• Aboriginal foster parent Eddie features in new doco 'For The Kids' which aims to promote Aboriginal carers and ensures children remain connected to families (NITV News)
Keeping Aboriginal children in care connected to family, community and country was the central focus of ‘Safe: On Country and In Culture's’ event.
9 Jun 2017 - 5:34 PM  UPDATED 9 Jun 2017 - 5:37 PM

The event was hosted by NSW child and family welfare peaks, the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (AbSec) and the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA).

‘Safe: On Country and In Culture’ aims to bring young care leavers, foster carers, advocates, policy makers and community leaders together to highlight the chronic shortage of Aboriginal foster carers in NSW.

Recent figures indicate around 40% of the 16800 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care nationally are located in NSW.

The short documentary ‘For the Kids’, recently screened as part of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival features the touching story of Kempsey-based Aboriginal foster parents Eddie and Rose Vale. It's aim is to encourage more Aboriginal carers in community and to ensure children remain connected to their families and culture.

For more than 30 years, foster carers Eddie and Rose Vale have dedicated their lives to looking after children in care.

“when you’re a foster carer you’ve got to take whoever knocks on your door. We get them knocking 1am or 2am asking us to take more kids. We always say yes,” they explained.

The Dunghutti couple say it’s the most challenging job they’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding.

“We had a couple of 18-year-olds living with us. we sat them down and told them it’s time to go out to the big world on your own and do you know what they said to us: ‘do we have to – they didn’t want to leave us!’ but we said go on and explore,” Eddie said.

"They’re blood, you’re looking after your people and its heartbreaking when they walk out their door with their bag but we’re strong and we treat them like one of our own.”

Rose says despite the many tears there are several benefits from caring for kids.

“Getting so many kids come into your house that love you and don’t want to leave you, they keep us on our toes but also keep us sane.”

Eddie says they start work at 5:30am and begin cooking at least seven lunches for the kids and work right until 10:30pm finishing dinner, cleaning and putting them to bed. But Rose says the job is never ending.

“We had to get rid of our king size bed because there was too many kids jumping in the bed with us during the night. Girls on one side boys on the other and there was just too many of them, but they didn’t want to leave us,” rose said laughing.

You can call them good Samaritans but they prefer the term soul mates, Eddie and Rose were both raised from their grandparents. That’s why they’ve dedicated their lives to helping out others.

“I kept that dream of what my grandparents done,” Eddie explained.

"They’re blood, you’re looking after your people and its heartbreaking when they walk out their door with their bag but we’re strong and we treat them like one of our own.”

The formidable couple have 32 grandchildren of their own, but they say they won’t ever stop caring for children.

“We love doing and we will keep on doing it until we pass on and then hopefully one of our kids will take it on and help the next generation,” Rosie said as Eddie squeezed her tightly in a warm embrace.

Burrun Dalai Aboriginal Corporation Foster Care Support Worker, Warren Ahoy says we need to see an increase in Indigenous carers. He was raised by his grandparents and says strong family members empower young people.

“By having strong Indigenous grandparents, aunties and uncles we are able to give pass that strength to kids in care, so we can change their circumstances - that’s what family does, it’s a support system,” he said.

“If I close my eyes and think about what my life might have been like if I didn’t have that connection to culture and country I really can’t imagine that."

Mr Ahoy says intergenerational trauma can be prevented by positive foster carers who are immediate family to Indigenous children.

“By giving them a positive role model you’re passing it on to the community,” he said.

“Children without positive role models – we see what happens, they influence other children, our community… so we’re got an opportunity to change the outcomes of all of our communities, not just kids in care.”

The first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia in netball, Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM remembers growing up in a chaotic household with several brothers and sisters.

“We were quite poor our house had no plumbing and hardly any electricity. It was quite tough, but it was wonderfully rich growing up, there was always brothers and sisters around and aunties and uncles.
Looking back the Yuin woman Marcia says she really appreciates her family and connection to country.

“We grew up with a lot of security in who we are and where we belong and retrospectively I get to appreciate how much that contributes to how you grow up to be an adult,” she says.

“If I close my eyes and think about what my life might have been like if I didn’t have that connection to culture and country I really can’t imagine that.

Her strong sense of family, identity and pride in her own culture has enabled her to be the woman she is today. Her mission is to help spread the message about importance of a strong family and cultural pride.

“I think every Aboriginal child in the country deserves to have the same thing.”

ACWA CEO, Andrew McCallum says Aboriginal children seeking care should be placed with Aboriginal carers and kept on country.

Mr McCallum says there are huge benefits of Indigenous children being cared for by Indigenous families.

“Their lifelong outcomes are determined by how connected they feel to country and culture. If we can maintain that, then they have better opportunities to do better in adulthood. That’s what our focus is on. This is about breaking the cycle. We don’t want them having kids in care themselves.”

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