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some peo­ple whose pic­tures I have ad­mired for a while – lots of new peo­ple – but also get­ting back into it and see­ing peo­ple I have worked with pre­vi­ously. I love those re­con­nec­tions.”

There is, in talk of re­con­nect­ing, an im­plicit ref­er­ence to the deeper root cause of her ini­tial break from mod­el­ling. Ward had just emerged from her teens when the pres­sures of work and the death of then-boyfriend Heath Ledger in Jan­uary 2008 caught up with her. Ev­ery­one wanted to talk about her break – with com­men­tary and the­o­ries fly­ing about ex­actly why she had taken it. But for much of the time she was away from fash­ion, one voice was miss­ing from the dis­cus­sion: Ward’s own.

That’s chang­ing. And over the past few years, Ward has been in­creas­ingly frank about the eat­ing dis­or­der and men­tal-health is­sues that made it nec­es­sary. “There’s still a lot more to be said,” she tells Stel­lar. “Ev­ery­one can ben­e­fit from re­flect­ing on their ex­pe­ri­ences, to move for­ward and have a more pos­i­tive fu­ture. I’m def­i­nitely shar­ing more with my im­me­di­ate fam­ily, friends and loved ones, and then on a wider scale to press and the pub­lic. Some­times it does need to hap­pen slowly. It’s nice to be at a place where I can just talk about it.”

Chris­tine Fox, who works at mod­el­ling agency Vivien’s, scouted Ward when she was a 15-year-old Perth school­girl, and says the pace at which her ca­reer took off was in­tense, more so be­cause she was so young. “She went to the top very, very fast,” says Fox. “And in those days, they got their pound of flesh out of her. Not many mod­els do that at that level; her look de­fined a decade be­cause she was so unique. She had some­thing spe­cial.”

Fox con­tin­ued to rep­re­sent her via Vivien’s in Aus­tralia dur­ing Ward’s hia­tus and un­til 2012, when she signed with the lo­cal arm of global mega agency IMG, and says she was acutely aware of the need for Ward to take some time off. “[There were] too many pres­sures, and to main­tain that is ex­haust­ing. To step down was prob­a­bly the best thing that she did,” she says, adding she had al­ways hoped Ward would re­turn when the time felt right for her. “It’s like a wait­ing game for lots of kids – they ei­ther love this in­dus­try, or they hate it, or they’ve got to just learn to see it through dif­fer­ent eyes. Be­cause she’s lived it so full on, and had that break, she was in con­trol when she came back. Good on her.”

But even while her work in fash­ion was on hold, Ward was try­ing other things. She says she still has ca­reer am­bi­tions out­side of mod­el­ling; al­ready she has worked as an ac­tor in plays and films in­clud­ing 2011’s Pi­rates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and 2013’s The Great Gatsby. She’s open to new act­ing gigs, plays mu­sic on piano and gui­tar – when her kids aren’t try­ing to take over the in­stru­ments – and has re­cently found her­self writ­ing in her spare time. She’s work­ing on a screen­play, and has also taken up the kick­box­ing mar­tial art Muay Thai.

Nev­er­the­less, Ward is en­joy­ing her job and the rest of her world too. Life with a young fam­ily and a more sus­tain­able work­load in­di­cate she’s fi­nally found the bal­ance that was so lack­ing at the start of her ca­reer. “I’m re­ally happy with the amount of work I’m get­ting and the amount of time I get to spend with my kids,” she says. “I’m in a re­ally good place, I’m get­ting en­joy­ment from my work. I have very di­verse in­ter­ests, and I’m con­stantly try­ing to fit them all in. But at the end of the day, kids come first – and work comes pretty high af­ter that.”

(from top) Artist Vin­cent Fan­tauzzo with his por­trait of Heath Ledger that won the 2008 Archibald Prize Peo­ple’s Choice Award; Fan­tauzzo, here aged seven, strug­gled in school as a child due to his dys­lexia; with his wife, ac­tor Asher Ked­die, and chil­dren (from left) Valentino and Luca in 2017; (op­po­site) as pho­tographed for Stel­lar.

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