Skip to Content

Emma

I was really worried about Jayda and Seth. Their parents loved them dearly, but couldn't keep them safe. I worked hard to keep them home with their parents over a long time, and in the end they needed to come into care. But mum and dad told me there was no family. Kids need a sense of identity and belonging that can only come from the people that love them the most. And usually that's their family. So I was at a family-finding bootcamp where it was passionately argued that reaching out to family is the most urgent thing we should do. I knew their mom had grown up on a remote Tasmanian island. So I got out the Whitepages and I looked up their last name. There was just the one. I took the chance and called.It turned out to be their grandfather Mort. He hadn't know how to reach the grandkids, and he'd been really worried.

Mort

To get that call was a surprise. I wanted to know what was going on.

Emma

I was gently painting him a picture of what life had been like for Jayda and Seth at the moment, when he said to me, Are you telling me the little ones are in trouble? And I could hear the grief in his voice.

Mort

I said to Emma that morning, I can be up there in two days. And that's what I was after. I wouldn't have been leaving 'til I'd have brought her back. I wanted to look after her, to be part of her life, it's special. I didn't want to see Jayda to be with somebody else. I have been through that, because I'm one of the stolen generations. I'd have walked the earth to get her back and safe.

Emma

Finding Seth and Jayda's grandparents was a great start, but I wanted to find more family for them. So I kept searching and I found more relatives. The most important of those was Jayda's aunt. Morton still needed support too, and the more family that can be a part of the children's lives, the stronger they'll be. It sounds so obvious now, tracking down family, but we haven't always worked that way. When you take a child into care, everything happens so fast. And sometimes we get focused on just finding a placement then and there, for the child. Family finding isn't just about finding a place for a child to live, it's about finding connections for them for life. Both Jayda and Seth need healing that can only come from family and people that love them the most. I think about how much more grief Jayda might've felt if we hadn't made those calls to family. The very moment Jayda came into care, she literally ran into the arms of her family and said, are you taking me back to my island?

Jayda

What I love about this beautiful island is that my family, and my family's family, and just generations beyond myself, have lived here and grown here. And learning the stories, and being able to learn and tell my children, when I have children. And just to take that generation, and I feel more alive in our culture. They say home is where you are, and that is true. Home is where I am now, where my feet are solid on the ground and my hair is in the wind. Really nice to be back home.

Emma

Jayda's brother Seth has medical needs, which means he can't live on the island. So an important part of his care plan is making sure he spends as much time as possible with his family, including Jayda, Sue and Mort, and his parents. Jayda is a beautiful, protective sister to Seth. And she cared for him a lot when they were little. Their special connection is crucial to their happiness, and one we're committed to maintaining.

Jayda

I and my brother's relationship is pretty funny. We're like any other brother and sister. We fight, we kiss, we hug, we push buttons. Just something about a brother-sister bond that you can't break at all. And he has a disability, but he's still a person. I felt that I was the only one that recognised it, and my parents of course, but I'm a very over-protective sister of my brother.

Emma

When the family flies up from the island, we let them decide what family time looks like. Jayda and Seth spent their weekend together doing a whole range of different fun activities and hanging out together. There are no time limits, we just let them have as much family time as they want.

Mort

The next thing I am targeting, Jayda knows, he will come over to spend a good time with us. I'd love to see the two of 'em down here on the beach, playing.

Emma

We supported Jayda to settle on the island, and she's had some professional help around some of the trauma she's experienced. But Jayda needed the sort of healing that can only come from family.

Jayda

They love me, I love them, and I'm grateful that they're here and supporting me, and they're understanding what I'm going through. And just things like that.

Mort

I started saying to Jayda, Look, I can see what my dad see, what my grandfather or my great-grandad see. We are looking through their eyes. She went, "You're right, Pop, (laughs) it hasn't changed a bit has it? I said, no. We got the land handed back 2005. My dad fought for it for 25 years when he passed, and then I took on the fight for another 25. Fifty years on, home sweet home. No more arguments, the fighting has finished.

Emma

Even though Jayda is living in another state we've continued to support her so she didn't have to deal with another change in her life. Jayda trusted me, and I wanted to keep that relationship strong. Visiting Jayda has been an adventure because it is so remote. But I didn't want that to be a barrier to staying connected to Jayda, and showing her that I really care about her.

Mort

This is not only her home, the whole island is. Everywhere I can take you on that island, I can tell you a story about that bay, how it's got its name, what sort of fish are out there, remember when we sailed in by the boats. So that is what you're looking at when a child, like Jayda, who's come back home, it's what they look at.

Emma

Jayda is back on country, and culture is an everyday part of life for her now. She's part of a Junior Rangers program, which connects kids with their land and totem, plants and animals. Mort told me that it's good to see we're now bringing their children home.

Jayda

Being home on the island with family and friends has really helped me. It's helped me remember that I'm not nobody. I'm not just another kid in the welfare system who's had a crappy life. I am somebody and I have family members and friends who do love me for me, and my brother. It just helped me recognise myself so much more and grow as a person. Out here it's just fresh, and like, good vibes only. No negative vibes, it's like a hug. When you get a hug, you get their energy as well. That's what it feels like, a big hug.

Emma

My time with this family is coming to an end, but I'll never forget the lessons they've taught me. You need to trust in family, they are the best way to create safety and happiness for children. Love and belonging helps guide the way.

Mort

I think a lot of the parents, they teach their children, when they're in crisis, don't trust the welfare. And I said to Jayda, Sometimes you need to trust them. And she said yes. Even when I talk about Emma, it's all good stuff. And Jayda can see that now.

Jayda

Emma, she never put her voice in front of mine, she always let me speak first. This is my life she was dealing with, my brother's life, and my mother and father's life, she's playing in their world. So she let that be, she knew that she was in a different territory, and actually let us go. And then when it was her turn to speak she would speak, which I thought was really nice. And she had that respect for us. She really supported me through this whole moment. And she'd always ask, "Are you all right,

you okay with this, yes, no? Do you feel this way or that way?" She wasn't my caseworker, she was a good person that was there for me and supported me, and just there for all the right reasons. And I'm grateful that I have a caseworker like Emma so I have great respect for people like her.

Sue

It's been a good experience with Emma and her department. We've been very impressed with the way they've managed us and Jayda. She has all the makings of an aboriginal activist. I see that in her future. We're very sad that we can't manage Sethy. It's our hope that he'll learn good living skills and maybe be able to come and live here later on when he's older. As a safe place for him, and he can learn culture, and about being among his own people too.

Jayda

There are kids who don't want to leave, like me, I didn't want to leave. But now that I've realised that it's for the good of yourself, the child, and possibly your parents. If you have siblings and stuff like that, yeah, it's good for them as well. Cause you can't live in an environment where you're not safe. You don't feel safe, you just, you're not being a kid. You have to fend for yourself, like me, I had to fend for myself and I had to be an adult for my whole childhood. And now that I'm here, I can finally be a child again. I can live my life as a kid, and not have to grow up and be adult for my own parents. And not have to fend for my brother, and stick, which I love doing though. He's got adults out there who are caring for him now. It's important for people to know, 'cause when they know something, they act on something. And when they act on something, something changes.

Mort

Walking on the beach one day, she said to me, she said, Pop, how much do you love me? You see all these little grains of sand on this beach? Watch, I'm gonna rub into a tiny one, and that's how much I love you.

Return to I am somebody

Was this content useful?
Your rating will help us improve the website.
Last updated: 21 Nov 2019