Monday, 11 May 2015

Barnados Mother of the Year National Announcement

I've just had the most amazing weekend in Sydney which I will never, ever forget thanks to Barnados Australia.  I'm still on a high, but am quickly coming back down to earth as I realise it's now all over and now we have to get back to our 'normal' life which can be very hard at times. 

On Friday Jalen and I were flown to Sydney for the national Mother of the Year final.  Reeve wasn't able to make it to Sydney for the whole weekend, so Jay was the lucky one who got to come with me.  Mum was going to fly up the next day with Harri and Kobe as Barnados had a jam packed weekend full of special things ready for us, and we wouldn't have seen very much of them if they came up with us. Jay was excited to have a day off school, and we were both excited to leave cold Tasmania for a few days.   
As we arrived in Sydney I felt very nervous but also very excited.  The amazing ladies who work for Barnados had been very organised in letting us know what we would be doing on the weekend, but I just felt so nervous about the whole thing. It is very overwhelming to have so much attention, and I still didn't think that I deserved to have such a special thing happen to me.  Even though I had read about all the other state finalists, I was still very nervous to meet them as I wasn't sure what the weekend with them would be like. 
We were met at the airport by Annalise who works for Barnados, and it was so nice to finally meet her after heaps of emails and phone calls back and forth for a few weeks.  We were also met by a volunteer and some of the other state finalists and their nominators  (a couple had arrived the night before) and we all jumped on a mini bus to go and have lunch in the city.

We had a lovely lunch and we all had a chance to get to know each other a little bit.  It was funny as I already felt like I knew them all from reading about them in the Woman's Day and also seeing video clips of their state finals. 
We had been told that Melissa Doyle from Channel 7 was going to be the MC for the national final on Sunday, and she was so lovely and said she wanted to meet us before the day.  Where we had lunch was just around the corner from Channel 7, so we walked around to Martin Place to meet her.  The first thing I saw was the Lindt Cafe and I felt really sad and also a little sick as I thought about what had happened there just before Christmas. 
We were there for a few minutes before Mel arrived, so we had some photos taken by a photographer with the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Mel then came walking up Martin Place and was so lovely. She was even more beautiful and lovely in real life. 

Mel was so down to earth and had a chat with all of us, and told us she had been reading all of our stories, and couldn't wait for Sunday.
We then checked into our hotel and had a little rest before we jumped back on the bus.
While we were in the bus we drove past 'Aaron's hotel' which made us smile.
Something which I was looking forward to, but was also a bit nervous about was choosing a dress for Sunday.  The fashion designer Leona Edmiston was one of the judges for the Mother of the Year award and is also an ambassador of Barnados.  She was so generous and let us go to her beautiful store in Double Bay and we were all able to choose a dress to keep, even the women who nominated the Mums! It wasn't Jay's favourite thing to do the whole weekend but he was a good sport about it and didn't hate it as much as he is putting on.
Everyone just grabbed a heap of dresses to try on. 
All of the dresses were so beautiful.  It was so hard to choose one out of all of them.  We had a lovely photographer Magdalena take photos at different things all weekend, and I met her for the first time while we were choosing dresses.   She made Jay and I laugh as she knew exactly which ones she thought I should get. She would tell me to put certain ones back as they wouldn't photograph well, and she said others were too busy.  She then kept making comments about which one would 'make my eyes pop' and which one had a 'flattering neckline', so for the rest of the time Jalen was commenting about 'flattering necklines' and eyes popping which was cracking us up. 
Jay came in handy as my clothes rack :)
It was so hard to choose a dress and I tried on a couple that everyone else absolutely loved, but I wasn't sure about it as it showed off my flabby bits too much.  While we were in the store Leona actually came in and it was so fun and lovely to meet her. She was so lovely in helping me choose something that I was comfortable in. 
I think I was the last one to decide on my dress, and I still wasn't sure if I really loved it once I got it, but I definitely felt comfortable in it and knew that it would hide all my parts I wanted hidden :)
That night we had free time, and were given money to buy dinner so Jay and I went out and looked around Darling Harbour (where our hotel was) before going to the movies together.  We had a really fun night, but were so tired already! Such party animals!
This is the view from our hotel room at night.
We were spoilt with a buffet breakfast both mornings.  If only we could wake up at home and just walk out to a beautiful cooked brecky every morning.
On Saturday morning we all jumped back on the mini bus (with our awesome driver Uncle Bruce) and went out to the Barnardos Auburn centre.  We had a tour of the centre and learned more about what Barnados do such as domestic violence counseling, child and adolescent sexual assault counseling, long day care which is mainly for families who need extra support and temporary accommodation.  I loved hearing that there were children from 25 different nationalities who went to the day care there.  

We then had a beautiful lunch of Turkish food (since it's such a multicultural area) before doing a little bit of media training, and then sitting in a circle and sharing our stories with each other.  I think that sharing our stories together was one of the highlights for me.  We already knew each others stories because had read about them online and in the Woman's Day, but without the media around we were able to just share so much more that we would want to be kept private, and there were lots of tears as we all just shared how much we loved being Mums and all the hard things that go along with it.   I loved hearing from the people who nominated the Mums. 
After our time at Barnados at Auburn we quickly went back to our hotel to freshen up, before going to a cocktail event.
The event was at Sails restaurant right on the harbour and it was an amazing backdrop for photos.

Jodi Gordon (Anasta - who is a model and actress) is an ambassador for Barnados and came along to our cocktail function with her beautiful little girl. 
Two of the beautiful Mums - Dreena from Victoria and Sidona from NSW and Nat who nominated Rachael from South Australia with Manisha who works for Barnados.
Can't get a better view than this!
More selfies were taken as we were leaving :) This is Ally who nominated her Mum Sidona.
Getting ready to go back to our hotel on the fun bus.
When we got back to our hotel we went and met Mum, Harri and Kobe who had arrived during the morning and who we had only briefly seen before we had to go to the cocktail function. 
It was so pretty at night at Darling Harbour.
We not only saw 'Aaron's hotel' but also 'Nick's'.  I'm sure Aaron and Dad were with us the whole weekend.
Harri and Kobe were so excited to be with us and missed Jay and I, even though we had only been gone for one night.

On Saturday night there were fireworks at Darling Harbour which we got to see from our hotel room.  Harri was so excited and said 'did Barnados organise this for the Mums!'.  He knew we were being totally spoilt so he totally thought they had organised that too!  It made me laugh.

The next morning Jay and I had to be up at 5:45 am so I could get my hair and makeup done for the announcement that day.  It was so lovely to have someone fuss over you and I kept thinking that this is what the life of a celebrity must be like - being given designer clothes to wear, your own hair and makeup artist and photo shoots.   I think I could get used to this lifestyle! ;)
Magdalena took some lovely photos of us and it was only 7am!
On Sunday morning four of us Mums got to go on Sunrise as they wanted to do an interview about the Mother of the Year awards.  It was very exciting to go to Channel 7 and to watch them as they presented the news and weather, while we got our microphones on.
The four of us were chosen because we all had very different stories.   Dreena has a foster daughter Lana (who nominated her) who she took in when she was 17.  Lana has had a very hard life, but has turned it around with the love and support of Dreena and her other daughter.  Jenne's daughter Saveeta has had a hard road with some severe mental health problems, but Jenne didn't give up when she couldn't get any help from doctors and did her own research. Saveeta is now doing well after Jenne found out that she has an inherited condition which is now being treated and Sidona has had twenty indigenous foster kids all together and currently has seven foster kids living with her!

We were literally just put on the couch really quickly while the weather was being done, and then the hosts Monique and Andrew quickly ran over and introduced themselves before it went live on air.  They didn't give us any idea about what they would be asking as there was no time, but it was probably better that way.  It was heaps of fun and I wasn't even that nervous. I just hated seeing myself on the two TV screens that were in front of us. It was hard to know how to sit and whether or not to cross your legs or not! I kept thinking that thousands of people were watching and I was just hoping I didn't look like a total idiot!

Mum and the boys got to watch it back at the hotel, and Mum took these photos on her phone. 

You can watch the interview online here.  We grabbed a quick photo with Monique and Andrew before heading off to the national announcement.

We were told beforehand that we weren't allowed to let the media know that the announcement was at Kirribilli House with the Prime Minister (for national security).  It was very exciting to get this very flash invitation in the mail.

The four of us that went to Sunrise arrived at Kirribilli House first and we were very excited.

The boys were asked to go down on the lawn with all the other kids, so the media could get some shots of the Prime Minister talking to them all.
Before the announcement we got photos taken by the official photographer as well as lots of other photographers who were there with the media.  When I put my dress on on Sunday morning I was really happy with my choice.  It was worth over $400 and I couldn't believe how generous Leona was in just letting us choose any dress we wanted.

All the state finalists and their nominators.
It was so nice that Reeve was able to fly down on Sunday morning and made it to the announcement.
We got our photos taken with the ambassadors of Barnados and sponsors before the announcement.  This is with Debra Lawrence, Mel Doyle and Dennis Coard who was also one of the judges.

 With Jodi Gordon (Anasta), Lisa Wilkinson and Braith Anasta.
 With Dr Ginni Mansberg.
With the beautiful Lisa Wilkinson.
With Professor Kerryn Phelps and her partner Jackie Stricker-Phelps.

With the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his beautiful wife 'Margie'. She was such a lovely lady.
After all the photos we headed into a marquee where each of the state finalists had their tribute video shown.  Reeve had to prerecord it at the state final in Hobart.  We had to email photos to them and the photos flashed up on the screen during the tribute.  It was so hard being up on stage, and seeing everyone in tears in the audience. I couldn't help but cry when I saw Kobe's lip start quivering when he saw the photos up on the screen.  He started really crying and people were passing him tissues, and he made me cry. I just wanted to give him a big hug, and when Harri saw me crying he gestured to me, asking me if I wanted him to come up on stage to give me a hug. I would've loved it, but all I could think about was that there were cameras, and celebrities and the Prime Minister there and I just thought he should stay where he was.  When I think about it now, I wish that I just got Kobe to come up on stage with me so I could comfort him, as it was so hard watching him feel so sad.
Mel then asked Reeve and I a couple of questions. My question was what I hoped for the boys for the future. I said that I hoped that even though they've been through some hard times that they will realise that life can still be good and to never give up.
After all of us had our tribute videos shown, the Prime Minister made a little speech before we were all called up on stage for the announcement. 

This was the announcement which was live on ABC. Beautiful Leanne from Queensland won and it took me a few seconds to register that it was Leanne and I started looking for her, before realising she was right next to me! I was so happy for her. She is such a quiet achiever who fosters three boys with special needs. Her days are full on and her and her husband Geoff are amazing in the way that they care for the boys. Her grown daughter also has special needs. She was so shocked and humbled by winning, and even had a box of wrapped chocolates and a card in her bag for the winner! She did not at all expect it to be her!

When I came down from the stage Harri said to me 'you'll always be the mother of the year to me Mum' which made me smile.

After the announcement Mrs Abbott came straight up to me and told me how touched she was by my story.  We had a lovely talk and I told her I would love a photo with her and her husband so she made sure that we got a photo.

Harri was so excited and pulled out his iPod and asked Mr Abbott for a selfie. It was so cute and it made his day.
Jalen also got one with the Prime Minister.

After the announcement it was very busy with more photos taken, and just chatting to people who came to wish us all well. 

I had to laugh when I walked past Mum being interviewed about the budget.
I wish I took some photos of Kirribilli House from the inside - I was obviously too busy to worry about pulling out my camera, but at least we have this one from outside.  What an amazing view of Sydney harbour! From the other lawn you get the view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
After the announcement Lisa Wilkinson came up to me and told me how touched she was by our story and said she cried when she heard it. 
 She was so lovely and asked me where the boys were and I called Jay over to say hi to her. She then said 'is that your other two boys who are rolling down the hill?'.  I was so embarrassed and said 'oh no they aren't are they!?' and she laughed and said she thought they were, but it was awesome and said how great it was to see them enjoying themselves and how great it was that kids could be kids, even at the home of the Prime Minister.

Yep! That's Kobe rolling down the hill at the home of the P.M!
Mel Doyle was just so lovely and down to earth.   It was such a fun and crazy day having all these celebrities approach us to have a chat.  It's definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
This is Martine who is one of the campaigns managers from Barnados. She was one of the main organisers of the whole Mother of the Year awards and did an amazing job at organising such a fantastic weekend.
We probably only had a half an hour after the announcement before we had to head to the airport on the bus.  It was sad to know that our amazing weekend was almost over.   This is Annalise who is also a campaigns manager and also helped to organise everything. It was so lovely to spend time with her and Martine on the weekend as they both stayed with us the whole time, and couldn't do enough to make sure that all of us felt comfortable and happy. I always say that I have the best job in the world, but I'm thinking that Martine and Annalise actually do!
I had to get a photo with our awesome bus driver Uncle Bruce. He was a legend and is such a lovely guy. 
We had a few hours at the airport with Mum (who stayed in Sydney) and Reeve before we had to head home, so we kept busy by talking to some of the other Mums who were also flying home, catching up on all the messages and comments on our phones and having a massage.
We were so excited to watch Leanne and her husband Geoff on the Today show yesterday morning.  You can watch it online here . It was exciting to see bits of us from the footage from the announcement.  

We were warned while we were in Sydney that we may have a bit of a downer once we get home, because we've just had this amazing experience and then we get back home to our regular life and it can be hard after being on such a high.    I'm still on a high from the weekend and love being able to keep in touch with the other Mums via Facebook and I know we will be friends for life.  I totally get what they mean though and think I already experienced that already after the state final and know that nothing will ever top this. 

It's not every day that you get to hang out with celebrities, go on national TV or go to the home of the Prime Minister and it'll never happen again, but I'm grateful for Reeve for giving the boys and I such an opportunity. 

It's very bitter sweet as I know it wouldn't have happened if Aaron and Noah were still here.  I hope that they were seeing what was happening as I'm sure they would've been happy that we were having such an amazing experience.  It's something we will never, ever forget.


  1. Wow, wow and wow!! Lisa, I realize this might not mean much from a total stranger but you really are a unique person. Your loving attitude towards your boys, your interest in others and your pure, sincere drive to be happy has really proven why you so deserved your award. Such a fabulous time in all of your lives that helps to add a layer of cushioning over your losses. Aaron and Noah must be over the moon happy for you. Great Job!! (and your dress looked fabulous on you. And, mature and handsome).

  2. This is soooo awesome! I'm so proud to "know" you and so happy that your family got to be honored this way. Very cool...again, this is from a stranger - but one who cares! Nice!!

  3. I loved this post so much. I laughed and cried all the way through it. both tears of being proud and happy and excited for you for having this amazing experience, and tears of sadness because Aaron and Noah aren't here but I have no doubt they were seeing everything and are the proudest out of any of us!! I say "never say never" as I know there are still so much of the world that needs to see your beautiful example. xx

  4. Love your dress! You looked just lovely and that photo of Kobe on the lawn made me laugh out loud! What an awesome experience for an awesome human being. I also feel like I know a celebrity - you. Even though I don't really know you at all! Love from Cape Town. xx

  5. wendyundercover aka wendytsuji15 May 2015 at 05:53

    What an amazing weekend!!! You looked beautiful in all of the pictures!! And the boys.....OMG, how handsome!!! You ARE a celebrity in my eyes. Your post made me cry, laugh, smile.....loved it!!!

  6. I too was laughing and crying all through this post. I absolutely loved that Harri and Kobe were rolling down the hill at the P.M's home. So funny! I'm so glad you had such an incredible experience and that you could share it with your boys and mum. Jay is such a goodlooking fella now. Can't believe how grown up he is. Great choice with the dress. It is so stunning on you xx


We are so grateful for everyone's love and support, and appreciate your comments xoxo

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...