Friday, 22 May 2015

Things Like This Don't Happen To People Like Us

I've had a lot of people ask me about the other state finalists who were also in Sydney for the national Mother of the Year announcement.  I keep directing people to  the Barnados Mother of the Year website to read about the other Mums but realise that eventually the page won't be there, so thought I would share why the other Mums were their state finalists on my blog, so I've always got it.

At the announcement they gave out lovely programs for the day which had a little bit about each of us. They are a lovely keepsake.
When we were together all of us said the same thing - that we are all just regular Mums so it was very overwhelming to have so much attention, as we just feel like we are doing what thousands of other Mums from all around Australia are doing every day.  This year we were obviously the lucky ones who were chosen.  As Leanne said before she was even named the national Mother of the Year  'things like this don't happen to people like us'. 

This is what Barnados put up on their website - it's a shorter version of each nomination that was sent in. All photos were taken by Magdelena Photography.

Leanne Robson - from Queensland (the national MOTY) 
Leanne Robson has put up her hand for the really tough gigs in life. The early childhood teacher has successfully raised two children to adulthood, including an intellectually impaired daughter, who also suffers from heart defects. Additionally, for the past eight years she has dedicated her life to being the care‐giver to three children with extreme disabilities.

Leanne was nominated by her husband Geoff, a police officer who works a 24‐hour rotational shift, for always being on call for her children and family. “Leanne’s day regularly starts at 5am, with dirty nappies and tantrums, and ends after 9pm, once school lunches are prepared for the next day and the house is put back together,” says Geoff. “On top of this, she is a great support for me, her elderly widowed mother, and her recently widowed sister.”

Leanne has twice been nominated for foster carer excellence awards and works closely with the department of child safety. She is a tireless advocate for the very best care for the three boys and is determined to give them the very best possible start in life. “She is an excellent mother and wife and would be embarrassed as all heck if she knew she was nominated,” Geoff says.

Chauntell McNamara - from the Australian Capital Territory
Chauntell McNamara’s heart knows no limits. Despite her long battle with IVF and the loss of her precious son, Jacob, who was stillborn, Chauntell chose to turn her grief into a gift for other children in need of love and care. Today Chauntell is the proud mother of three “blessings”, one biological and two adopted who came to her through the foster care system, seven years ago. She also provides emergency foster care of babies and is a passionate advocate for local children of asylum seekers, volunteering her time and teaching skills at an after school program. Chauntell is nominated by her friend Leilah Franklin‐Ayton, 34. “Chauntell opened her own home to me and my daughter when I was a new mum with no family in town, and gave us a home and unconditional support as we slowly found our feet,” says Leilah. “She has also raised thousands of dollars for local Canberran charities that support children at risk and young mothers. So many of the mums in our community are great mums because of the support they’ve been given by Chauntell,” Leilah says.

Chauntelle is in the black.
Sidona Hodge - from New South Wales 
Sidona Hodge is living proof that history doesn’t have to repeat – especially when there’s an amazing mum determined to write a better outcome. Growing up in poor conditions, surrounded by mental health issues, domestic violence and sexual abuse, Sidona determined to give her own kids – and others in need – a better childhood and future.

The proud indigenous mother of three adult children, and grandmother of three, has fostered over 20 indigenous children and currently has seven under the age of 15 years in her care. Sidona was nominated for Barnardos Mother of the Year by her daughter, Alison, 24, who admires her mum for making a difference to children in need. “Mum has a diploma in welfare and such a great understanding of how hard childhood can be, and she wants to make a positive difference in a child’s life. She wants to BE that difference,” Says Alison. “She is that mum that would give a child everything and be content knowing they had what they needed even if she had nothing.

She puts all her children first ‐ foster children and grandchildren, even the neighbours’ kids!” While kin care and keeping families and siblings together is Sidona’s priority and passion, any child that stays at Aunty Sidona’s house is considered part of the family. Sidona is considered a role model and mentor in her community and is often quoted as saying that the many kids in her life keep her young!

Jenne Roberts - from the Northern Territory 
20 years ago Jenne Roberts made the big decision to have a child on her own. She knew she had a lot of love to give and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life. Her daughter Saveeta, now 17, has nominated Jenne as thanks for her unconditional love and for helping her through tough times and mental health issues.

“Mum has supported me through my depression, suicide attempts, therapy and recovery and she has always put me first, making sure that I am cared for even when she is completely exhausted,” Saveeta says. “Even though she is a single parent she has never ever failed to provide for our little family and she works so hard and inspires me to work hard as well and to push myself in school and life. “I feel completely accepted by my Mum and I know that not everyone is lucky enough to feel that way.”

Jenne has also worked in Cambodia (where Saveeta grew up) Burma, Vietnam and other South East Asian countries creating policy for the prevention and treatment of HIVAids and on other public and sexual health projects.

Rachel Mayes - from South Australia
Rachel Mayes was already a busy mum of six – four biological children and two stepchildren – when her partner’s ex‐partner passed away, leaving three young girl orphans. Determined to keep the sisters together, Rachel and her partner became legal guardians of the three girls, two years ago.

Today Rachel is an even busier mum of nine children and wouldn’t have it any other way. Running the kids around to dance lessons or to work, organizing camping trips for the whole clan, or helping her 13‐year‐old manage her diabetes – it’s all part of the fabric of life in her family of 12. “What stands out the most to me is the fact that if you didn’t know the situation you would never know that they were not all her biological children,” Natalie says. “The love she has for each and every one of those children is beautiful. “I’d just like to show Rachel what a great job she does and how proud I am of her.”
Anne Caldwell - from Western Australia  Anne Caldwell raised her two children according to the Caldwell Creed: Try, every day, to do something nice for family, friends, a neighbour, a child, a stranger and an animal and you’ll live a happy life. Despite living below the poverty line, and experiencing the stress of the family court system, Anne instilled in her children the importance of character, above all else.

Today her two adult children call her ‘The Energiser Bunny Mummy’ because she never stops caring for others. Anne is nominated by her daughter Tammy‐Anne, 26, who credits her and her brother’s bright futures to their mother’s generous, selfless and loving nature. “Statistically speaking there’s a good chance we would have ‘poor outcomes across a range of dimensions of life’ and ‘entrenched disadvantage’. But thanks to our amazingly strong, resilient caring, loving, thoughtful, talented, creative mother we had one of the happiest, best, most interesting childhoods I can imagine,” Tammy‐ Anne says.

Tammy‐Anne and her brother were home schooled for many years, and now have two university degrees each. “Mum taught my brother and I about everything from animal care mechanics and bush survival skills to cooking etiquette and fashion sense. Mum has instilled in us both a deep awareness that you can achieve anything if you believe you can and are prepared to work hard to make it come true. “Because of Mum we are comfortable standing up for ourselves and for what is right and good in this world. As I say to my Mum: I wouldn’t be me without you.”
Dreena Lawrence‐Gray - from Victoria
Dreena Lawrence‐Gray was a single mum who already had a “lively, rebellious teenager” when she made the extraordinary decision to invite another one into her home. Lana Guest, then 17, was a trouble friend of her daughter’s. Born to heroin‐addicted parents, Lana was just 2 years old when her father died and her mother abandoned her to a life of mental, physical and sexual abuse. Lana, now 22, has nominated Dreena for Barnardos Mother of the Year for choosing to take her in and look after her as one of her own – baggage and all.

“I met Dreena when I was 17 after befriending her daughter, Rijana, who I had met out and about while I was living part time with my grandparents and part time on friends’ couches,” Lana says. “I was also struggling from drug addiction and had just dropped out of school. I started spending more time with Rijana and Dreena asked me one day if I wanted to move in. “I initially felt like a burden and wasn’t too sure but after much consideration I decided to move in and it turned my life around. Dreena took me in and made me feel like I was a part of the family and to this day I introduce her as my mother.”

Under Dreena’s watchful eye, Lana cleaned up her act, got a job and discovered the simple joy of family. “Dreena has opened so many doors for me and I hold her responsible for the positive changes I made to my life. Without Dreena’s huge generous heart and her beautiful family I would not be the person I am today ‐ I might not even be here today at all. “I am eternally grateful.”

and this is what was written about me:

Lisa King
As a mother and wife, Lisa King has endured unbearable hardship and loss but continues to be the rock of her family, and an inspiration to mothers from all walks of life. Lisa and her husband Aaron are parents to four boys: Jalen, Noah (who was born with a condition called Hydranencephaly), Harri and Kobe. Noah’s brain condition left him with the mental capacity of a three‐month‐old and a lifespan of just a few years.

However, due to the love and positivity of both parents, and the fulltime care of his school teacher‐trained mum Lisa, Noah made it to his 10th birthday before his tired body gave out. Just as the family began to cope with the loss of their “little monkey”, tragedy struck again – at just 39, Aaron suffered a fatal heart attack.

“We all wondered how Lisa would cope with this double tragedy,” says Reeve McLennan, Lisa’s friend and nominator for Barnardos Mother of the Year. “She has however continued to be inspirational. Lisa is always upbeat and positive and thinks of others. Even while she had Noah she spent time with a family based care group that took families with disabled children on outings.”

Lisa is also a regular blogger and has inspired many people around the world with how she has remained positive throughout her ordeals and has twice been voted Australian Mum Blogger of the Year.

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