Caring for the children left behind: Australian of the Year Awards 2015

The Mirabel Foundation, which Jane Rowe (pictured) started, actively helps more than 1400 children whose parents died from drugs or alcohol. (Graham Denholm).

What started as an after-work commitment to help children whose parents had died from drugs and alcohol has grown to a full time job. The Mirabel Foundation has helped more than 2000 children since its inception.

The Mirabel Foundation has helped more than 2,000 children who were orphaned, abandoned, in the care of extended family or could not be taken care of because of their parents’ substance abuse.

When a drug-using parent overdoses, or cannot be a parent because of their crippling addiction, the children are often forgotten, Mirabel Foundation head Jane Rowe says.

The lack of support for those children drove Ms Rowe to start the Mirabel Foundation in 1998.

Last year Ms Rowe was a Victorian finalist for the Australia’s Local Hero 2015 award, as part of the Australian of the Year Awards 2015.

Today, the organisation Ms Rowe founded actively helps more than 1,400 children with 24 staff and more than 40 volunteers.

It started in 1998 after seeing a distraught six year old at a funeral changed something inside Ms Rowe.

An after-work commitment to help the kids “just grew from there”, Ms Rowe said.

While she appreciated the nomination, Ms Rowe said she has amazing help in her staff and volunteers.

“We’ve got a great team that drives with me,” Ms Rowe said.

Those staff and volunteers regularly deal with traumatised children and the Mirabel Foundation receives new referrals every week.

The reasons to help children could be seen as compassionate or economical, Ms Rowe said.

“Every child has a right to a sense of belonging… to feel safe,” Ms Rowe said.

“If these children’s trauma is not addressed, and they don’t have access to education, they’re much more likely to either attempt suicide or abuse drugs and alcohol later in life.”

Sixteen years since the Mirabel Foundation’s inception, Ms Rowe's days are filled with lobbying for funding, liaising with government departments and mentoring staff and volunteers.


  • SBS is running a series of articles highlighting Australians named as finalists in this year’s Australian of the Year Awards, and state categories.

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