In the hush of the Alexander Library, a 14-year-old Ethony stumbled on a book about witches.
As she flicked through it, its themes of nature, magic and self-empowerment spoke to the former Christian. Now aged 28, she said: "I've been a witch ever since." Ethony, of Melville, touched the five-pointed star at her neck and said she had been public about "her path" but kept the symbol under wraps at work.
"As a Christian, you can have a deep relationship with God and no one questions it, but when a pagan says they have a deep connection with the divine, people don't understand," she said.
As a Wiccan, Ethony belongs to one of Australia's fastest-growing religions and one of its most maligned. A recent Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report singled out Wiccans as experiencing "high levels of prejudice, discrimination and a lack of recognition".
Pagans have a range of beliefs, gods and goddesses, but most venerate nature. The Pagan Awareness Network stresses its distaste at suggestions of animal sacrifices and points out that Satan is a Christian figure. It also says worshipping "skyclad", or naked, is an individual choice.
More than 30,000 pagans were identified in the last census, 45 per cent more than in 2001. PAN wants all followers of nature-based religions to identify themselves as pagan in this year's survey.
President David Garland hopes this will push demands for official recognition to a critical mass.Ethony, who kept her surname private, said her faith was central to her life as high priestess of a six-woman coven.