Young women who have experienced removal of a child use images to explore their identities as mothers in a new book created by Breathing Space.

As part of the Photovoice project, participants engaged with the pilot program were gifted a digital camera to capture images that represent their journey as mums.

The result is See My Voice: My Identity as a Mum, a collection of photographs and words.

“We started Photovoice to give the young women a platform to have their voices heard,’’ Case Manager Caz McClure said.

“The internal conflict they have over their parental identity whilst not having children in their care is ever-present – they carry it all the time – and that was really highlighted in the little everyday moments and the simplicity of what they chose to capture.

“The validation they got from being able to explore how they felt through imagery was huge.

“Some of the women said it was the first time they felt truly recognised as a mum.’’

Caz highlighted a photograph of three seagulls taken by one participant.

“In her caption, she wrote `I see families, everywhere’. Most of us would walk past the seagulls, but for her, they were a painful reminder that her family is a little bit more fractured and complicated,’’ she said.

Breathing Space works with women aged under 25 years who have experienced removal of a child or children from their care and are therefore at heightened risk of recurrent removal in the future.

The trauma-responsive therapeutic intervention – believed to be an Australian-first – delivers holistic, wraparound supports for women whose support needs are largely disregarded after child removal.

“When a baby or a child is removed, generally the woman is left just to pick up her things and find her way home; she doesn’t get many services because she doesn’t have children in her care, so she’s in that forgotten land,’’ said Breathing Space Manager Jessica Justice.

“Photovoice was about privileging their voice and giving them a platform to talk to society to say `this is how we see the world.’

“They all may not be experiencing motherhood, but they do have an identity as a mother.’’

Case Manager Oakleigh Lehman said she was inspired by the women’s creativity and the connection the book created between participants who had never met.

“It’s that little book of hope for them to keep going, and a reminder that even though things may be challenging now, they can get through eventually,’’ she said.

“It tells them that their voices are heard, that they’re valid, and they matter.

“They trusted us with their voices and now other people can hear them too.’’