Where are they now? Monique Bast (2019)

August 10th, 2022

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Monique Bast (2019) has lived by the advice she shares with current Mater Christi students - ‘If you have a passion, or something that gives you inspiration to get up each day, then follow it as hard as you can!’

Her journey from a ‘quiet and awkward’ teenager to a successful business owner demonstrates how being ‘all-in’ when it comes to your passions can lead to wonderful things!

In the early years of secondary school Monique felt reluctant to share her interest in wildlife for fear of being judged. But as she moved into the Senior School, support and encouragement from her teachers helped her come out of her shell and incorporate her passion into her schoolwork, in subjects like Art and Environmental Studies.

In Year 11, Monique decided that VCAL would be the best fit for her, and she hasn’t looked back. In fact, she attributes part of her ongoing success to her VCAL teacher Sara Mugridge, who supported her love of wildlife and encouraged her to take hold of her dream of running her own business and make it a reality.

“The best experience of my teenage years was being part of VCAL.
My teacher, Mrs Mugridge is still one of my favourite people. I feel incredibly lucky to have had her mentor me, through my final schooling years.

I tried to connect every project I possibly could back to wildlife. Mrs Mugridge encouraged me to really pursue that interest and she helped me to get a volunteer position at a wildlife shelter.”

During her volunteer work, Monique was asked to look after some surrendered reptiles. This experience introduced her to another new passion, as she fell in love with her cold-blooded friends.

In her last year of school, Monique’s idea to develop a business running wildlife and reptile educational workshops began to solidify, with the continued support of her teacher.

“Mrs Mugridge really encouraged me to have no fear when it came to branching out and running my own business and she allowed me to be myself.”

Through a work experience opportunity, with a similar kind of business, Monique was able plan the way she would eventually like to run her own shows. She finished Year 12 with a registered business of her own - The Lizard Wizard - and had a number of very successful primary school workshops already under her belt. Not to mention she was named VCAL Dux.

After leaving Mater Christi, the first few years were challenging for Monique, as the realities of the COVID pandemic meant she had to completely restructure her wildlife sessions to suit an online format. And yet, she found an unexpected silver lining.

“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anyone to be interested in seeing the animals on screen, but I ended up running well over 100 online workshops for schools, families, birthday parties and scout groups, all over Australia during that time.”

Her online shows lead to Monique becoming more well-known and the experience meant she could hit the ground running, when she was able to return to the usual, in person sessions.

“Since then, my shows have been booked out weekend after weekend and my weekdays are filled with school and aged care sessions. I also recently ran an onstage session at a local community festival.”

In time, interest in The Lizard Wizard became so great that managing the business alone, was a little overwhelming. However, she again showed her ability to adapt, by training up her partner, Ryan to run the shows she was too busy to do. She also enlisted some work placement students and local volunteers to assist her with caring for her animals and feels ‘incredibly grateful for all their time and support.’

While her business now provides her with a sustainable income, Monique continues to look ahead. She has plans to further upgrade her animal enclosures, buy more equipment, advertise more, and expand.

To fund these plans, she runs local craft classes three times a week and works a casual retail job on the nights she is free.

“It’s a very busy schedule, but I love it! I love sharing my passion and knowledge of Australian wildlife with as many people as possible! With current extinction rates and climate change showing no signs of slowing down - now is the most important time ever to be talking with future generations about the importance of protecting our native species and geting them excited about it!”

With her incredible work ethic, adaptability and ‘can do’ attitude – something tells us that, whatever Monique’s goals and aspirations are she will make them happen.