National finalists preparing to touch down in Melbourne later this month ahead of the national finals held at the Sofitel on Collins June 28.
We are chatting with Rebecca Dowling, from NT who will be competing for the 2018 title of Miss Universe Australia.
So why don’t you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m a secondary school teacher currently based in Darwin, Northern Territory. My subject areas are English and Humanities; as well as having a particular interest in Indigenous and Special/Inclusive Education. I’ve always had a passion for literature and history, which is what led me to pursue a career in education. I’ve been teaching for about two years now, and I’ve been really fortunate to have been given a chance to develop really strong relationships with my students, which in turn leads to increased educational outcomes for them. Educational disadvantage in the Northern Territory is really prevalent so being able to help my students achieve their goals, and knowing the positive influence I’m having on the lives of our young people is something that makes me really proud. When I’m not in the classroom, I’m usually on an adventure as I’m a huge camper and traveller!
So you’ve just returned from the Miss Universe Finalists trip to the Amazing Allia Hotels in Bali… How was the experience?
Alila Hotels were so generous to us during our stay! They’re really environmentally progressive which is something I was excited to educate myself about further. They grow a lot of their produce on site, have implemented an Integrated Sustainable Resource Recovery Facility (iSuRRF) which recycles and reuses onsite hotel waste into products and services for use in the hotels. Aside from that, the overall experience was incredible. Most of the time we all forgot we were even there for a competition. The other contestants were so lovely, and we all formed some really strong and long-lasting friendships. Having the opportunity to develop these friendships with the other girls, as well as with Sophia and Troy Barbagallo, as well as the mentoring from previous Miss Universe Australia winners Olivia Rogers and Olivia Wells made the experience feel like we were on a big family holiday
We know there was an amazing program of things for you all, what was your highlight?
The activities that we were able to participate in such as getting to know the children from the Sari Hati Centre, yoga/tai chi and wellness experiences were some of the highlights for us all throughout the trip. For me, the highlight was participating in the Powerful Impressions workshop which focused on different personality types, building and maintaining rapport with a range of people and focusing on how we want to be perceived or, our “brand”. This really gave me an insight into the types of things that I needed to think about if I was to become the next Miss Universe Australia, but also gave me invaluable skills to take back to my everyday life and workplace. The importance on being a positive role model and ensuring that everything I do in real life, or post on social media is natural, genuine and authentic was one of the biggest things I took away from the workshop.
So now you’re home and having undergone the best prep we can think of you know the sun, surf and Bali …. it’s not long till the national finals in Melb… how are you feeling in the lead-up and what sort of preparation are you doing, before finals week commences?
I’m feeling really calm in the lead up to finals. Mostly, I’m excited about having a big family reunion with all of the girls and the team working behind the scenes for us, who have also become like family. I’m back at work teaching, and it’s a really busy time of year with mid-year reports due. In terms of preparation, I’m not doing anything over the top; light jogs a few times a week and eating healthily. I’ve been practising my walk after being put through my paces with Thelma, the walking queen in Bali and staying up to date on current affairs in order to be prepared for the questions if I make it through to the top 10! I think with something like this it’s really important to look after my mental health so I’m just being aware of how I’m feeling, taking the time to meditate and reminding myself that regardless of the outcome, the experience has been invaluable.
With so many of you all bringing an individual flair to the competition, what do you think will set you apart from the other contestants?
I think it’s incredible that the Miss Universe Australia program has become so progressive in terms of the diversity of the contestants. I’d like to have a jab at Troy here and say one of the things that set me apart is I’m Team Brunette haha! No, in all seriousness I think my ability to talk to literally anyone is the biggest thing that sets me apart. Anyone who knows me will tell you I could talk underwater and I’ll happily talk about anything to anyone! I’m naturally an inquisitive person though, so even though I have the gift of the gab I also love taking the opportunity to learn from others and their experiences and the best way to do that is to listen. I also have a really good memory for facts and always make an effort to really get to know people to build long-lasting and positive relationships.
Speaking of being unique we all have different motivations, what is something that motivates you daily or you would say is your passion?
My students are definitely my biggest motivators. Something that I didn’t realise about being a teacher before I started working as one was how much the students actually give me. It’s not just me passing on my knowledge about ancient history or literary techniques, or even just about general life skills, but the students teaching me lessons in compassion, humility and definitely patience. They are all so unique with such different quirks and personalities meaning that every day is different and always full of laughs! I’m definitely not the cool teacher, they’re always laughing at how dorky I am or at my jokes which I think are hilarious, but apparently aren’t! It’s so cliche but it’s true that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life and that’s how I feel about teaching.
What is something people might find interesting about yourself?
Something that always gets a good reaction and definitely generates a conversation is the mention of my hometown, Coonabarabran, which is the astronomy capital of Australia. It’s a small rural town in country NSW with a population of around 3000 people. The observatory is in the beautiful Warrumbungles National Park, and we even have a sign proving we are the astronomy capital (Sorry Parkes! ;)). It’s a lovely town with a genuinely inclusive and positive community of people. Interestingly, most places I go, I’ve found someone who knows someone from Coonabarabran or has some connection to the area. Either that or they ask me if it’s the same place as where Shannon Noll is from … (it’s not) . My housemate refuses to acknowledge that somewhere called ‘Coonabarabran’ is a real place, but I can assure you it is!
Where is your favourite place in the world to wind down and relax?
A good book is my favourite place to wind down and relax. You can literally be anywhere, or anytime in the world when you can escape into a good book. I’ve been an avid reader from a really young age and have always devoured novels. It’s the best form of meditation and relaxation for me, as well as forcing me to physically stop and also ensures my brain switches off from work! Other than that, spending quiet time with the people closest to me, just on the couch or cooking dinner together is also one of the best ways to wind down and relax. I’m very blessed to have some fantastic people in my life.
The Miss Universe program has a long and proud history and focuses on helping women become the best versions of themselves, how do you think your experience so far will help move you forward in life?
I’ve expressed this before, but the Miss Universe program, especially with Sophia and Troy at the helm is indeed one of the best programs for empowering Australia’s young women. This experience has been so rewarding in terms of my personal development. I’ve become so much more comfortable in being myself; previously I felt like I’d have to tone down my personality or outgoing nature, always being told to ‘ssh’ or that I’m too opinionated. Being apart of this program has given me the confidence to own that aspect of myself, and to be proud of it. I’m fortunate enough to have been born and raised in a country where women are able to receive an education and use their voices to help others. Many aren’t fortunate enough to have the opportunities I’ve been given, and the MUA 2018 program has made me much more aware and appreciative of that.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
I didn’t find it funny at the time but reflecting back on it; it’s quite funny. I have a student with a fondness for reptiles, and quite often he will bring them into class. Recently, he brought quite a large lizard into the classroom via his school bag. I didn’t notice this until he had quietly placed it on my shoulder. Obviously, I reacted in a way that the whole class found hilarious. I managed to get the lizard and student out of the classroom but then ended up not being able to leave as he stood at the door with the terrifying monster lizard. Another teacher finally rescued me.
Name five things you can’t live without?
1. Books 2. Coffee 3. My family and friends 4. My passion 5. My teacher diary.
How would your closest friend describe you?
My closest friend would describe me a fiercely protective, overly dramatic and loud. I’m well known for being opinionated and love getting into a good debate. Those who are the closest to me would also tell you I have a really silly sense of humour and laugh at myself often, even if no one else does.
What will your year look like as Miss Universe Australia if you win?
If I win Miss Universe Australia 2018, it would obviously become my full-time role. However, I’d love to balance charity work alongside working as a teacher on a casual basis in disadvantaged schools, as well as piloting a re-engagement program for students who are struggling to attend school or complete their set work. This could range from students suffering from trauma, recent re-entry into the school from the juvenile justice system, attending an English speaking school for the first time, recently moving schools or going through stressful situations at home. Supporting young people and being a natural, positive and authentic role model is my ultimate goal if I was to become Miss Universe Australia. I think the year will be full of new experiences, meeting amazing people and continuing on with the fantastic job Olivia Rogers has done as Miss Universe Australia; she has really taken the role to a new level talking about important issues such as mental health and positive social media and body image. She has inspired so many people throughout her time as MUA, and I’d really like to continue that and represent Miss Universe Australia on the international stage with elegance and poise as she did.