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Joel

Jalil is the best big brother you could ever have. He loves AJ and Kierra so much, and he has ever since they were born. Jalil's experienced way more than any 14-year-old kid should, and for him to have childlike joy, it's just amazing to see him smile and kayak. Just having a childhood is amazing.

We always try to keep kids at home. If I'm part of a decision where we have to bring a kid into care, I want to make sure that their lives are actually better for it.

Jalil

Before Joel came along, I had to step up and be like a role model for AJ and Keira. There's nobody else for them to look up to except me. I had to clean the house up every day, and get them dressed for school during the week, and walk them to school.

Joel

I'd been told a lot of things about Jalil. The descriptions never acknowledged the pain and the trauma that made him act out in ways that pushed people away. When you talk to Jalil, you see how much of an amazing kid he is, he's so loving, and he is the biggest advocate for his little siblings. And that didn't marry up with what was being written in the reports. AJ and Keira had found themselves a place to stay. It was safe, but I wanted to find a way that I could connect them to family and culture. My job is not to recreate the wheel, but to draw on the strengths of families and communities that have been there all along. I started with the family finding approach to connect the children with their large Aboriginal family. From the moment I met the family, they were a powerhouse of love. And we had a family group conference within a few weeks. It was all systems go. Jalil was front and center in the room, moment for him to realise that he was so loved and cared for by his family.

Jalil

When I was at the family group conference, I liked that I had a voice, and everyone got to hear what my ideas were.

Joel

His family gave Jalil a sense of belonging and love that is helping him to slowly heal.

Jalil

Now I live with my Auntie May and my little siblings, AJ and Keira. Now that I live with Auntie May, I have a chance to be a kid again, and don't have to be like the man of the house, because Auntie May is like the king. Me and Auntie May have a really nice connection.

Joel

I hung out with Jalil and his family a lot, because I knew it was only time that would allow Jalil to feel safe enough to reach out when he was feeling worried. I also recognise that I am just one part of the puzzle. I was there to guide him towards the lighthouses of strength already there shining in his life. Ethically, I start from a position where the answers already lie within the family. They know what is best. It's how trauma is healed.

Jalil

I like working with Joel because Joel knows where I'm coming from, and he actually listens to me. He's upfront with me, instead of lying and trying to get me places when I don't want to go.

Joel

I helped Jalil's mum and dad as best I could with services and support. I'm hopeful that one day, they'll be able to play a bigger role in their children's lives. I am so proud of Jalil, and the progress he is making at school. He's on the SRC, he's blitzing science, he's getting much better at math’s, and his teachers love him.

For me, as an Aboriginal man, it's so amazing to see Jalil being connected to his culture. He's playing the didge with his younger brother, he's painting with his Auntie May, and the strength that I see in him more and more, it fills me with hope. He's just a different kid now.

Jalil

Now that I live with Auntie May, I still get to see mum and dad on the weekends, or when mum has time to come up and see us. I really enjoying kayaking because it gives me time to myself, and just to listen to myself think. My dream job is to be an Aboriginal actor, and I want to be in a movie, and be on Home and Away, and one day go to Hollywood.

AJ

I like living with Auntie May because I get to see most of my siblings. I just want to be as close to Jalil as I can. He's always been there when I need him.

Keira

I love Jalil because he ain't just a role model for me, he's a role model for a lot of people. He's always there for me. When I'm sad, he's usually there to cheer me up. I like it when Auntie May teaches me about Aboriginal painting, and it's really fun. She paints a lot, and she paints really good pictures.

Joel

I try to remember that when teenagers are pushing you away, this is when they need you most. This is when you need to lean in even more. You never know if you could be the one that makes the connection to set them on a different path. Jalil has taught me this every day.

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Last updated: 19 Nov 2019