What happens when grandparents are left holding the baby?
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 20:30

Grandparents are now the most popular form of child care in Australia. They are busily babysitting nearly half of Australia’s young children.

But how much should be expected of grandparents when it comes to raising the kids?

Ngarrindjeri great-grandmother Maxine Risk-Sumner looks after her grandchildren and great-grandchildren whenever required. Being part of the stolen generation, she sees her greatest role as providing guidance for the future.

“I never got to know my parents, or my grandparents, so it was important to me that when my grandchildren came along they knew their culture, identity, and the language we use,” Maxine tells Jenny Brockie on this week's episode of Insight

Elizabeth Vescio, 61, retired five years ago so she could help look after her four grandchildren. She says it keeps her young.

Balancing childcare costs and full-time work led Meetu and Ritesh Rajput to convince Ritesh’s parents to fly from India to Canberra to look after their two children.

For grandparents Virender and Rekha Rajput, both in their sixties, it’s provided an opportunity to pass their language and culture onto their grandchildren, but at a cost.  “We left our social life behind. Here we have a language problem… here our social life is looking after our grandchildren,” says Virender.

“I always told my daughter I wanted lots of grandchildren, but I never, ever thought for a moment that I was going to be bringing them up!"

When it comes to grandparents pitching in, not everyone agrees about discipline and parenting methods. When Suganya Chandra asked her parents and parents-in-law for help, there were unexpected clashes over daily issues, like getting her older son ready for school, and the use of nappies. “They felt that … I was using them for my convenience, and I was torturing the baby.”

For others, the stakes of looking after their grandchildren are much higher.  There’s a growing army of grandparents taking over full-time caring roles of their grandkids.

Charlotte, 15, has been raised by her single grandfather John, 67, since she was a toddler.  Together, they’ve navigated anxiety and depression, and now the awkwardness of dating.  John insists any suitors ride their push-bike to his hobby farm to have a chat before taking his granddaughter out.

Deb, 61, was planning to live in America with her new girlfriend when she became a stay-at-home, single grandmother raising her three grandchildren under the age of 6.

“I always told my daughter I wanted lots of grandchildren, but I never, ever thought for a moment that I was going to be bringing them up!" she says.

"It was a no-brainer. They’re my flesh and blood and I can’t see how I would allow anyone else to bring them up … but I’m tired, tired, tired.”

Deb has used all her superannuation to keep her mortgage going and raise her grandchildren, but worries about her employment prospects when she has to go back to work to build up her superannuation again.

This week on Insight, we hear from grandparents, parents and grandchildren on the highs and lows of grandparents looking after the kids.



  • Presenter: Jenny Brockie
  • Producer: Rose Hesp
  • Producer: Saber Baluch





ELIZABETH:  Put your aprons on first, Lukie you put on yours.

MARCUS:  No. I’m the boss baby.

ELIZABETH: There you go, stand up.

MARCUS: I'm the boss.

ELIZABETH:  You're the boss baby, are you?  And what are we going to do now once we've done this?

MARCUS:  We're going to have pizza pie.

ELIZABETH:  Let's just leave that. 

MARCUS:   This is a black one.

ELIZABETH:  We don’t put the black one in, alright?  You sort them out, good boy. So Nanny's going to squash them and you're going to take the pips out. You're not going to play in the water, that's okay. Yeah.

LUCAS: I see Nanny three days a week, she picks us up after school.  Every Monday and Wednesday I vacuum for her and on the school holidays and curriculum days I help her cook.

MARCUS:  Most times I like being with Nanny. I watch her cook and sometimes I help her cook, so if she makes scrambled eggs for me I put the egg in and I squash it and mix it.

ELIZABETH:  See if you can reach the basil.

MARCUS:  Nanny, can I go in the mud so I can get my tomato?

ELIZABETH:  No, no, that's alright, we don't go in the mud.

MARCUS: And what can I pick?

ELIZABETH:  Lucas, can you go and get me an eggplant too?


MARCUS:  Why let Lucas do everything?

ELIZABETH:  Do you want to pick the tomatoes for me so we can make a salad for dinner.

Me and my brother are naughty, sometimes cheeky, we fight, we scream at each other or we can pull out all the, all the dead weeds and we're like we throw them inside and then she gets angry at us and then she screams at us and that's pretty much it. 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Elizabeth, that's you with two of the grandchildren, the two grandchildren you look after three days a week. How much of a handful are they? 

ELIZABETH:  They can be a handful. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  In what way? 

ELIZABETH:  They do tend to fight being boys but, um, with the little one, Marcus loves to play. He's one of these children that have always got to be doing something.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How many grandchildren do you have all together? 

ELIZABETH:  I have four. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you only look after these two or do you look after the other two as well? 

ELIZABETH:  Well, these two I looked after from six, seven months old three days a week, all the time.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is that something you expected you'd be doing at your age/

ELIZABETH:  Probably not, but what I did was I started to look after the first one and still kept working part-time.  Then I actually started enjoying it. When the second one came along my daughter was still thinking of putting them in day care, and I said no, let me speak to my employer and he was happy to give me two set days of work so I could look after them three days. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So do you still work?  

ELIZABETH:  It was getting a bit much, three days of looking after them, two days work, and I mean weekend all I did was housework so I started working one day a week. Then came the time and my husband said look, you don't need to work anymore.  He said do you want to stay home and just look after the grand kids, that way you've got free time to yourself which I did.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why do you do it? 

ELIZABETH:  Because I love it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was it a choice or did you feel you had to? 

ELIZABETH:  No, it was a choice. My mother looked after my children and my daughter was the first grandchild so she had six years with her grandmother, or four and a half, say, and my mum loved it and it kept her young and I think it's what it does to me.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were you doing there, making olives? 

ELIZABETH:  We do everything together. We made olives, we make salami, we make sauce, but I always call them over when I'm doing it even if it's a weekend, they come and they help out and they love it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you get them to a vacuuming which I found interesting. 

ELIZABETH: Oh yes, Lucas is very good, Lucas is a great help. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That's very clever? 

ELIZABETH:  He's have a good helper, Marcus is a good mess maker but Lucas is a great cleaner. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Virender and Rakha, you moved to Australia from India in September to look after your two grandchildren aged eight and two. What led to that? 

RAKHA (Translation): Our son told us that they were having problems. In India it is easy to get a maid and that helps. Here they both work and help is expensive so we thought that we must help them out.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Meetu, why did you ask? 

MEETU:  Full time working and most of our salary used to go in just paying child care. So we thought that we might ask our parents to come along and help us out because otherwise I couldn't have afford to keep working and just keep on paying the child care and so we just thought we, we might ask them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You might ask them? 

MEETU:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  To come from India to Australia? 

MEETU: Yeah.  To help us.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ritesh, these are your parents. How much, how much persuading did it take? 

RITESH: Well, it took us a while to convince them. 

MEETU:  Took us a while because every now and then we used to talk and mum used to ask how's Jay doing, how’s Navya doing, and I'm, I used to say I'm at home looking after them because he's sick, or Navya's sick, so and one day she's like oh, my God, this is in like two weeks and three weeks you're taking three, four days off.  So she saw the problem and so I thought it was the right time I might ask them whether they would like to come along and along and help out.

JENNY BROCKIE:  After you'd been telling the stories about what was happening, they came? 

MEETU:  That's right. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Virender, what was it like to leave your home in India?  What did you leave behind?

VIRENDER (Translation):  We left our social life behind and have very little here. We had our circle of friends in India, here we have a language problem. If we meet an Indian family in the park we talk to them. Here our social life is looking after the children. That is the reason for our being here. That’s the main purpose so we do that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Navya, what's it like having your grandparents looking after you? 

NAVYA: Yeah, um. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me what you like about it. 

NAVYA: Because we can go to different places and we can do lots of things together. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's the routine Virender?

VIRENDER (Translation):  We play with the kids, we take them to the park if the weather is good. So we keep them amused and occupied for about 1 or 2 hours.  If we meet an Indian family there we have a little chat, there are very few Indians where we live. It is very rear that we meet someone and talk to them.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's it like looking after an eight year old and a two year old when you're well into your 60's? 

RAKHA (Translation): We feel good caring for them, we spend time together and look after them well.   

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is it a way of them keeping Navya connected to India? 

RAKHA (Translation): Yes, it is. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Maxine, how many grandchildren do you have? 

MAXINE:   I have four, four grandsons and one granddaughter. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you have great grandchildren? 

MAXINE:   Only got four great grandchildren. 


MAXINE:   Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how old are your grandchildren? 

MAXINE:   My, the three boys, my grandsons are, one's early 20s and the other one's middle 20s and I think the eldest is 28, 29. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mmm, and you've got a granddaughter who is 16? 

MAXINE:   16, she's just got her driver's licence. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   How involved were you in their upbringing, the grandchildren? 

MAXINE:   Oh my grandchildren, that was so important to me. You know, because I come from an era where I was taken away from my parents, I never got to knew my parents, I didn't know my grandparents. And so I was raised in an institution, a very religious, rich institution, and so I didn't get to have that family environment like youse and so it's so important to me that when my four grandchildren came along that they knew their culture. They knew their identity, their language we used.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what does that mean in terms of how you see your role as a grandparent now? 

MAXINE:   If they're there and they fall off the track, I gently put them back on the track. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And does that happen?  I mean have you had to do that as a grandparent? 

MAXINE:   Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  In what ways, can you give a sense of what sort of things? 

MAXINE:   I'm there, you know, like financially, I guess everyone's there financially for their grandchildren.  I'm there emotionally, I'm there to make them feel good about themselves. Nobody ever made me feel good about myself. I had nobody to bounce off so it's important that my grandchildren have some direction. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Deb, you've been raising your three grandchildren on your own for the past eleven years. Why? 

DEB:  Um, well my daughter wasn't capable or able to look after them and I was, so I decided that that was the best thing that I could do for them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how old are they now? 

DEB:  Charlie is twelve, Olivia is eleven and De-elle is fourteen. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And she's not here tonight but clearly the other two are? 

DEB:  Oh yeah, they're very excited. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you have a choice?  Could you have said no? 

DEB:  No, not at all, because there's no way that I would allow my grandchildren to be brought up by strangers, not that I don't think other people are capable of doing a good job because sometimes I don't feel like I do a great job. I mostly feel confident that I do but they're my flesh and blood, I just can't see how I could allow anyone else to bring them up. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were you doing before you were raising your grandchildren? 

DEB:  Well, I was living in America with my new girlfriend and prior to that I was working in the Sheriff's office for about eight years and worked for Qantas as an aircraft maintenance engineer and prior to that I was an armament fitter in the Air Force and it just goes on and on and on. I get bored very easily. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you had a very, so you had a very different life? 

DEB:  Very different life. 


DEB:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what was it like suddenly changing that life to become a full time carer for three kids? 

DEB:  It was a no brainer. I didn't, it was something that I just truly didn't even think twice about it. To me it was as natural as nurturing my own daughter.  I see them as my children. I know they're my daughter's children but I see them as mine. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How has it been different second time round though to raising your own daughter? 

DEB:  Um, I would say that in some ways it's easier and in other ways it's more difficult. The dynamics of having three children close together is hard because like, you were saying before, they fight and niggle each other all the time. You feel like you're a full time referee but they're getting closer to perhaps at some point they will be, be with their mum again. I know that, Charlie would love to go and live with his mum and that may be on the cards in the near future which I would love nothing more for them to get some time and for my daughter to actually be a full time parent again. Apart from the fact that I feel like, um, I just haven't got it in me anymore. I mean I love them dearly but you know, I'm just tired, tired, tired, and…


DEB:  Oh, absolutely. Deep down in my mind I think I can't wait till my daughter feels like she can take it on again because sometimes the reflections that I have, I don't have as much fun as I used to have with them and I don't want that to impart on them.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Olivia and Charlie, tell me about your grandmother.  You call her GG, is that right, is that what you call her?

OLIVIA: It was my name first. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That's your name first, okay. 

OLIVIA: And then Charlie stole it off me so because I call her that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay just for the record, that's Olivia's name for her grandmother and Charlie stole it, right? 

OLIVIA:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me how you feel about her? 

OLIVIA:  Um, well I kind of like living with her. She's always like there and she has, she has a car so she can come like pick us up.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what about you Charlie, what do you think about GG? 

CHARLIE:  She's just awesome. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me a little bit more about why you think she's awesome? 

CHARLIE:  Because she cares about us. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how does she show that? 

CHARLIE:  In a loving way. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's she like compared to other kids parents? 

OLIVIA:  Um well, first of all she's a grandparent and everyone else in my class has like their mum and dad looking after them, or a foster carer. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what's that like for you? 

OLIVIA:  I don't mind being different to other people. I actually quite like it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about you Charlie? 

CHARLIE:  I say with Olivia, I feel like I'm more like specialer because I feel like grandma loves us and I know that and so when I come home from school one afternoon I can talk to somebody, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And your grandmother was talking about, you know, maybe one day going to live with mum. How do you feel about that? 

CHARLIE:  Good. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You'd like to do that.  What about you Olivia? 

OLIVIA:  I don't want to go. 


OLIVIA:  Because I've been with grandma since I was very young and to her, well to me, that's my mum and my mum is my grandma, so that's why I want to stay. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You want to stay?

OLIVIA:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mmm. Deb, you were 24 when you had your daughter?  What is it like raising them compared to raising her? 

DEB:  In some ways, um, it's a lot better because for one thing when I raised my daughter, I worked all my life and I, sometimes the conversations with my daughter was about that I wasn't always there, and she was with, in child care and things like that. So with these children I'm there all the time, I know everything that goes on with them, I feel that that has helped me to be, be there for them because I see some things about with my daughter that perhaps might have been a downfall as a single parent bringing up a child and always in day care. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What has it meant for you financially? 

DEB:  I've had to use like most of my, well all of my superannuation to help keep the mortgage going and to help with the kids. If I didn't have those allowances from Family and Community Services, I wouldn't be able to not go to work. But one of the problems is that, and I do worry about when it comes time for me to go back to work because I'm going to have to so I can build up my super again, and if I don't start working soon, when I'm a little bit older it might be harder for me to go back to work. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is this the life you expected? 

DEB:  No, not at all. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  In your 60's? 

DEB:  No, I always told my daughter that I wanted lots of grandchildren but I never, ever thought for a moment that I was going to be bringing them up. I might have asked her to stop at one. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are you more or less tough on them than you were on your daughter, do you think? 

DEB:  More tough, yeah. 


DEB:  Mainly because it is, prevents chaos. For example, if I set very strict boundaries it's easier for me to manage three children as opposed to one.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Elizabeth, do you ever clash with your children about what's best for your grandchildren? 

ELIZABETH:  Not really. I mean they set the standards of what they, what their children sort of, I mean they'll say things like now don't give them too much sweets, don't give them this, don't give them that, but then they accept the fact that I will give in to them in moderation. I remember little Lucas when he was little, I mean my daughter said don't give him too much chocolate and my husband is a lot weaker than I am so he'd go up to him and he'd say Nonno, can I have just a little bit of chocolate?  So I must admit, they will tell me but they don't clash with me if I do it, as long as I don't do it all the time. They, you know, they know that we're grandparents, we have to spoil them a certain amount of time but it's more the discipline side I get strict with. 


ELIZABETH:  With discipline I like them to grow up knowing the right and wrong. Whereas my husband lets them get away with whatever they want so I have to be one when we're both there to say just, yes and no to certain things they do.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Navya, are there things that your grandparents let you do that mum and dad don't? 

NAVYA: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah? What sort of things? 

NAVYA: Like I went to a shopping mall once and my mum told me not to get anything but I still got a lot of things. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ah, ah, so mum told you before you went to the shopping mall?  Not to get anything. So how did you manage to get something, or lots of things? 

NAVYA: Well, um, because Christmas was coming up soon so I just said that could be a Christmas present. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay. So how do mum and dad react when you come home with lots of things? 

NAVYA: They start yelling at me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  They start yelling at you, okay, alright. So you think you can get things from your grandparents you can't get from your parents? 

NAVYA: Well not exactly. Like my parents still get me more things but like my parents wouldn't take me to Smiggles and say what do you want? Okay, let's pick this up. Okay, come on, let's go.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, so you get more? 

NAVYA: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, okay Rakha, why do you do that? 

RAKHA (Translation): They are children and we feel that they should get what they ask for. Sometimes we tell Meetu and Ritesh that it is the age for the kids to enjoy themselves, so let them.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ah, ah.  So how do you two react to that as parents? 

RITESH: Yeah, well, what we believe is discipline is very important and doing things to an extent is fine, but if you go beyond that, then what happens is children lose the value of that thing. So what they'll feel that whenever I demand something I know if I won't get it from my parents I'll get it from my grandparents. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you're concerned about manipulation here? 

RITESH: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah?  So how do you deal with that? I mean with your parents, given that they've come all the way from India to look after your children, how do you resolve it? 

MEETU:  Well we tried to talk to them, we try to convince them that discipline is very important is Navya's life because they have been quite strict with us, raising Ritesh, they were quite strict. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So they didn't buy everything you wanted? 

RITESH: Not at that time and especially during our age there was no IPad, there was no technology and all that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, yeah, but I mean it raises a broader issue, doesn't it, around, you know, when you have multi generations raising children you get different values and how do families kind of work that out? 

RITESH: Yes, so now what happens is we know the situations so we tell them that alright, so Navya is going to tell you that but still be firm with her, be assertive that no, you can't get that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What does it do to your relationship though with your parents? 

MEETU:  Well I won't say that we don't have arguments or it's all hunky dory, but we do talk about that and we don't run away from the situation. We try to convince them and you know, paint the true picture that when she enters the real life that's not the true picture. She won't be able to get everything what she wants so she needs to learn and earn that thing herself, that's very important.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Suganya, your parents also came out from India to help you look after your two children a few years ago.  How did you ago? 

SUGANYA:   I'm thankful they came because I wouldn't have managed without them but it wasn't without arguments, I was the only child for them and they focused all their attention on me.  But when they came I was having my second one, my first one is a boy and he wanted him to quickly become independent, whereas my parents wouldn't let that and she would spend hours feeding him and then in the mornings it used to be really hard when he had to go to kinder. My husband was dropping him to kinder and he needed to leave early and I rushed him a lot and my dad used to get really upset about that. He felt that I was pushing the child and it was troubling him too much and he can go to kinder whenever he wants and things like that, but as I couldn't drop him because I had another baby. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So really different attitudes and life styles? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Around raising children? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  And there were battles about things like nappies as well? 

SUGANYA: Yes, that was from my first child and when he was born probably he was the first baby after a long time in the whole family and back then they were using cloth nappies in India and they felt, I mean the weather is hot there so they felt that disposable nappies make the child very uncomfortable and that I was using them for my convenience and I was torturing the baby and I got a lot of advice. 

I mean people used to ask how do you, how would you feel if you had to wear it all day and you were very carrying your poo around and nobody noticed you and things like that. And every time I changed a nappy this used to run in my mind and was I doing the right thing? I mean I had a lot of things going on an disposable nappies were very convenient for me.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you were dependent on them in a sense? 

SUGANYA:   Yes, I was dependent on them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So where did leave you, that you'd, you know, you'd asked for help and they'd come to help? 

SUGANYA:   I stopped asking for help and I felt that I was losing confidence as a mother because of all these additions coming around so I stopped telling them what was going on with the baby and what was happening and even if he had a nappy rashes as he was crying in the background I would say that he's just crying for a sleep or something like that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was it different to what you expected it would be like when they came to help you? 

SUGANYA:   Yes, I didn't expect this to happen because I thought, I mean I wasn't prepared for parenting and they weren't prepared for grandparenting and of course there was a lot of joy and celebration but I didn't foresee this kind of an argument as to what nappies I should give, put on my child.

JENNY BROCKIE:   Maxine, do you have differences with your daughter about your grandchildren and about your great grandchildren, how to raise them? 

MAXINE:   Listening to these two stories, these two families and I thought, you know, when my grandchildren, my three grandsons were smaller, because I worked all my life I would buy them the latest, greatest toy and I think my grandchildren were privileged to that because not many Aboriginal families could afford what I could afford and to me it gave them a sense of, that well, if Nana can do it and buy these sort of things, maybe I've got to do what Nana does is work. And they received all these things from me and now they're actually doing well for themselves.

JENNY BROCKIE:  To what extent can you tell your grandchildren what to do and to what extent do you defer to your daughter? 

MAXINE:   I don't actually dictate to my grandchildren how they should be, you know, if they do something wrong, because I'm not there to run their journey in life.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have you had to deal with conflicts with your daughter about how, about the values you have in relation to your grandchildren? 

MAXINE:   Oh, yeah, I clash with her a lot with the granddaughter, she's sixteen and I say well, you know, should she be doing this or how come she's not at school? And I go, you know, education from a grandparent's perspective is, is what you need in life.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Deb, have you had to deal with any conflicts with your daughter about how you're raising your grandchildren? 

DEB:  I would have to say no because within about six months of me getting the children, I decided that I make all the decisions.  That would prevent any, any conflict.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You were going to raise them the way you wanted? 

DEB:  I was going to raise them, I make the decisions because I was more capable of making better decisions that were going to be more positive about, about their life. But that doesn't mean that there haven't been instances.  For example, if I thought that there was something going on like in visitations or whatever, where there were things I didn't agree with or whatever, it was difficult to talk to her and bring up those things but I would eventually. But on my daughter's side, I have to say that she's always been happy that I have been like that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Where are the pressure points for you in this situation? I mean between the interests of your daughter and the interests of your grandchildren, I mean do you find there are pressure points where as a mother you feel one thing and as a grandmother you feel something else? 

DEB:  Oh, all the time, all the time. Sometimes I don't recognise straight away when I'm conflicted about the love for my daughter and wanting to see her be a mum again and what's actually right for the kids. I mean, I want, for them I want to see them to be a fam, you know, to be their family and the other side is that I want my daughter to know what it's like to be a full time mother and have the joy of knowing what it's like, even though it's hectic at times and whatever, but it's actually, it's lovely. It's lovely to have these three, three kids. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how do you work out what's in whose best interests in that situation? 

DEB:  I normally work on this basis: First come the children, then comes me and then comes my daughter.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And is that as clear cut as you make it sound?

DEB:  No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Or is that agonising? 

DEB:  It is agonising because the three weeks that they spent with their mum, I had come, about every two years I sort of have this, um, brain spasm where I just feel like I just can't cope and I don't like the kids to go anywhere else. If they go anywhere I like them to be together and I'd prefer them to be with my daughter. This time it was only for a week and then it turned into three weeks. But you know, three weeks was enough, they needed to be back home because we need to have the routine. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you ever imagine what it would be like to be a grandparent in the traditional sense? 

DEB:  I would love to know what it would be like to be a grandparent and you know, have the joy of my choice, okay, you know, the kids can come and stay, come on, we're going to go for a holiday or we're going to go kayaking or we're going to do this or whatever, and then when I've had enough I can say okay, there you go, now I can do something for another joy that I can do for me, you know?

JENNY BROCKIE:  Charlotte, you've been raised by your granddad since you were a toddler? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Why is he raising you? 

CHARLOTTE: Oh, I've had lots of different stories been told to me but sort of in the same sense of you, my mother wasn't able to, she was quite young, I think she needed to get her own life back on track before she could raise me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you see your mum or dad at all? 

CHARLOTTE: I see my mum, I try to see her at least once a month, maybe two times a month, but I don't really see my dad. I saw him a few times and then I don't know what happened, it just sort of vanished. Last year I tried to find him on Facebook and everything and I finally found him and I’ve  seen him twice but I'm sort of at the point I just can't be bothered messaging him anymore. He's my father and I don't think I should have that responsibility. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How old are you? 

CHARLOTTE: Fifteen. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's it like being raised by your granddad here, how do you get on? 

CHARLOTTE: How do we get on, hey, what a question? We get on pretty good. I don't know what I'd, what I'd do without him. I can just lean all my problems onto him and he can take it like he's fine about it. I think he is. It's got, yeah, it's good living with him. It's different compared to a lot of my friends, but I guess in a lot of people, a lot of kids my age don't live in a typical family.

JENNY BROCKIE:  John, you're 67, what's it like for you? 

JOHN:   Oh, today it's alright. I mean I've got to admit at times I've wondered how, why I ever volunteered to do it. But I've adjusted my life to fit it in and if I think today if I wasn't working with it, I don't know what I'd be doing.  At the time I was the best person available to do it and I sort of naively said, yeah, I can do it. I mean I'm a civil engineer, I race motor bikes, bringing up a kid shouldn't be a problem. Yeah, what a lesson I've learnt, you know? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What have you learnt? 

JOHN:  Well we've been through all the child and the young, young woman issues. Friends at the race track, when I said I've learnt too much, she said all men should learn what you have learnt. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What you know?  

JOHN:   I said well maybe I've learnt too much for a grandfather and she thought that was okay. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's that about been like, those sort of things? 

CHARLOTTE: Well, the first time when I was becoming a lady I actually had to go to hospital and I had surgery and my grandfather was there and he understood, like he knew what was up and he takes me to appointments if I need to go. So he's very caring about it. He understands if I'm moody or, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are there things you find awkward John? 

JOHN:   We went through a stage where we had to deal with intimates, I think you call it, bras and knickers and I wasn't allowed to use the word bra. 


JOHN:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You weren't allowed to use the word bra? 

JOHN: No. 

CHARLOTTE: I banned it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  The banned the word bra from him saying it out loud? 

JOHN:   Yeah. 

CHARLOTTE: I think it would be embarrassing coming from him. 

JOHN:   But I can tell you the most degrading thing I ever did was recently when I had sit out the front of the ladies change room at a department store as Charlotte was trying on bikinis.  I felt everybody saw me as some, you know, in a really unreasonable light and I was squirming. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Does he have rules? 

CHARLOTTE: To a certain extent, yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What are they? 

CHARLOTTE: Oh, if he wants me at the bus stop at a certain time if I want to go out with friends I have to be there. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You live in to the country, yeah? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  On a hobby farm? 

CHARLOTTE: Yeah. But he's very good at, if I want to go out somewhere, he'll normally take me but he has to know where I'm going, who, who I'm going to be with. 

JOHN:   And I have to meet the parents. 

CHARLOTTE: Yeah, you have to meet the parents which sometimes I feel a bit why can't you just trust me? Why can't you just let me go and be with my friends, but at the same time like I get it. 

JOHN:   We went through boys a couple of years ago and she's realised that boys are just trouble so I'm on clear ground for a bit longer. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Going to get so embarrassing for you, I fear. 

JOHN:   But if she's got a prospective boyfriend he has to come out on his bike, pushbike, and see me and I'll talk with him and if he can't ride his bike out his mum's allowed to bring him out and I'll just talk to him, have a cup of coffee and a cordial with him, and if he's any good well, we can move ahead from there. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Whoa, okay, so he's got to come all the way to the hobby farm? 

JOHN:   Mmm. 

CHARLOTTE: Which is about 15ks from the local supermarket. 

JOHN:   Down a dirt road. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you feel about that rule Charlotte? 

CHARLOTTE: I sort of think every time he says it it's a joke but then I look at him and like oh. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You have four grandchildren other than Charlotte. Do you see them? 

JOHN:  I made the choice to have nothing to do with my two sons many years ago.  I got tired of them criticising me. I race motor bikes, I'm very successful, they felt I couldn't bring Charlotte up, they made other sort of predictions about that.  So I just wrote to them and said my friends don't treat me like that, I don't want anything to do with you. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long ago was that? 

JOHN:   I couldn't tell you, it was less than eleven years ago. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How involved were you in the raising of your three children? 

JOHN:   I have to say I was probably as bad as a lot of other fathers of the period. Trying to run a business and being involved in children, for me it was really hard so I'd have to say that bringing up Charlotte's probably the first time I've really contributed to bringing up a child. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So is this a way of compensating? 

JOHN:   No, I don't think so, it's just a realisation.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Cassie, you've stayed with your grandparents on and off since you were nine? 

CASSIE:   Yes.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why are you living with them now? 

CASSIE:   Well, it wasn't the best of moments with my parents so I decided to move in with my grandparents because I didn't have the option. I just rocked up. It was like, yeah I'm moving in and they're like okay. So…

JENNY BROCKIE:  When did you rock up? 

CASSIE:  I was sixteen, so…

JENNY BROCKIE:  So that was a decision you made? 

CASSIE:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were you looking for?

CASSIE:   Support and like love, I guess. But I live with one grandparent one week and one grandparent the other. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That's what you do now?

CASSIE:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You move between the two sets of grandparents? 

CASSIE:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   What have they taught you?  What have you gotten out of that experience? 

CASSIE:   So I got kicked out in year 11 and…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Kicked out of school? 

CASSIE:   In year 11 and my grandparents really disappointed and yeah, so they kind of showed me how important education was and that I needed it and they wanted me to get help because I was like off the rails as they like to say.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were you doing?

CASSIE:   Oh, like I was self-harming and just doing nothing, like I didn't go to school, hanging around with the wrong people so they looked around for help and I found Youth in Search which was a program which helps disadvantaged children. That helped me and they pushed me to do that because I wouldn't have done it by myself. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What else have they taught you? They get you to get up early? 

CASSIE:   Yeah, at 6 o'clock. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  6 o'clock every day? 

CASSIE:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  They make you get up? 

CHARLOTTE:  Feel the pain. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What else? What other things have they taught you? 

CASSIE:   I'll be on my mobile phone, like I'll pick it up and my grandfather's like you're addicted, get off your phone. I'm like I just picked it up, like seriously? Have not been on it all day but so, yeah, and they taught me how to be money wise, I like to spend my money. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What sort of things do you clash with them about? 

CASSIE:   Beliefs, like…

JENNY BROCKIE:  What kind of beliefs? 

CASSIE:   Like gay rights and stuff. So it's hard to talk to them about that, so I don't really talk to them about relationships.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  So do they know that you're gay? 

CASSIE:   Yeah, my step dad told them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did they react to that? 

CASSIE:   My grandma has this thing where she likes to hold onto it, she just ripped it up me and told me how disgusting it was and like how bad it is and that she's disappointed. 

FEMALE: Did she ever treat you differently because she knew that? 

CASSIE:   She was disappointed. She told me that I can't bring people home and she doesn't want to know, so yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what's that like for you Cassie? 

CASSIE:  It's hard because you can't really talk about relationships with her so you can't be like oh well, this is going on, because she's like well it's disgusting, you know, like, or even if something happens on TV or in a paper, like there was the gay marriage thing going on and she's like oh that's so disgusting and I literally have to walk away, like I can't Nan, I just going argue with you, I need to go, but yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What would your life be like without your grandparents? 

CASSIE:  Hard.  I honestly don't think I'd be here today if it wasn't for them so, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And where else do you get support now? 

CASSIE:  Youth in Search, so I'm now a leader which is really exciting, and I get to help kids that are just like me and that really makes me happy. I'm now a uni student studying teaching.  Like that was something I'd never think of when I was at high school but, yeah, so I'm doing that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Well done you.  

CASSIE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  John, you and Charlotte have had your struggles too, haven't you, with mental health issues.  Can you tell me a little bit about that? 

JOHN:   Yeah, well I've been suicidal and had difficulties with depression for about twenty five years. Today I say that I don't struggle with it, I deal with it. Little rules I have mantras to not get hungry, tired or angry.

CHARLOTTE: I can always tell when he doesn't have his medication.  He is quite snappy and very angry and I will just say hey, you know, have you had your medication today? And 95 percent of the time it's no and I go well, maybe you should take it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you've had to deal with anxiety as well yourself? 



CHARLOTTE: That's very hard. I actually, I did go through a stage where I actually was admitted to hospital for self-harm and that was hard. But I sort of, at the end I thought well, if my grandfather went through it, I can.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What if you hadn't had each other? 

CHARLOTTE: What if we hadn't had each other? 


JOHN:   I don't know where I'd be. But I enjoy teaching and showing things a lot of other children mightn't get and I tell her that my job's to help her become an adult who enjoys life, that's the way I put it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you see him in a kind of parental way or not, or is it something different? 

CHARLOTTE: That's a good question. A lot of people make the mistake of going oh, how's your dad but he's not my dad, he's my grandfather.  So I think by me saying that, I think I, I think I don't, I like him being my grandfather because my dad has left me, parts of my family have left.  I think I don't want to see him as a parental, parental, like he does all the things that a parental person would do but I don't see him like that. I see him as my grandfather. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Virender, you and your wife are going back to India soon, do you think you'll come out here again?

VIRENDER (Translation):  We will.

RAKHA (Translation):  But we are not going back yet.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Navya, how would you feel about your grandparents leave now that they've been with you for a while? 

NAVYA: Sad. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You'd feel sad? 

NAVYA: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So would you like them to be here all the time? 

NAVYA: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Permanently? 

NAVYA: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, and how are mum and dad feeling about this? 

MEETU:  We're fine with it because I think we get more time together when they're there because we could leave the kids with them and go out for at least a dinner together. Whereas when they're not there, we have to drag kids every time wherever we go so we're absolutely fine with that. But there are sort of a lot of limitations to that because the expenses get quite a lot, buying the tickets, buying the health insurance and all those sort of stuff. But we would love to have them permanently here. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Elizabeth, have you learned anything from your grandkids? 

ELIZABETH:  Yes, I am a lot more patient with my grandchildren. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Than you were with your own children?

ELIZABETH:  Yeah, it is more of a thing of patience that you learn which you don't have when you've got your own children sometimes if you are working and you listen more. You become a good listener with grandkids. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Maxine, have you anything from your grandchildren and great grandchildren? 

MAXINE:   They've opened up my eyes to prove that because of our nationality, my grandchildren still can do what other people could do. Where you know, and…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Where you didn't grow up thinking that yourself? 

MAXINE:   Yeah, where I didn't think Aboriginal people could succeed in life and to see my grandchildren succeeding is amazing.

JENNY BROCKIE:  John, has Charlotte taught you anything? 

JOHN:   I have to say patience is the most important thing she's taught me. Often it's because I might ask her to do something and "in a minute", so I think yeah, right. So you know, rather than blow up because I choose not to be angry, I try and deal with things in a more appropriate manner.  Forty years ago I used to be terrible. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You also said that you constantly reinforce your affection for her and that's something that you hadn't done before? 

JOHN:  Oh, yeah, yeah, I constantly give her hugs and let her know that I love her and that's a word I found difficult to use in the past.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Deb, what are your future hopes now for yourself and for your family? 

DEB:  For my family, I hope the kids are reunited with their mum for her and the kids so they have the opportunity to see what it's like to be with their own mother. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Where would that leave you? 

DEB:  That would leave me on my motor bike, off, sell the house, off I go around Australia although Olivia tells me that she's coming with me, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you really would do that? 

DEB:  Oh, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Hop on a motorbike and go around Australia? 

DEB:  Well this is a conversation I've had with my daughter.  She's actually said to me "I know that if the time comes when I can have the children back, I know you're going to miss them and whatever", and all this sort of stuff and one day I thought no, let's get the reality check right. Yes, I'll miss them but I'll be as happy as Larry. As long as I know they're happy I'll be off and I can move on and I have no doubts that I'll do everything that I want to do or achieve.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Thank you all so much for joining us tonight, it's been really good to talk to you all and that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook.  Thanks everyone, thank you.