How a depressed Balgownie teen became the Waterfall Wanderer

It’s no wonder Madeline Zotter calls her big sister Adelle her ‘’life-saver’’.

Four years ago a ‘’sad and depressed’’ Madeline tried to take her own life.

The 17-year-old was unconscious on her bedroom floor when Adelle found her. 

‘’No one has really showed them how much better it can get."

Being a nurse, Adelle instinctively knew what to do and her quick-thinking actions saved Madeline’s life.

The Balgownie teenager spent two days in an induced coma but when she woke was still ‘’annoyed’’ at the world.

In time though Madeline was thankful to her ‘’life-saver’’.

Adelle gave Madeline a second chance at life but it was only after the now 21-year-old started exploring her love of the outdoors that she truly ‘’appreciated life’’.

Waterfall-Wandering founder Madeline Zotter.

Waterfall-Wandering founder Madeline Zotter.

‘’I want people to know that I could have died,’’ Madeline said.

‘’And, I think about that now and I would not have had any of these wonderful experiences I’ve had.

‘’At that age I did not know how much better life gets.

‘’It hurts when you hear that young boys or girls are taking their life.

‘’No one has really showed them how much better it can get. 

‘’They are so stuck in this high school phase, they really don’t see what’s outside of it.’’

Madeline's post on her Waterfall Wandering page.

Madeline's post on her Waterfall Wandering page.

Madeline, who was bullied during her high school years, wants young people to know there is help at hand and life will get better.

‘’You will come across sad times no matter where you are or what you are doing but you grow and you learn to deal with things,’’ she said.

‘’Two of my greatest friends that I have now, I didn’t have in high school. You realise there are people out there who are genuine and who want to be your friends.

‘’You have to push through the tough times and the world will reward you in a big way.

‘’I’m 21 now. When I was 17 I never thought I was going to get to go to uni, let alone be in my final year.’’

Madeline is in the fourth and final year of her Bachelor of Education – Early Years degree at the University of Wollongong.

She also works as a gymnastics teacher at Wollongong City Gymnastics.

Nature change to feel better

Exploring Wollongong’s beautiful waterfalls and nature walks helped Madeline Zotter in her time of need.

Now through her Waterfall-Wandering Instagram and Facebook pages, the 21-year-old wants to help other youngsters feeling down.

‘’I like spreading the fact that Wollongong is so beautiful and getting out and enjoying the outdoors really helps you feel better,’’ she said.

‘’I notice a change in myself when I’ve gone on a bushwalk or done something outdoors. Normally I’m doing it with friends and family so it is always fun and happy times.

‘’It just gives you that little bit of time to think about things and take a breather to realise it's not that bad. It's going to be okay.

‘’It sounds lame and stereotypical but you find yourself in those things [nature]…. and gives you time to kind of touch base with something else.’’

Call Lifeline crisis support hotline 13 11 14 for help dealing with depression and anxiety or visit

Kids Helpline is Australia’s only national 24/7 counselling service specifically for children and young people aged 5 to 25 years – free call 1800 55 1800 or online at

This story How a depressed Balgownie teen became the Waterfall Wanderer first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.