Life Without Barriers’ NSW Cultural team connected a young person with his Mob and Country, helping him to experience how loved and valued he is.
Everyone has their own unique story to tell - today, meet Dan and his grandfather Rob.
“Can you please help me find my grandson?”
Rob*, a Wiradjuri Man, had asked Mark Merritt, Life Without Barriers Cultural Support Specialist and Wiradjuri/Weilwan man. Rob believed his grandson might be interstate and in Life Without Barriers’ care.
Mark and the Life Without Barriers' Cultural team began investigating and were able to connect the dots to Dan*, a 12-year-old in care in South Australia.
The Cultural Support team knew it was vital for Dan’s wellbeing for him to reconnect with his Mob. They organised a Return to Country and Family Group Conferencing to find suitable kin care for Dan at the same time.
Before the trip, Dan had mixed feelings. He wanted to see his family, but because he had lost contact with them, he grew up believing his Mob did not care for him. However, the moment Dan saw his family, any worries he had melted away.
When they met, without hesitation, Dan had wrapped his arms tightly around his pop, whose eyes filled with tears. He also met his sister and his young niece for the very first time. At first, Dan was unsure about meeting his mum, but as soon as he saw her, he gave her a very tight hug. Throughout his family visit, he was always looking for his mum and wanted to be physically close to all his family members.
The day after their first meeting, Dan and two Cultural Support team members drove to Rob’s property on Wiradjuri country. Rob cares for Country and plays an important role in maintaining culturally significant sites. When they pulled into Rob’s property, they were greeted with the breath-taking sight of a large rainbow, like the land itself was welcoming Dan home.
During the visit, Rob joyfully shared his cultural understanding and knowledge of his Country with Dan and the Cultural team. He gave them a tour of the land and showed them many culturally significant sites, including axe-shaping carving grooves, which were thousands of years old.
“I love culture,” said Dan, whose eyes would light up whenever his pop spoke. He had many questions and drank in the knowledge told to him by his grandfather, a respected Elder in the community.
During the two days of his visit, Dan could not take the smile off his face. He was completely at ease amongst his family, and an outside observer would never have guessed they had ever been apart.
“I have twin cousins! I did not know I have twin girl cousins!”
Dan loved meeting and learning about his family members. He had plenty of questions about who’re they or who’s that and had all his questions answered.
Gayle Cruickshank, a Kamilaroi/ Wadi Wadi/ Wandandian woman and Life Without Barriers Cultural Specialist, was with Dan on the trip and believes Dan’s Return to his Country and family did him a world of good.
“Dan needed to personally see that his Mob loved him, that he was wanted. To hear them say, 'I love you, buddy, I’ve missed you, I’ll talk to you soon.'”
Dan also had a chance to have his say at the Family Group Conferencing. “I want to stay connected with them,” said Dan, referring to his Mob.
Since returning from seeing his family and Country, Dan has had regular Facetime and phone calls with family. The connection to his family, culture and Country has improved his wellbeing significantly.
“Having a strong, Aboriginal, male role model is what Dan needed, and this was his pop too – being kin is so much more significant,” said Gayle.
A person's story is precious. We take storytelling seriously. Sometimes people are able to tell their own story, and we love that. We always make sure they give us their ok, and we will always honour the trust placed in us to bring their story forward. *Names have been changed to protect the children in this story.
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Life Without Barriers supports SNAICC.