On National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, we celebrate the crucial role Centacare foster carers Bindee and Karen are playing connecting two brothers to culture and country.
When Bindee decided to become a foster carer with her partner Karen, there was one person she couldn’t wait to tell.
Sharing the news with her mother that two young Aboriginal boys would be placed in their care was a poignant reminder of the past for Bindee, but one that also reinforced her hopes for the future.
“Mum is one of the Stolen Generation and when I told her what we were doing, that we would have two Indigenous boys with us, she said she was so proud,’’ says Bindee, of Kuku Yalanji and Nauiyu heritage.
“She said she wished she’d had someone to keep her connected to culture when she was growing up.’’
Since becoming the brothers’ long-term foster carers, nurturing their cultural identity and connection to country has been a focus for Bindee and Karen.
With the support of Aboriginal Cultural Consultant Les Wanganeen, they are researching the boys’ cultural roots and have bought them a digeridoo.
“We’re trying to find out what mob their mother is from,’’ says Bindee, who was raised in Darwin.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, purple, green; it’s about knowing where you’re from. That’s what completes you at the end of the day.’’
Bindee’s own identity has been pivotal in helping the boys “connect the dots’’ and understand what it means to be Aboriginal.
With Karen, she has provided opportunities and experiences to connect to culture, and the family has travelled to Darwin to spend time on land with Bindee’s uncle.
“My uncle has been teaching them the language too and they also Facetime Dad who’s from the Kuku Yalanji mob in far north Queensland.
“And if I’m on the phone to Mum, their ears prick up!’’
Karen laments the shortage of Aboriginal foster carers in South Australia. In the Centacare Foster Care program alone, half of the children are Aboriginal.
“I think it’s really hard for white or non-Indigenous families to try and connect kids to culture if they don’t know and live it themselves,’’ she says.
“It’s not just about going to a local Naidoc Week event. It’s much more than that.’’
Centacare Foster Care Manager Amalie Mannik says providing kinship care and intergenerational trauma are common barriers for Aboriginal people in becoming foster carers: “That’s why cares like Bindee and Karen are so valuable because they are able to connect the children in their care to culture and instill that sense of pride and self-worth.’’