GROWING up in the western suburbs of Sydney, Matthew Joel Webb never really got an opportunity to fully embrace his culture.
The 21-year-old Kamilaroi man has now taken on a job as a coordinator for a project that empowers Indigenous youth to have a positive self identity, and to be culturally connected.
“I come from a similar background as the kids I’m working with. I’m still young and not too long ago, I was in their position.”
Webb was raised alongside his two of his brothers and his sister by his single mum until they were taken away and put into foster care when he was about 11 years old.
His mother was dealing with an addiction, but Webb says he has never blamed her.
“I’ve always seen it as something she didn’t have control over,” he explains.
“I’ve always had the mindset of acknowledging the fact that she was going through just as much shit as we were.”
After two years in foster care, Webb moved to Tamworth to live with his Aboriginal father.
“It was a bit of a transition,” he says.
He found it a bit of a culture shock when he became the first recipient of an Indigenous scholarship at prestigious Sydney boarding school, Sydney Church of England Grammar School.
“I basically broke the barriers down there, ” Webb remembers.
“There wasn’t a lot of culture being taught, or you know, education on black people. I think if you’re going to have these scholarship-based programs that are at predominately white schools, you need to educate the students so they’re not shocked when a black kid turns up in the classroom.”
Despite the adjustment period for some of the students, Webb says he was never a victim of bullying. He puts it down to being “resilient” enough to live in two worlds.
“I came from a background of living in a housing commission, then I was thrown into a prestigious school where the kids were the top one per cent,” he says.
After graduating from school, Webb decided to head west to study Aboriginal theatre at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. The distinguished college counts Hollywood heartthrobs Hugh Jackman and Jai Courtney amongst their alumni.
“I went as an 18-year-old, took that leap of faith,” he says with a laugh.
“After completing the course, I landed a job at Channel Nine through a connection I made at the school.”
Leaving the Channel Nine role recently, Webb won’t rule out a return to the entertainment industry in the future.
“Acting is definitely where my heart is – as is the job I’m doing now,” he says.
“But the creative side of acting really allows me to express who I am… creating a character, breaking down a script – the whole performance aspect.”
When asked if he has any hobbies, Webb says he loves socialising – and has started keeping fit so he can stay in a routine.
The working out came in handy when he posed for his first professional photoshoot with Christian Scott
“He made me feel really comfortable, and that element of safety,” he says.
“There were no dramas, we had a good laugh. He’s such a nice guy.”