In their own words

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CJ

Youth accommodation services

CJ is a 20-year-old young man, who first came to Burdekin when he was 14.  CJ spoke at The Chappel Foundation’s fundraiser in July 2021. He spoke openly about his journey and the amazing support he has since received from the Burdekin Association. We are incredibly proud of the young man CJ has become, his courage to speak at this event and to allow his story to be shared with you all.

“I was removed from my mother and stepfather at the age of five, because of neglect, abuse and a few other things. I was placed with my older sisters, father, his partner and their family. Unfortunately, they struggled with eight children and the Department of Justice and Community Services decided I needed to be moved.

I was placed with ‘nan’, a lovely woman who I connected well with growing up for 9 years. I saw my mother during that time at bi-monthly meetings.

Sadly, nan was diagnosed with emphysema, it shocked us all and unfortunately at the time it was the most disappointing thing for me… I was so close to her. Nan’s son took us in but soon after, nan passed away. This killed me emotionally and mentally, I became suicidal and depressed, nothing was left for me. I attempted suicide on many, many occasions, I was self-harming and felt that I just couldn’t live.

My living situation at the time deteriorated too and I requested to be moved. The Department of Justice and Community Services put me in touch with Burdekin – the greatest thing that ever happened to me. They put me into a carer situation… a very scary new experience.

I lived with my carer called Lynn and she helped me to become the best version of me that I have ever experienced. I lived with Lynn for 7 years. I felt like I was becoming an aggressive teenager and didn’t want Lynn to have that stress. I asked Burdekin if I could move on. They put me in a program called SIL.

I lived in an apartment block that they own and they taught me how to pay bills, shop for groceries – all sorts. Burdekin funded the shopping and subsidised my rent. I had a job with help from them, they helped with my resume and practiced interview skills and communication with me – I couldn’t be any more grateful for all of this. I would like all kids who end up in the care system or homeless to go to Burdekin because they will have the best life they could possibly have.

Burdekin supported me in another relocation and finding another job at a cinema – ushering and selling tickets. They helped me with a lot, they are the best. I had my great Case Manager Huzzy with me for about 3 years. He was more than a Case Worker, he was like a best mate. If I was feeling down, if I didn’t feel like myself or wanted to self-harm, he was there to say: ‘you’ve got this’. He motivated me to get a job and to keep it even when it sucked. I lost my job because of Covid and Huzzy has been helping me to find a new one and to build my confidence more and more.

I have a new Case Manager Olivia, she helps me with all of this now. I am with the Youth Housing option, where I pay subsidised rent and pay for all my own bills and groceries. I am very thankful to Burdekin for what they have done for me with this SIL program. It has made me realise how much kids need a program like this and people like Burdekin. I want to thank Huzzy – for always being there, being my best friend when I had no one. I would also like to thank Justene, the CEO for taking me in, two youth workers who have been helping me out with doctors appointments and other things Sio (Youth Worker) and Joubert (Youth Coordinator) and the last thanks is to the Chappel Foundation for letting me share a bit of my life with you. View CJ’s entire speech in the video below.

Simon

Northern Beaches youth accommodation

Simon is now in his forties, living in Sydney with his family, he has a nice home and a good job. This story shows what a huge difference can be made to the direction of a young person’s life with support. He left home as a teenager, couch surfing for a bit, then living in a car with some other kids before the police took it away. After the car, Simon ended up spending time with other Northern Beaches kids, sleeping rough, taking drugs and stealing. Some of the kids he hung out with overdosed or were taken away by police, not an uncommon experience for young kids on the streets. Simon refers to the time as “a low point in his life”.

Simon met one of our Case Managers, Warren, by chance and attributes the turnaround in his life to him. “He was the one who got me back on track and I am forever grateful to him.”

Simon and his girlfriend had been hanging out with another couple for some time, sleeping on the floor of their accommodation and hiding from Warren. Rather than kicking them or the other couple out, Warren helped them.

Our Case Managers’ work aims to develop the potential of young people and strengthen the communities they live in. The Burdekin Association organised for the couples to stay at a local backpackers until suitable accommodation was found. Things started to change for the better. Simon started attending TAFE and with regular visits from Warren who supported him with his TAFE work, life skills and looking for employment, he began to thrive. After a number of years with us, Simon did eventually move home back home. When he occasionally passes where he lived at Burdekin it brings back good memories.

Without Burdekin we don’t know what would have become of Simon. For some the transition from childhood to adulthood is more difficult than for others. The Burdekin Association is here to help children and young people … physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.

Today, Simon says: “I honestly believe Warren and The Burdekin Association have helped me get to where I am today. And I thank you all, Warren especially so very, very much. I wish you all the best and keep up the good work.”

There is no better news than this for us. We love hearing from former residents, we love hearing how the supportive environment we aim to  provide has actually had the impact we thrive for.  

Lanai

Out of home care young people

I’m an orphan.  My Mum committed suicide when I was seven and my Dad had a heart attack when I was 16.

Thankfully, I wasn’t living with either of them at the time. I was removed from my mother’s care at age five and my relationship with my father was estranged since before I could remember.

I’m now in my twenties, have completed high school, been to university and am living my dream career.
At times it has been really, really hard. But in the end, I made it through what is unquestionably an out-of-touch and over-stretched child welfare system.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not going to pretend I do. But I’ve lived through the system. I’ve seen it from the inside, and I know what helped me get to a point where I can be here today, writing this.

I was in kinship care with my grandparents for most of my infant years. At 14, I was placed back in out-of-home care. My grandparents and I were fighting all the time and the situation was explosive for all parties involved.  This was one of the hardest times for me, and the time I needed help the most.

Most of my years in out-of-home care were spent with the support of a non-government agency called The Burdekin Association.

Burdekin gave me one of the best caseworkers in the world. Someone who spent time every week with me, and was always there to help when I needed a guiding voice.

She made a real difference in my life and I believe she was able to do this in part because the caseloads for agency workers are often a lot lighter than their FaCS equivalents. These organisations often target a smaller area of the community and as a result, there are fewer children to spread their time across.

Often kids in care just need the right emotional support and guidance in order to turn their lives around.  Smaller community-based agencies can and do provide this level of support better than FaCS.

This was my reality. My FaCS caseworker touched base with me on average once every three months.  My Burdekin caseworker was there every week.  In a troubled life, this can make all the difference.

I am currently working for The Australian Newspaper as a journalist and writing articles for The Punch.

I survived. I was one of the lucky ones. But I shouldn’t have to be.

Anna

Out of home care Inner West and Northern Beaches

Hello everyone. I am Anna. My teenage years were years full of stability, safety, security and a nurturing environment. I remained at the same school, completed my HSC, travelled to Lismore for University and completed a double degree, all with the support of the Burdekin Association. I realise how fortunate I was to have such a stable upbringing given the fact I was homeless. I am one of the lucky ones. To be part of Burdekin was like being a part of a bigger family. Many years after formally leaving their support I still drop in and I know they still are there for me.

Since leaving Burdekin I have travelled Europe and taught in a school in Oxford. I now teach at a school on the beaches and contact Burdekin to help me support the kids I teach. I also now collaborate with Burdekin on a project called the Northern Beaches Project which is aimed at identifying young people at risk. The education system and support services are collaborating to make sure kids in need get help early and can be assisted to stay at home or helped to be moved if they are deemed to be in danger.

The Burdekin Association is so much a part of this community and it is fantastic that the community is supporting kids like me to have the most normal upbringing possible with access to services and materials that we need to succeed.

I don’t like to ponder what my life could have been like if I had not ended up at Burdekin.

Thank you.

Jesse Wilcox

Northern Beaches and Inner West youth residential services

Home Is

Home is a way of feeling.  Home is a way of feeling less alone, even if there’s no-one there but you.

They say a man’s house is his castle.  After you’ve been homeless, you thank Heaven for every brick.  Pliny the Elder said home is where the heart is.  After you’ve been homeless, you’re grateful to have found where it’s been hiding all these years.  Helen Rowland said home is any four walls that enclose the right person.  After you’ve been homeless, it changes your life to know the right person is you.  Goethe said one is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.  After you’ve been homeless, even the peasant’s plough and straw bed is peace and prosperity beyond your dreams.

I started out with nothing, and I still got most of it left.

Home is a shelter in a storm.  Home is oasis in a desert.  Home is a glimpse of afternoon sun after working down the mines.  Home is a moment of reprieve in a lifetime of worry.  Home is the only place where nothing else matters, because you are safe.

Home is the last bastion of free will.  Home does everything that running away couldn’t accomplish.

You first walk through the door and Providence smiles upon you.  You are thrust headlong into an incredible sensation, the scintillating knowledge that you are home.  As if seduced by a persuasive whisper, your tension and worry drips away.  The drapery falls, and you realise:

You don’t have to smile, and you don’t have to scowl.
You don’t have to be white; you don’t have to be black.
You don’t have to act gay; you don’t have to act straight.
You don’t have to love, and you don’t have to hate.
You don’t have to believe what you’re told.

You can be true to yourself, for the first time.

All the labels evaporate under your radiant heat, every particle in your body excited to be free at last.  The scaffold of thought buckles as you realise you are the author of your own experience.  My home was where I realised that I was a person like everyone else.  My home was built the moment I knew I had what I needed to start living for me.

My home is the place where I can lock my doors and windows and prance around with no pants on.  My home is the place where Bill Posters will not be prosecuted.  My home is guitars and harmonicas.  My home is water, food, and prayer.  My home is free love.  My home is the bill of rights.  My home is the Louvre.  My home is the Library of Alexandria.  My home is the Pantheon.  My home is the Forum, Circus Maximus and Caesar’s palace all at once.

My home is the Launchpad, and I am the Lunar Lander.

With a little imagination, my home is whatever I want it to be.  It’s my home.

Everyone needs a home.