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Jenni Tarrant's triumph: popular Kingston hairdresser is now an author and has an OAM

Jenni Tarrant in her hair salon Bond Hair Religion in Kingson on Friday. Picture: Karleen Minney

It's fitting that the book Jenni Tarrant has co-authored is called Roar and the cover shows a woman revealing her inner lioness. Because Jenni is nothing but a lionheart.

The popular Kingston hairdresser has survived horrific childhood abuse to create a successful life for herself, one in which she gives back to others.

The owner of Bond Hair Religion in Green Square was invited to be one of nine courageous women from around Australia to share her story of resilience in the Roar anthology published by the Business in Heels group. All royalties from the book sold under Jenni's name will go to the Toora Women's refuge and Act for Kids.

Jenni Tarrant receiving her OAM last week from Governor-General David Hurley. Picture: Supplied

And last week, she walked the soft-carpeted halls of Government House to be awarded the medal in the general division of the Order of Australia (OAM) by Governor-General David Hurley.

Jenni received the honour for her services to hairdressing and to humanitarian initiatives. She has so far over her career raised more than $160,000 for women and children at risk.

Writing her story for Roar was cathartic and a way to raise more money for those in need. She also wanted to help others dealing with their own demons. As a child, she was subjected to verbal and physical abuse by her mother. People known to her family also repeatedly sexually abused her.

Jenni survived her childhood abuse to get married, have a child, create a successful career and help others. Picture: Karleen Minney

"It was difficult," she said. "I've got a very good relationship with my mum, but I didn't. It was difficult when I was a kid. There were other people outside the family who were the paedophiles but my mum had her own journey which led to verbal and physical abuse.

"I talk a lot about her in the book, so the most difficult thing was giving her the book to read.

"But the greatest thing we have in our relationship is that she's always said, 'Yes, that is who I was' and acknowledges she was dealing with her own demons. We now have the most beautiful relationship. I think it's also about forgiveness and learning that everyone is on their own journey. We can all change. We can all make mistakes. I'm not perfect by any means. But it's about moving forward."

The turning point for Jenni came at 13 when she got a part-time job helping at a local hair salon.

"That was the day my chosen career saved my life," she writes in Roar.

"You see, due to working the late nights, Saturdays and full-time during school holidays, I could no longer go away with the people who were my sexual abusers."

Her life did not neatly unfold without incident from that point. It took a lot of understanding, forgiveness and self-development.

"It's more about, no matter what you've been through in the past, you can choose to not allow those things take over the rest of your life," she said.

Jenni, 52, is married with a son, now 24, and has three businesses.

She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her abuse and ongoing depression and anxiety. But helping others has been the difference.

She has fundraised by doing everything from do the Kokoda Trail in five days, living for seven days in her Holden Barina in the middle of winter to draw attention to homelessness and wearing tape over her mouth for a week to represent the silence around mental health.

Receiving the OAM was an honour, but not the reason she does her charity work.

"I'm still a bit thrown by it," she said. "I just like to do my thing and, hopefully, help people out. It was so beautiful to have an ex-staff member and her husband put me up for it in the first place.

"For me, the awards and things mean that's going to give me leverage to get more and bigger businesses to donate to my charities. At the end of the day, the next person I speak to, as long as they feel good about themselves, the next person's hair I cut, as long as they're deliriously happy, that's all I want. It's not the medals.

"But it is lovely and it was lovely to have my parents there. I'm first generation Australian on my mum's side and second generation on my dad's.

"So to have parents who were immigrants see their daughter get an Order of Australia, it was pretty cool."

  • Roar is available to purchase here.
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Dive Deeper:
Meet Canberra's nurse of the year
Rebekah Ogilvie oversaw the response to the social housing outbreaks.
Employers fear the cost of making workplaces accessible. Turns out it's mostly free
Nathan Basha didn't let his disability stop him from excelling at his job, crediting his success to an "ongoing conversation"…
'Two people bullying each other': voters sick of political point scoring
The political games and point scoring is something that leaves Pub Test participant Jim Macdougall extremely unimpressed.
The barber who's been cutting hair for 50 years and has seen and heard it all
He used to charge 16p when he started
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Toddler, 3, shares uncanny resemblance to Boris Johnson over uncontrollable hair
Mum Aimee Ponsford said Kohen Jax, 3, is called Boris by his siblings and their friends due to his resemblance…
Inside life of incestuous dad who fathered two children with biological daughter
The relationship lasted for almost a decade and resulted in the birth of two children. It sparked public outrage and…
Get all your news in one place