When Ebony Austin was two years old her love of dance was so obvious that her mother decided to enrol her in dance lessons with Dianne Blaas in Corrimal.
Ali Austin was impressed with how her daughter would perform all kinds of amazing moves in her bouncer while watching The Wiggles.
Two decades later the 22 year old’s passion for dance still burns bright. Only now Ms Austin is using it to bring people from all walks of life and ages together to raise funds for the community.
At the historic Woonona Bulli School of Arts most weekdays from 3.30pm the recently crowned Wollongong Young Citizen of the Year can be found fulfilling her dream at her own dance school thePROJECT by Ebony Austin.
The main hall built in 1862 is where she teaches modern dances such as hip-hop and other styles such as ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary as well as musical theatre and drama.
Ms Austin started nurturing young children to gain confidence and achieve through dance by founding the school in 2016. It has grown to now have four teachers who regularly run four classes at once to cater for more than 120 students. Many are teenagers but some are as young as two. “Last year we had 75 students enrolled,” she said.
While developing local artistic talent and enriching lives the young businesswoman has continually given back to the community.
That has included donating more than $11,000 from proceeds of the business to five charities in 2017.
When starting the business she looked at various sites until she discovered Woonona Bulli School of Arts and what it does for the community.
In the process she has helped raised awareness about the historic facility which is now used more by the community as a result of her studio’s success.
She is about to move into a new larger section that can accommodate the increasing demand.
The former Woonona East primary school captain and student at Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts taught at other dance schools before starting her own.
She said the ongoing support of her mother, father Scott and brother Elijah Austin had helped give her confidence.
She wants to promote performing arts in the community because it can bring so many people together in a positive way.
The School of Arts itself gives back to the community. And Ms Austin’s business growth and the awareness it has raised means the facility has been able to increase such support.
During her dance career Ms Austin has won many competitions as have many of her students. She was nominated for Young Citizen of the Year by her grandmother Patricia Langlands.
“She entered me because she is so proud of me but I never expected to receive that award,” she said.
During the last 12 months Ms Austin has financially supported World Vision, Starlight Foundation, UNICEF, Cancer Council and Woonona girl Chloe Saxby.
“We are going to be holding a major fundraiser in the school holidays for her. We are bringing one of Australia’s top choreographers down. I want to help bring the community together and do what matters the most by supporting someone in need locally. It will be held at the hall on April 22.”
Ms Austin now has plans to launch her own dance agency to provide opportunities for local talent to feature in commercials, television advertisements and performances.
It will be called The Project Network Agency.
“The passion I have for dance is indescribable. I love being able to connect with people and to express myself. It is so good for self-love and knowing our worth and value.”
Ms Austin is also a black-belt in taekwondo and is planning to run martial arts classes as well in the future.