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Its Sunday in March and a few girls are gathered to complete the latest CrossFit Opens workout 18.3. Milly Phillips has been able to do a few double-unders here and there so she decides to do the workout, RXD (as prescribed) as it starts with 100 double unders. "I thought well I'll get 1 or 2 double-unders maybe and then I'll just do a scaled workout after that. On 3,2,1, Go Milly turns the rope, a few single skips and then a double, a few more singles and another double and then another and another. The girls are screaming, there is a buzz of excitement, Phil, the gym owner comes over to see what all the cheering is about and is over the moon to see Milly knocking out double-unders in this workout, completing 81 skips in the allotted time. Milly Phillips has been doing CrossFit since 2016 and her effort and hard work was starting to pay off.

Born 1969, Milly grew up with her Mum and 3 older sisters in Wakka Wakka Country (pronounced woka woka), Gayndah, QLD. Being able to grow up 'on country'[1] was truly a great thing and not necessarily something other Indigenous people in Australia got to enjoy. [2]

Milly's Grandfather and Grandmother were able to move their family from the Aboriginal mission at Woorabinda [3] because of Grandfathers Service to Australia in WW2 in Papua New Guinea, (they were able to apply for an exemption under The Aborigines Protection Act 1909) [4]


As a young person, Milly was a high achiever, gaining academic awards all through high school and always maintaining an active lifestyle. Qualifying twice to swim at the State level carnivals, Milly’s family couldn't afford to send her, so she wasn’t able to take these opportunities up. After school Milly left home and started out at Griffith University studying business. As things go sometimes, Milly followed her heart and an Army fella and started her own path down the family life having two children, Tait and Ally. When Tait and Ally were 7 and 6 years old Milly became a sole parent and despite the obvious struggle Milly aimed at giving her kids as many opportunities as she could along the way.


Raising children alone and working full time made keeping active more and more difficult and there came a period of more than 5 years, life became so busy Milly ended up neglecting her exercise and health totally. With a lot of persuasion from Ally, who had been coming to CrossFit Mitchelton since being a teenager, Milly recognised she had let things get too far and had to do something about it and niggling injuries, trouble walking and issues with her mobility clinched the deal. Milly decided to take up CrossFit PT with Sarah 2-3 times per week in May 2016. “PT with Sarah was, discreet and set to my level, I didn't have to worry about judgement, or what I looked like and could start back with her fitness.” 

Milly at times struggled to get up and down from the floor during different movements and she didn't feel strong. But she had started something that she wasn’t going to walk away from it. Milly persisted and never said no to any challenge despite wanting, as we all do, to give up and stop the pain and the discomfort. Milly says ‘I was never made to feel uncomfortable about how I looked or performed and that made continuing PT that little easier’.


After 3 months of training Milly hit a 70kg Deadlift, which is the usual prescribed weight for female athletes in a workout. Sarah said it was time to join the classes and so, despite usual nerves and reservations Milly jumped in on regular classes. It did help that she was known as Ally's Mum, (Ally being quite the admired young person in the gym), this was an advantage as Milly knew a few people who welcomed her in.

So there was no turning back, she put her head down and worked, scaled workouts, listened to her body, never ignoring pain and injury, but never giving up. Even when work prevented her from getting to the gym, Milly did something wherever she was and as confidence grew so did Milly’s participation, joining in everything she could, every nutrition challenge, team series competition, open competition work, gym workshops. 

"I remember this one time, Sarah wouldn't let me scale the numbers in the workout, she stood alongside me as I did the whole thing, and so, I did it' Milly recounts.


Milly now tries to get to at least 4 classes per week, Kinetic weightlifting with Nick Logan and recently completed the gym run program with Jodie Murray, which Milly says 'put her fitness up to a whole other level' and that she ‘had to rise to the challenge' and where she had once struggled to run/walk 200 metres, she improved to the point she was getting a PB in her 1km run, improving by 2m 21s from the start to the end of the 6 week program. It was Jodie, the run coach, who convinced Milly she could compete in a CrossFit Team Series in a team of 4  in September 2016. So Milly joined the “Mighty Mitchie Masters” to compete in the competition  alongside Ross, Jodie and Daz. It was during that team series that Milly did her first bar facing burpee, gracefully synchronized with Daz.  


In asking Milly about what she likes about CrossFit she says she really like the Olympic lifts, The Snatch and The Clean & Jerk, although injuries sometimes get in the way. Milly also likes that at CrossFit Mitchelton women are encouraged to lift heavy, even if it’s just heavy for that person and that this is celebrated by everyone.

Considering where there is still work to be done Milly says Jumping movements are still a challenge, 'I'm frustrated by jumping pull-ups and box jumps and I’ve still got some weight to lose which doesn't happen quickly.’ And although she finds them challenging she now enjoys workouts with running and burpees in them.



CrossFit has given me back my health and is improving my longevity. I couldn't imagine my life without it .


Milly recently took the leap from Government to the role of Manager, Early Childhood Education Services at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) and is no longer known at the gym just as Ally's Mum, but as Milly.

This quiet and unassuming woman does not seek any praise or glory, she just is a determined and strong willed person who paves the way for so many others by inspiring them through her perseverance, her persistence, her humility and simply by being who she is, a pretty amazing woman.


[1] “Land means different things to non-Indigenous and Aboriginal people. The latter have a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection.

For Aboriginal people the relationship is much deeper. Palyku woman Ambelin Kwaymullina explains:
“For Aboriginal peoples, country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human – all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live in land, water, sky. Country is filled with relations speaking language and following Law, no matter whether the shape of that relation is human, rock, crow, wattle. Country is loved, needed, and cared for, and country loves, needs, and cares for her peoples in turn. Country is family, culture, identity. Country is self.”

They have a profound spiritual connection to land. Aboriginal law and spirituality are intertwined with the land, the people and creation, and this forms their culture and sovereignty. The health of land and water is central to their culture. Land is their mother, is steeped in their culture, but also gives them the responsibility to care for it. They “feel the pain of the shapes of life in country as pain to the self”.


[2] “Stolen Generations” is used for Aboriginal people forcefully taken away (stolen) from their families between the 1890s and 1970s, many to never to see their parents, siblings or relatives again. In removing their children white people stole Aboriginal people’s future. Language, tradition, knowledge, dances and spirituality could only live if passed on to their children. In breaking this circle of life white people hoped to end Aboriginal culture within a short time and get rid of “the Aboriginal problem”. In the early 20th century under the assimilation policy white Australians thought Aboriginal people would die out. In three generations, they thought, Aboriginal genes would have been ‘bred out’ when Aboriginal people had children with white people. The whole removal policy was based on the women because the women could breed.

[3] In 1897, the Queensland Parliament passed the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act.  Under s 9 of the 1897 Act, the ‘Protector of Aborigines’ was granted the power ‘to cause Aboriginals within any district to be removed to and kept within the limits of any reserve situated in the same or any other district’. Woorabinda was one of those places to which Aboriginal people could be removed. Woorabinda was established between 1926 and 1927 by the Queensland Government as a replacement for the Taroom Aboriginal reserve, which was located on the banks of the Dawson River. Taroom reserve was closed down in 1926, after 16 years in operation, as it was situated in the path of a proposed irrigation dam. The government selected 55,000 acres in the Duaringa district, which became the new Aboriginal reserve of Woorabinda. Aboriginal laborers from Taroom began clearing and fencing the land for the new reserve in September 1926.

[4a] The Aborigines Protection Act 1909 (25/1909) was 'An Act to provide for the protection and care of aborigines; to repeal the Supply of Liquors to Aborigines Prevention Act; to amend the Vagrancy Act, 1902, and the Police Offences (Amendment) Act, 1908; and for purposes consequent thereon or incidental thereto.' It provided the Aborigines Protection Board, which had existed since 1881, with legal powers to 'provide for the protection and care of Aborigines.' It was the first piece of legislation that dealt specifically with Aboriginal people in New South Wales. It applied to all Aboriginal people but contained particular provisions for children, including the right of the Protection Board to remove youths from Aboriginal Reserves and place them into service. The Act was amended in 1915, 1918, 1936, 1940, 1943 and 1963. It was repealed by the Aborigines Act 1969.

[4b] The 1897 Act and the subsequent amending Acts of 1901, 1927, 1928 and 1934 gave the Chief Protector of Aboriginals, as well as the individual Protectors, enormous control over almost all aspects of the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland, and vast quantities of records were created on the thousands of individuals who were subject to this legislation.  This material contains invaluable information for family history researchers:  there are files which document forced removals onto missions and reserves, applications requesting exemptions from the ‘Protection’ Act, and for permission to marry, employment and wages records, files about sickness, health and welfare, and deaths, and records about the management of the missions and reserves.