A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and an award-winning podcast

A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and award-winning podcast

333 Ellia Green – Liberation in the Dark

Ellia was sure they were always destined to be someone and something, they just had to find their way to the truth of it all.

Ellia Green is a retired professional rugby sevens player who was a part of the Olympic gold winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Ellia is a national champion for change ambassador for the United Nations Australia, a Raise Ambassador and an Adopt Change ambassador. They performed this story at Riverside Theatres for Sydney World Pride.


Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories. This week Ellia Green is a retired professional rugby sevens player who was a part of the Olympic gold winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Ellia is a national champion for change ambassador for the United Nations Australia, a Raise Ambassador and an Adopt Change ambassador. They performed this story at Riverside Theatres for Sydney World Pride.

Ellia: Good evening everyone. 

Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the land we meet on today. The land of the Darug people. I would like to acknowledge the First Nations people in the room, and first nations people past and present. This is and always will be Aboriginal Land. 

So, I want you to remember a little you, a younger version, fresh eyed in the world, no assumptions, no prejudice, just curiosity.

In the beautiful islands of Fiji destiny is what changed my life for ever. There was a beautiful couple, a polish woman and an English man. They were living Fiji working in their successful careers in TV, journalism, and writing and they had a beautiful villa in a place called Pacific Harbour which is what would be considered a boujee place in Fiji. It was surrounded by a huge golf course and water. This couple, being Kaivalagi, which means white in Fijian .. it would be assumed that they would be pretty rich. 

One day, the woman was approached on the street,  by local who asked her to help his sister – she  was giving birth in Suva hospital. Without a second to think, she showed up with two full trolleys of necessities for the baby and the young mother.  She wanted to help this Fijian mother navigate her way through life and support her in the best way she could. So this Polish woman stayed by the bed while she gave birth, but what she didn’t know, was that she was going to leave the hospital with this little Fijian baby… Me.

So when I was 4 years old my Dad became very sick, we moved to Australia to get better medical treatment. Unfortunately he passed away. My mother spent a very long time grieving over him, because he was the love of her life. At this point we’re now living on the central coast. Now the central coast 20-25 years ago was… let’s just say “a different place”. A little difficult. So my Mum was faced with the unexpected reality of now being a single, widowed Mother with 2 Fijian kids, now 3 and 4 and in a lot of debt and 2 weeks to find government housing for this new reality with her kids.  
Now let’s get back to that younger you, whatever that looked like at 4 – all you cared about was being loved right? Well same. That four year old me, kept growing up to be asked “Why is your Mum so white and you’re so black?” And would say, “really? -that’s news to me!” I didn’t even realise I was different skin colour to my parents and not because they weren’t educating me on that, but because …all I knew was their love not the colour of their skin.

Now imagine that kid being older, let’s say 6 years old and being asked  “Have you met your “real” parents?” At this point I still didn’t even know I was adopted or didn’t know the definition of being adopted. One night my brother, who was also adopted from Fiji, asked our Mum about this photo where she is riding a camel. He asked, “So does that mean I was in your belly, so I rode a camel as well?”  And out came the visual learning book about adoption and she explained everything to us.

I can remember her being so nervous while she was explaining this, taking these huge sips of a glass of red…. She told this long-winded story that I don’t remember but I do remember being bored and thinking, “cool story Mum, what’s for dinner?” There was never a single doubt in my mind that I was destined to be with this queen of a woman who would love and adore as a mummy for the rest of my life. So when anyone asked any questions about this, I would look and say  Okay guys look, my Mum she had an addiction to eating so much chocolate during her pregnancy and the doctors warned her if she doesn’t stop she’s gonna give birth to a Cadbury chocolate looking baby. 

One kid even bullied me for being adopted saying “ha ha you were an unwanted baby.” My reply would be “Actually you are wrong, my Mum actually chose me, but you… your poor parents didn’t have a choice getting stuck with you.” Their faces were priceless. 

Now imagine a younger you, roughly 13 years old, going through the stages of puberty and 13 year old me, who could run very fast, was asked “why do you look like a boy?” And even just straight up “you are a boy?” Should I make jokes like I did whenI joked about my mum, but I’d be just standing there stunned, probably mute, no confidence, no voice, with a short afro and skinny black legs that could run fast, just thinking in my mind, “ You’re actually 100% correct”.

Those skinny black legs would one day become my ticket to freedom! To run fast and not look back! Something that would impress my Mum, impress kids at school who would always find ways to call me out for being different… and in fact, impress myself. However what was even better than this… was the look of excitement and happiness that my mum had on her face when she was watching me win these races. I would constantly chase this moment of making her smile and laugh with me and eventually, those skinny black legs were in Rugby Sevens. 

Now, bring that young inner you up to your early twenties. Twenty year old me was a new city, with a new goal, in a different sport, traveling the world with a group of people that would also become my family. But this fresh eyed twenty year old was being asked “Do you tackle in women’s rugby or are the rules different from the men’s game?” And how how much less do you get paid in the women’s team? Not just from friends, or strangers but now the questions were coming from journalists. These questions were constant. However we answered all of these questions with our actions when we put on the performance of our life on in the Rio, Brazil Olympics and won the first ever Olympic gold medal for Rugby Sevens. Being an Olympian is something that I had dreamt of since I was that kid in kindergarten navigating my way through the complexities of life. The complexities of identity and the the complexities of dealing with people… not knowing that I would eventually have the confidence to be me, after a 10 year career in professional sport facing these questions from all aspects of the game and my life.

One very memorable moment of trying to explain my identity to one of my team mates was in the change room after finishing a field session. We were the only ones in the change room at this point, I said to her I have something to tell you.. I have really bad body dysmorphia as I do not feel like I am in the right body at all and I never really have, I just keep it to myself. I constantly over compensate with my confidence to cover this up. So I have actually booked in my surgery to start my transition and I’m so excited” I actually specifically said “I booked in my chest surgery and I’m really excited!”. Her response was “OMG, me too!” Oh wait, she said “me too, I want to get surgery too because my tits are getting saggy from this training.” My face was just like ‘oh man, oh no, no, no.’ I’m thinking ‘I give up! You can all figure it out when you see me next.’

So now twenty six year old – in this stage, in the public eye of the sporting world, I still had that 10 year old in me – knowing I am in the wrong body.  I was always focused on Rugby for the sport, the family and for the love and just for being me – I could be myself. To me it was simple and something I was really looking forward to post retirement. But I’m still getting asked things now like “Are you going to change your name? Because Ellia is a very feminine name mate” I would say “No, but I think Dave is a bit of a shit name.” Sorry if there are any Dave’s in the room, I’m just joking, it’s just “Dave”.

When people saw me next, I would get asked, “Do you really think you would have been as successful in your career if you had played as a male?”  Probably not. “So do you have a dick and a vagina? Because if I had that I’d be able to fuck myself.“  My response would be, you should probably still go and do that. And to top it off, this one is one of my favourites, “Did you let another bloke have sex with your Mrs to make your baby?” My response would be, no, did you? So, I’ll bring you back to the real now, we now have a beautiful family, my fiancé Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts and our beautiful baby Waituti (which means ocean and rivers in both of our languages).

So my point in asking you to bring your younger self along for these questions in life, is to be curious but realise when you ask about how a family is formed, adoption, identity, or assume because someone was on the national stage or TV that they have all the answers – remind yourself that you are asking these questions to another human being. We all have our younger selves still figuring these things out, and I’ll leave you with this last question- Some people wonder and dream about… “What would I do if I won the Lotto?”, well let me tell you now, this is the one question I actually have an answer to…Today I stand here as a father, a husband-to-be and a proud Fijian man…. And with that I can you, I have already won the lotto. Thank you.


Maeve: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to check out Queerstories on Patreon where you can support the project for as little as $1 per month. Follow Queerstories on Facebook for news and event updates and follow me, Maeve Marsden on Twitter and Instagram.


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Queerstories is produced by Maeve Marsden and recorded by wonderful technicians at events around the country. Editors and support crew have included Beth McMullen, Bryce Halliday, Ali Graham and Nikki Stevens.