By day, Deborah Hill is an exhibitions coordinator at the National Gallery. But after hours, she’s better known as Bambi von Smash’er, one of the capital’s top roller derby skaters and captain of Canberra’s roller derby representative team, the Vice City Rollers, which she has captained since 2010.
“Roller derby is so different to other sports. I love that it’s an action sport, and that it’s aggressive,” she says, which is perhaps not the answer you’d expect from someone with a PhD in Arts History.
“People aren’t always down with the theatrics and names, but it’s an opportunity to be someone different for five minutes. When I’m Bambi von Smash’er, it’s like I’ve adopted a new persona. It’s a great thing.”
Her skating name, Bambi von Smash’er, represents “the idea that as a woman you can be like Bambi and be pleasant, but you can also be a von Smash’er and be aggressive and that’s okay too.”
She says that as the sport evolves, many competitors now skate under their real names, which she will do when she joins Australia’s national roller derby team at the 2014 Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas next month. (She’s still Bambi von Smash’er at home, however.)
Compared to people in other cities, Deborah says Canberrans are active supporters of their local roller derby league.
“We’re lucky that we’ve been able to maintain good crowds, which other cities have struggled to do,” she says.
“In Sydney, for example, there’s so much on offer that it’s difficult to stay in the hearts and minds of people. Canberra’s crowd is discerning, and it’s an audience that understands roller derby. When we first started, most people in the audience were there because they knew one of the competitors, but that’s not necessarily the case now.”
Strong support for Canberra’s roller derby league has also created demand for an indoor skating rink, which led Deborah and three other skating enthusiasts to open Skate Nation in Fyshwick in April 2014. Skate Nation offers skating lessons, fitness classes, discos and general skating sessions.
“I got involved in SkateFIT [a fitness class on roller skates] in late 2013, and hosted classes in venues at the AIS and Majura Park. I could see there were lots of people interested in skating, but who didn’t want to do derby or fit sessions. I’d describe it as a work in progress. It’s very collaborative and we’re still finding our feet and figuring out what Canberra wants when it comes to skating.”
She says that after almost two decades of living in Canberra, she feels like the city is on the cusp of something great.
“Our town is enriched by those who see a space and forge something new, or reinvigorate something old, and we are currently seeing this all over the city more than ever. While some of these projects are government led, there is so much coming from the community right now. It’s this energy that makes Canberra such an exciting and liveable city.”
When asked about what she’d do differently if she were chief minister, Deborah says she’d rather be roller skating, looking at art or strolling through her garden than thinking about politics.
“I do wonder though if the Chief Minister might like to join me one day for a skate around the lake?” she says.