Carers help transform mum’s life: Katie’s Story

Domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, mental trauma, homelessness, stealing to support a habit, police, court appearances … *Katie’s life had spiralled way out of control.

It seemed like she was on an endless misery-go-round, and she didn’t know how to get off. The low point came when she lost custody of her eldest children – and it was at their initiative.

Somehow she found the strength to reach out for help, and luckily it was there for her.

Now things are looking up. She can see a way ahead to a better life for her and her children.

Katie has been ‘clean’ for two years. She has food and shelter. If things keep heading the right way she will soon have all of her children back with her.

Reuniting her children- all under the one roof – would be the pinnacle of redemption following the depths of despair she has been through.

‘I want my family back together,’ she said.

The turning point came when she contacted Aboriginal CatholicCare Services in western Sydney.

‘I had to change my life around, and they have been there for me every single day,’ she said. ‘I feel so comfortable speaking with the counsellor. She gave me amazing words, and reminded me of the values of my grandparents, of what I want in my life and how I can raise my kids. I might have a good cry, and she is always there to sit and listen. The shoulder’s there, and I can reach her any time I need to.

‘Without that support, and knowing my needs, I probably would have tripped along the way to where I am now.

‘They have never left me; they have stuck through it all with me. They have done an amazing job.’

Katie was the eldest child in a family where domestic violence and alcohol abuse were commonplace. She was a single mum at 17.

When she was subjected to violence in a long-term relationship, she thought that was “normal”.

She lived in constant fear, copping a “good couple of hidings” witnessed by the children.

But she ‘got used to the hits; the emotional abuse was worse’. Two years ago she realised it was “either him or them (the children) and they’re the most important thing”.

CatholicCare, meanwhile, organised educational courses for her, on everything from parenting and anger management to finances, gambling help and domestic violence.

She is studying mental health issues at TAFE and would like to work in that field.

‘I’m getting back to being a mum, a normal mum. We have all been through so much; it takes you off your feet a bit. Because of all the trauma, we have had no time to heal; we’ve never had the chance to heal properly together.’

Aboriginal CatholicCare Services at Emerton regularly helps scores of people, many of them indigenous. Its counsellors deal with trauma, domestic violence, financial, gambling and relationship problems, handling some 300 visits monthly.

The service is open to all, and attracts many people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The centre also runs a number of weekly gatherings, including mum’s groups, kids’ dance, healing art and sewing. Fresh food from the OzHarvest charity is provided every Thursday.

Manager Linda Davis said Aboriginal women were putting their trust in CatholicCare and asking staff to support them in working towards getting their children back.

‘People trust us, and that’s a huge thing. Women are asking, “Can you help? Where do we start? That’s what Katie did. She worked on all of that, and look at her now.’

She said the government focus now was on getting children out of home care and back home in a safe, secure environment.

Katie said CatholicCare was ‘not just a service’.

‘I have found friends, and even ‘family’. My kids call her (case worker) auntie as a mark of respect.’

*Not her real name

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