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.’’

*Today is National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Children’s Day. The 2020 theme ‘We are the Elders of tomorrow, hear our voice’ honours our Elders – custodians of traditional knowledge, passed down to children through stories and cultural practice. 

Thirteen years fostering children has taught Lyn and Roy Matthews a thing or two about parenthood.

From delighting in the seemingly small and sometimes silly things, to endless patience and love, the couple knows what it takes to raise a happy child.

“It’s about giving them safety, because that makes all the difference,’’ says Lyn.

“And love and life experiences,’’ adds Roy.

Together, they share this knowledge and wisdom with the birth families of the children they nurture as reunification foster carers at Centacare.

The Matthews have fostered 20 children, for various lengths of time, including long-term, short-term and respite placements.

“It’s taught me to appreciate the little things in life; the things that you don’t often realise,’’ says Lyn.

“You tell a child to go to bed and they do, but they don’t put their pyjamas on because they don’t know any different.

“Or you teach them to catch and throw a ball for the first time, or help a teenager to use a knife and fork. It’s all those simple things in life that we help with, things that most of us take for granted.’’

When it comes to balancing the demands of being a reunification carer, Lyn lives by a simply philosophy: “Hope for the best and make peace with the rest.

“We do the best we can do for the child and then we hope everyone else does their bit too.’’

She adds that the role has given her a different view of motherhood: `It’s taught me that a mother is not necessarily a biological mother; that different people can mother children.

“As the saying goes, it takes a community to raise a child, and it really is very much like that.’’

Every parent needs a well-earned break to rest and recharge, and foster carers are no different.

That’s when respite carers step in: to share the responsibility of caring for children and young people while also providing them with an opportunity to extend their friendship and support networks.

“It takes a village to raise a child and respite carers are a crucial part of that village,” says Amalie Mannik, Manager of Centacare’s Family Preservation Foster Care Program.

“Respite allows for the carer to rejuvenate, re-energise and replenish their resources, enabling them to maintain the quality of the care that they provide. It can prevent placement breakdowns and carer fatigue.

“In order to care for others, you also need to look after yourself.’’

Organised in partnership with foster carers, respite care is planned around maintaining the child’s regular routine.

Respite carers are carefully matched to children and long-term carers to ensure the best connections and experience for themselves, the children, and their foster families.

“I feel that I help children to acknowledge that people can connect with love and respect, creating a positive reinforcement,’’ says Carmen Polidori, a Centacare respite foster carer.

“I enjoy finding the child’s positive attachments through playing and talking. I believe respite foster care strengthens and brings out the best in a child in a positive way.’’

Respite carers undertake the same training, assessment and approval process as foster carers, and have the option of providing other forms of care, such as short-term and long-term placements.

“Respite carers are an invaluable part of the community of care that provides a consistent and stable environment for children to thrive,’’ says Leanne Haddad, Executive Manager of Children’s Services.

“Regular support and specialised training gives respite carers an understanding of the experiences of children in care, and how this affects their needs. It also helps to prepare new carers to meet the needs of children.

“Even if it’s only for one night, respite care is beneficial for children because it encourages them to forge new friendships and widens their network of familiar faces they can trust. They also get to experiences new places and opportunities.

“It brings back the neighbourhood approach to care as it takes more than one family to raise a child.’’

Centacare is seeking respite carers to join our foster care team.

A child-centred approach, flexibility, empathy, love for children and a willingness to support families is essential.

For more information on becoming a respite foster carer, phone our foster care team on 8159 1400.


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