What’s it like growing up in a stepfamily?
Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 08:30

Every family has inherent tensions but what happens when your parents split up and re-partner and your family now includes a stepparent and their kids?

Just over a quarter of a million Australian kids now live in stepfamilies, but combining children from different parents into one big family can be full of surprises and challenges.

Insight meets a stepfamily of 7 kids ranging in age from 12 to 18 who call themselves ‘The Brady Bunch plus One’.

“There are more kids to play with and more things to do” they tell Jenny Brockie. But there have been tensions, particularly over their stepdad’s discipline and rules. “I used to laugh at him and tell him you’re not my stepdad,” says Josh, 18, who eventually left home to live with his biological dad when the fights got bad.

Children grieving over a divorce or separation, often resent the arrival of a new adult with a child or two. “I was shocked. I didn’t want it to happen, “says Kye, 16, when his mum started going out with his future stepdad 10 years ago. “For years I wanted mum and dad to get back together.”

But his sister Aubaney, 15, welcomed a new father figure. “I really liked it because I didn't have a close relationship with my dad”. She also gained a stepsister and playmate, Jahara, who, in turn, admits to feeling ‘jealous’ as a 5 year old having to share her dad with another girl.

Research shows it takes two to seven years for relationships to start working in stepfamilies.

Griffin, 13, lives with his mum and a “very strict” stepmum who arrived in his life 5 years ago. “I absolutely despised her at the start. I was like, 'come on, back off' … but without Kirsten I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Adam, 16, lives with his dad and Brazilian stepmum who brought a much younger little stepbrother into the family, as well as “culture, music and better food”. Adam’s also recently welcomed the arrival of a new baby half-brother which has changed the family dynamic again.

We also meet only child Ty, 17, who calls his stepparents ‘mum and dad’. His four parents have different cultural backgrounds: South African, Filipina, Indonesian and Chinese-Fijian, and a WhatsApp group to keep tabs on his movements. “I can’t hide anything,” he tells Jenny. “But it’s such a good environment that when you ask about what’s bad about being a stepkid I don’t have an answer for it.”

This week on Insight, stepkids tell us what life’s really like inside their families.


Presenter: Jenny Brockie 

Producer: Rose Hesp 

Associate producer: Sarah Allely 

Further resources







TAHLIA:  Hi, come in, come meet the family.

I'm Tahlia, there's Holly and Jaymon who are the same age, Holly is my real sister and Jaymon is my stepbrother, Ella and Liam they're the same age, Liam is my real brother and Ella is my step sister and then there's Nick and Josh, they're the oldest two, they're the same age as well. Nick is my real brother and Josh is step brother. 

Melinda my step mum, she's very loving and caring. Dad, he's very fun to hang out with.

SISTER:  Holly, wake up, wake up.

TAHLIA:  It can be very chaotic in the morning if one of us wants to have a shower before the other. Or if in winter like the hot water runs out fast, we normally like fight over that.

SISTER:  My turn.

TAHLIA:  When we all moved into together I was excited because I was getting more siblings to play with and I was a bit nervous because I didn't know what they were going to be like if they didn't like me or not. Usually we all end up having breakfast at the same time so all sitting there and we'll just talk about whatever we're doing or what we dreamt about because usually we all have funny different dreams.

The sock box, that is a very dangerous but funny place. We always have trouble getting socks out of there because Charlie likes to chew on our school socks only. After breakfast usually it would be time to go and Mel will have it all sorted out on the bench with lunches and we all get that and then we just say goodbye and get our stuff and go.

MELINDA:  Come on, let's go to basketball. Hurry up in the car. Quick, quick, quick!

TAHLIA:  Tonight we've got our family basketball game which is a family competition.

MELINDA:  Nice Holly, go Holly.

TAHLIA:  The name of our team is called Busted Bunnies because dad likes bunnies. They usually don't have people to score so I'm there scoring for their game.

That was 11. We're on fire!

MELINDA:  Well done, good defence, go Holly. Well done. Go Liam, go, nice one.

TAHLIA:  What I like most about being in a big step family is it's easy to like get around and there's lots of people that you can talk to about different things.

SISTER:  Jaymon!



JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, Tahlia, run me through the family again, okay, seven kids? 

TAHLIA:   Yeah.  So on, in the Phillips family there's Nick who is the oldest and then there's Liam who's second oldest and Holly who is just older than me and then I'm youngest. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And the others? 

TAHLIA:   There's Josh who's the same age as Nick, they're both 18 and then Ella who is the same age as Liam, they're both 17, and then there's Jaymon and Holly who are both 14 and then I'm just 12. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you four are dad's kids? 

TAHLIA:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you three are mum's kids? 

TAHLIA: Mm-mmm. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long have you been all living together? 

TAHLIA:   About six years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah? And you two, Nick and Josh, you've just left home?  

NICK:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So it's now five of you? 

TAHLIA:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Instead of seven of you. Do you spend time with your other parents, the rest of you who live at home? 

TAHLIA:  Yeah. 

NICK:  Of course. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how much time? 

TAHLIA:   50/50, we go our other parent’s house. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how could you explain your family to other people? 

TAHLIA:   Very big, the Brady Bunch. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, Nick, how do you explain your family to other people? 

NICK:  Just big, big mob, biggest mob. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Griffin, you're 13? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Describe your family for me? 

GRIFFIN: Right now it's my mum and my stepmum and my stepmum just had a kid, her name's Miller and she's really young, and then I also have another brother.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  So your mum was married to your dad before that? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  So what happened? 

GRIFFIN: My dad originally had four kids without my mum and then my mum had me and Mac.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And then they split up? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  And your mum got together with her girlfriend? 

GRIFFIN: Exactly. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Who is now her wife? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  And what about your dad? 

GRIFFIN: My dad has been married to a girl named Sarah, she got married like let's say three years ago, and so I see them not much anymore since they moved to Newcastle. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   And do they have kids? 

GRIFFIN: Ah, no. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what's that like having all those people? 

GRIFFIN: It's not bad actually because when it's just us three, Miller won't stop crying, well sometimes, but then me and Mac get on not much, we fight a lot.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did go did you grow up with your older half-brothers? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  So how do you get on with them? 

GRIFFIN: Great. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what's it like for you describing your family to people? 

GRIFFIN: I say normally just us three and then I go off about how the whole thing happened and that's like nearly a thirty minute story, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now your mum's wife, Kristen, had Miller the baby? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Who's one, what was it like when the baby came along because it was you and your brother till then, wasn't it? 

GRIFFIN: Yeah. I really like having her around because she's normally like everyone focuses on her so then if me and Mac do something stupid mum won't get angry at us. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You were seven when your mum and dad divorced?  What was that like for you? 

GRIFFIN: It was pretty upsetting. I was really upset about it because I was kind of like oh, why? I lived the mum the whole time and we lived in this little place for three months which kind of sucked. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what were you thinking during that time about what was going to happen to your life? 

GRIFFIN:  I was like, I didn't know what was going to happen... Mum said I was just taking a break but I already knew they were getting divorced forever. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you know that? 

GRIFFIN:  It's just they didn't really talk much. But they're really good friends now which is nice.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And so did you think that was it that they had broken up forever? 

GRIFFIN: Oh, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Or were you hoping that they might get back?

GRIFFIN: I was hoping they got back but I knew it was like gone. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Can you remember when you first met your stepmum? 

GRIFFIN:   Yeah, around four to five years ago, yeah, and so we met then and I already liked her a lot because she was really nice.

JENNY BROCKIE: Did you know this they were fond of one another before mum told you? 

GRIFFIN:  Oh, in the middle, like they'd like we'd go on a walk with them because mum was living with them for a bit, with Kristen for a bit and they would just hang out and walk around and me and Mac would go and run around and stuff with the dog, and they would just kind of be walking back, you know, just walking, talking to each other a lot. I was like oh too close, and then. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you were watching? 

GRIFFIN: Yeah, I was observing.  But then, yeah, then mum told me like oh, yeah, I feel like we might get together and I was like oh yeah, that's not bad, okay. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So mum seemed happier? 

GRIFFIN: Yeah, a lot happier, and so I was happy about that and so I thought it was pretty great because I always really liked her. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you get on with her now, your step mum? 

GRIFFIN: A lot. We get along really well, I mean we like each other a lot. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Kye, you're 16, describe your family for me? 

KYE:  It's my stepdad, my mum, my sister and my step sister. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And your mum Naomi and your stepdad Matt started going out ten years ago? 

KYE:  Yeah, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And they married five years ago. . 

KYE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE: What was it like when mum started going out with him? 

KYE:  Um, it was different, it wasn't what it used to.  It was just like I wished it was just dad again, getting used to like living with another dude, I guess. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how did you react? So how old were you, about six or something? 

KYE:  I was seven, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you react then? 

KYE:  I was shocked I guess, didn't want it to happen, was in denial of it ever happening I guess you could say. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you found out they were getting married how did you react then? 

KYE:  Yeah, I wasn't happy. Um, yeah, I just …


KYE:  Because I wanted mum and dad to always get back together, but it wasn't, I guess it wasn't just going to happen.  So it was like …

JENNY BROCKIE:  So that was years you'd felt like that?  Did you talk to anyone about it?  Did you talk to people about it? 

KYE:  No, I wasn't really too big on talking to anyone else about it because no one else sort of like understood. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about your friends? 

KYE:  Yeah, well most of their parents are still together so it's like they don't really understand where I'm coming from. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Um, what did you think of your stepdad? 

KYE:  Not too much to start with, I guess. Like it was just like another dude mum was talking to. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how much was it about what he was like and how much do you think it was about you not wanting them to get together, you wanting your parents to get back together? 

KYE:  Yeah, it wasn't so much he was like bad or anything.  It was just, yeah, it was more like in denial of actually like them having a divorce. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Your sister Aubaney and your step sister Jahara? 

KYE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are here too. Aubaney, you're 15, how did you react at the start?

AUBANEY: I really liked it because me and Jahara got on really well but Kye and Jahara didn't get on well at the start. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You two didn't get on? 



KYE:  She's annoying. 

JAHARA: I think it was just because we were young as well, different in age and it was, I guess, Aubaney seemed like another school friend that I would have had but Kye was like, I didn't really hang out with guys much at the age of five and so it was just different and we didn't get along as well so, and yeah, like we annoyed each other a lot. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you girls are similar in age, yeah? 

JAHARA: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what was that like Kye?  How did that leave you feeling with the two girls similar ages? 

KYE:  Just like, like by myself, I couldn't do anything.  Like if it was like another boy, I could like kick the footy or something but it was just like they were hopeless at that sort of stuff.  So it was just like couldn't really do that.  She like more went to her because another girl. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ah, so you lost a little bit of that closeness? 

KYE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is that what happened Aubaney? 

AUBANEY: Yeah, we kind of started fighting as soon as Jahara came in the family because she just starts all the arguments.  But yeah, so we didn't really, we weren't that close. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you react to your stepdad at the start? 

AUBANEY: I really liked it because I didn't have a close relationship with my dad and never got on with him, but like I saw that he was really close to Jahara and I wanted that relationship with him so we got on really well. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you see much your dad now? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you get on with him? 

AUBANEY: Um, it's okay.  I just, I don't really like being with him, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So just generally, what was it like for you all being in this new step family? 

AUBANEY: Great. 

KYE: Bad.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Great for you, not great for you? 

JAHARA: I think it worked out overall now ten years later, but at the start it was a bit rough, but now I'm glad it happened. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Aubaney, you're really positive about it? 

AUBANEY: Yeah, I guess. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was it like Jahara sharing your dad with these two? 

JAHARA: I think at the start it was a bit strange for me to see like him being the same dad he is to me and trying to keep that balance between making sure he spent time with me, as well as trying to spend time with Kye and Aubaney as well, and I feel like as a young kid, age five at the start, I was a bit jealous at times.  But now I just see it as a way we're all close, we're all one family now and, yeah, I think it's worked out well.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you get on with Kye and Aubaney's mum? 

JAHARA: Yeah, really, really well, we're quite close and I really trust her so, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you spend time with your mum as well? 

JAHARA: Yeah, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's it like for you moving between houses? 

JAHARA: Oh, I'm used to it now it's been happening for so long now. I live with my mum most of the time but then again I see my dad and my stepmum a lot of the time as well.  And yeah, I think it's just good because I've got an extra family, I guess. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Does mum have a partner? 

JAHARA: At the moment, yes she does. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you get on with him? 

JAHARA: Yeah, he's really nice and …

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why are you giggling here? 

AUBANEY: She hates him. 

JAHARA: I don't.  No, he's really nice.  I guess because he's only been with my mum for a little while now so I'm still trying to get along with him and get to know him a bit, so I'm a bit hesitant at the start but yeah, he's nice. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do your mum and stepmum treat you differently? 

JAHARA: I think only the thing that's a bit different is with discipline. So obviously my mum will be a lot stricter on me than Naomi will be on me, then she is Kye and Aubaney if that makes sense, because there's still always that boundary where you don't want to, they're still not exactly your kids so you can't be as harsh on them as you would your own kids. But yeah, I think it's fair. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sofia, I know you don't like moving between houses, do you?  

SOFIA: No, I stopped when I was about fourteen. 


SOFIA: I couldn't handle the one week on, one week off. I felt it was a very disruptive for school and living out of a suitcase at times wasn't always fun. I also think that I definitely felt when I was young I had to be a different person in each home. So I feel like I was a lot more myself at my mother's house, and then I was trying to get along with my stepmother and I was trying to be the exemplary daughter or the golden child of the house so I think I got really tired of it. Like just, it was quite emotionally draining. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Where do you live now? 

SOFIA: I live with my mother. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And when you were around eight your stepmum came into your life. What was that like? 

SOFIA: Um, not going to lie, I was a bit resentful at the time. I think…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me what went through your mind as an eight year old? 

SOFIA: I think that my father and I became very close when he was alone and I think through time he sort of, he was starting to treat me like an equal and so when my stepmum came in, it was like suddenly I'd been a bit replaced in this position in the family. I was no longer his equal and she had young children so when I was young, he treated me like an adult, I was allowed to stay up to whatever time, you know, I was allowed to watch whatever I wanted with him. I was allowed to be around all of his friends and then suddenly I'm becoming a teenager and I'm being treated like a six year old because that was the age of her kids, and I understand it would have been really hard for her to adjust to a new older person that she had never experience before. So even down to like she didn't know how much to feed me, like portions, she'd give the same size bowl as a three year old and I'd be like I need a bit more, getting a bit older now. 

JENNY BROCKIE:    Could you talk to the adults about how you felt? 

SOFIA: I could talk to my mother I think. I never really spoke to my dad or my step mum about it. 


SOFIA: I still haven't really to an extent. I, um, I feel like now that I'm older it's coming out. Now that I've hit 18 they sort of view me as more of an adult, but it is particularly difficult when you're seen as a child I think to be taken seriously and also, you know, a relationship they're trying to keep together because it's just started, you don't want to add another layer to it or another burden, I suppose. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ah, so you were thinking you didn't want to make it worse by raising that? 

SOFIA: Yeah, I just don't want to like complain about my stepmum to my father when they're just having a baby and like getting their relationship going. I didn't want to disrupt it, I suppose. 

JENNY BROCKIE:   Adam, you're 16, tell me about your family? 

ADAM:   I have one stepbrother, one half-brother, one's two, he's Leo and Johnny who's six now. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how old were you when your stepmum came into your life?

ADAM:  I think ten. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was that like? 

ADAM: It was life changing because she brought big family along with her and a child.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was your first impression when you realised that was going to happen, that she was going to become part of your family? 

ADAM:  I was excited, I think. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were you excited about? 

ADAM:  Oh, brother and new experiences and it was always boring at my dad's. 


ADAM:  We're just a quiet family. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what did Maggie your stepmum then bring to your family? 

ADAM:  She brang Brazilian language and culture, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did that change things? 

ADAM:  Um, it was, my dad and I were very quiet, I think normal Australian family, didn't do much, just swim at the beach, and my stepmum would come and then there was a lot of parties, barbecues, and like had to learn some language, Portuguese, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what's that been like, what's your Portuguese like? 

ADAM:  I'm horrible, it’s difficult. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When did you realise she was going to become a big part of your life? 

ADAM:  Um, when they told me they were going to get married. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what was it like when they got married, for you? 

ADAM:  I didn't think too much of it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Let's have a look at life at home. 



ADAM:  Johnny's teaching Adam.

JOHNNY:  Remember C then G, then F E D.

ADAM:  Ready, set, go... Johnny's always practising because he enjoys it, he's always getting better as well. He likes to show everyone how he plays and he's always learning new songs, his favourite to play the Star Wars theme song. Johnny loves playing soccer.  He wasn't that good but then we started playing in the backyard and things, been playing for six years.

JOHNNY:  You didn't even try Adam.

MUM:  Everyone wants you.

ADAM:   What?  Oh, nice.

On a weekday I have to look after both of them and I have to make sure that Johnny's dressed for school, ready to go to school, and Leo's ready to go to day care. I say you like this, from Brazil.  I don't mind looking after them.  It's a bit annoying in the morning, 6 am, you get used to it.

Sometimes after school, if I had to pick up Johnny, I'd have rather just go home, relax, or go across the road and play soccer with my mates. My stepmum has brought lots of culture. My dad and I used to have some barbecues for dinner but then when my stepmum came it was like it grew like bigger and then there was a lot more people. There's music and better food. 



JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you get on with your stepmum? 

ADAM:  We get on good, yeah. Um, I'd say about better than my father. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Better than your father? 

ADAM:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How, why is that? 

ADAM:  Oh, we just have, I don't know, conflict. But my step mum's just casual, I guess, but my dad, I think he needs everything to be perfect.

JENNY BROCKIE:   So who sets the rules in the house? 

ADAM:  My stepmum. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you feel about that? 

ADAM:  Um, well at first she was like telling me what to do and I was like, yeah, you're not my mum, but …

JENNY BROCKIE:  And did you have fights when you'd say that? 

ADAM:  No, I think she just got offended by it and would go tell my dad and then my dad would have a go at me. So fixed that problem…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you say that often? 

ADAM:  Oh, no, only when she really annoyed me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about the rest of you, have you said that much? You're not my dad or you're not my mum. Nodding heads here, yeah? What happens when you say that? 

JAHARA:  I think by now, I guess what we're always told in place now after ten years if they do all the cooking, the cleaning, if they act like a parent to you, they have the right to discipline you and everything like that and we just go no, it's not fair, but after a while you kind of just get used to it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Adam, what about mum, do you spend much time with mum? 

ADAM:  I used to spend a lot of time with her, like three times a week, and now it's more once a month because she lives out west now. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So have you seen much of her this year?  

ADAM:  This year I haven't because she's been in gaol, but she got out recently. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how long was she in gaol? 

ADAM:  Six months. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, and do you want to talk about that, about what that was about or not? 

ADAM:  Don't mind.  I wanted to go visit her and I did a couple of times and that was strange because like searches and dogs and stuff. It's a bit difficult seeing her on the other side.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah. So I mean did that affect your sense of the, you know, the family you're living in with your dad? Does that mean that you rely more on that? 

ADAM:  Yeah, I had to stay with them all the time.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Would you like to spend for time with your mum? 

ADAM:  Yeah, yeah, it would be more convenient if she lived closer. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So where does she live, how far away?

ADAM:  So it's like three hour trip. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  I want to talk to you all a little bit about what it's like when so many new people come into your life. What's it like, you know, to go from, I mean you're a family of four, does it make a big difference becoming a family of seven kids? 

TAHLIA:  It does quite a bit because like we needed a new home to fit us all in and it sort of worked out a bit when the two oldest, Nick and Josh, had moved out because then there was more space. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about you three, suddenly having four extra people in your family, what was that like, four extra siblings? 

ELLA: It was really like busy and loud and things went missing.  Yeah!

JAYMON: All the time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how did you deal with that as a group? 

JAYMON:  It was just like different in a way. 

NICK:  You end having to share a bit more. 

TAHLIA:  Yeah. 

NICK:  I've learnt to share with everyone and if you didn't you wouldn't get it, what you were sharing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  But how you did learn to share more? 

TAHLIA:  Sort of if they took something you'd just let them and get it back later. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you had to kind of let things go? 

TAHLIA:   Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Let things go that you wouldn't let go if you were just with your first set of siblings? 

TAHLIA:  Yeah. 

JOSH:  Yeah, if you didn't let them go, the parents would be more angry because you'd be going dobbing to them and that would make things harder on us, and then one of them, yeah, and they would argue over it. 

TAHLIA:   We didn't really tell the parents if something happened, we'd let it go because it would put like strain on them and then it sort of impacts on all of us. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you all get on, the seven of you?

TAHLIA:  Pretty good. 

LIAM:  Well at times and sometimes, not well at other times. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Are there particular combinations that clash or that really click? 

NICK:  Jaymon likes to rip on everyone. 

TAHLIA:  Jaymon.

JAYMON:   Liam's just always grumpy so if you walk into his room, he goes, he tells you to go away. 

HOLLY:  He's like the peacemaker so if someone's arguing he'll just tell us to shut up Or he'll try and sort it out.  . 

LIAM:  That’s cause youse are annoying. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you come to be in the role of peacemaker Liam? 

LIAM:  When there are arguments I do get in the middle of them because they're annoying and tell them to stop. I guess I'm just the type of person who doesn't like arguments or anything like that

NICK:   He's a lover not a fighter. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  He's a lover not a fighter.  So Josh, you're the oldest and you were twelve when this happened. 

JOSH:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When the families got together. How did you react when mum said she was going to get together with him? 

JOSH:  I didn't like it at all, told her I'm not going to live there, if he come over.  Then I started seeing him a bit more and he was alright.  And, um we get along mostly but we had some pretty big arguments and that's why I moved out. But yeah, I get along with him overall. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what sort of things did you clash about? 

JOSH:  Like when he used to try to tell me what to do I used to laugh at him and tell him that's not happening and you're not my dad and stuff. 

JAYMON:  Our dad was not as strict. Like more laid back and he's really strict, really strict. 

ELLA:  He has like high expectations.  Yeah, and yeah, just like different, when we get told like things from dad and him and things from mum and him. 

JAYMON:  But we're used to it now.  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do the rest of you feel about that because you were used to your dad? 

TAHLIA: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When the others reacted that way to him, what was that like, Nick?

NICK:  I think it's fair enough because he isn't their dad.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about your mum, what about reacting to their mum, how did you react to her, to Melinda? 

HOLLY:  Yeah, never really any bad reaction. 

TAHLIA:  There were never any fights between us. 

NICK:  I've hardly really ever seen Mel get angry. 

TAHLIA:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Josh, you said you weren't very impressed with the idea of them getting together. What about you Nick, you're also 18, how did you feel about them getting together? 

NICK:  Um, I was all sweet with it because dad was a little bit lonely. Mum was always just trying to make his life hard as that's what happens. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What do you mean that's what happens? 

NICK:  There's always arguments about 50/50 and who has the kids more and who has to pay child support, blah blah blah. 

JENNY BROCKIE: What's that like for you? 

LIAM:  Annoying. 

NICK:  Yeah.  It's nonstop. 

LIAM:  I'd rather them just not speak to each other at all. 

TAHLIA:  Yeah, usually our auntie gets involved and it stops. 

NICK:  They don't want each other to be happy, you know?  Yeah, it seems like that.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you think it makes a difference what age you are when you come into a step family, someone new comes into your life as a parent figure, does it make a difference how old you are as to how you react to that? 

LIAM:  I reckon when you're older you don't really want to it happen because you've known your actual parents for longer and you wouldn't want them to split up and just not be together anymore

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you think it was different having a stepdad come into your life at 12 than it was for Tahlia being much younger?  

NICK:  Yeah.  I didn't like it, no. 

JOSH:  Because you've already developed like what your real dad taught you so when you're at home and another bloke's trying to tell you what to do you're not going to really going to…

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about the rest of you?  Adam, do you think it was easier or harder for you or your brother, your younger brother? 

ADAM:  Harder for me. 


ADAM:  Because he was little kid and he can get away with anything because he's a little kid, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do the rules change when you get a step parent in the house? 

ELIZA:  I think it really drastically changed like to the point where I was like this isn't my family. Like I'm out. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So who moved in with you?  What was your situation? 

ELIZA: So my dad, I think he went like, I probably would guess at about six partners before like, including the one he's with now. Um and just watching that many changes, like seeing your family go through that much stuff, you know, and my mum wasn't present for most of it so my sister took on that mothering role which, you know, it is confronting because you're that young and you don't want to have to deal with that. So then they have to take on the disciplinarian role, you know. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So your sibling does? 

ELIZA: Yeah, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what kind of things change?  When you say it completely changed, how? 

ELIZA: Because it just, my father wasn't being a father and I wasn't comfortable because my stepmum had all these different ideas and she just brought them in and like my sister and I were like hold up, you know, you've been with my dad for like a month. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And do you think it was because of, you know, how you felt in general about the situation that you were in, or was it about the person specifically and the rules specifically? 

ELIZA:  Probably a bit of both, it was probably just, I was angry at the situation but I was also angry at the change and I was angry at the person. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Josh, did your stepdad change the rules in the house when he arrived? 

JOSH:  Um, yeah, he was the main rule setter. We had a dog called Banjo and he was with us when mum and dad were together and he was always inside, like he is an inside dog.  He lives inside at dad's now but when he came, he thinks dogs like to live outside so he kicked it outside. I was pretty angry about that when it happened. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was that like for the two of you before you're mates, it's your dad he's talking about? 

NICK:  It's alright because I don't let it get in between our relationship. 

JOSH:  We used to get in trouble together all the time and then we'd either, he stick up for me or I'd stick up for him and then it would just be both of us in trouble, even if one of us wasn't. 

NICK:  We've both been kicked out of the house before. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And were the arguments that you were having physical or verbal or both? 

JOSH:  A bit of both.

NICK:  Yeah, they've gotten physical. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  They got physical? 

NICK:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How physical did they get? 

NICK:  Oh just a bit of push and shoving. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Anyone else not living with a parent because they don't get on with the step parent? Yeah, up the back. 

EBONY:  I have two mums at the moment, a dad and a stepmum which is kind of a bit confusing but my stepmum came into my life when I was around nine so it was just kind of there and I actually don't talk to my biological mother, but I have lived with my stepmother and I still go see her like every week. So it's kind of like this weird role reversal where the stepmum's my mum. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Is it harder to take direction from a step parent if they tell you what to do than it is from your own parents? Or is it different? 

HOLLY:  It depends on your relationship with the step parent.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what's it like for you then? 

HOLLY: Well with my stepmum, their mum, our relationship is good. I have respect for her so I won't argue if she's asks me to do something. Whereas my stepdad, we always butted heads and, yeah, if he asked me to do something I'd be like I'm not doing that, you can. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And was that just because you didn't like him being there? 

HOLLY: Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what do you think that was like for him? 

HOLLY: Hard. I'm a challenge.  

TAHLIA:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Griffin, does your stepmum ever discipline you? 

GRIFFIN:  She's probably like the strictest person I know.  She always holds me down from doing things I want to do. Like my mum is still very strict but I would say oh, yeah, I'm going to hang out with my friends and mum would go, yeah, right and be back soon. And then Kristen will go no and ask for the number, the mum's number, the grandparents' number, everything.  And so then I'd be able to go but only for a bit. And like all sorts of rules, like bed time.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's that like for you? 

GRIFFIN:  I hated it. I absolutely despised her at the start. I was like come on, back off, but I ended up like I didn't really care in the end. I just treat her as my mum now. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did that come about?  How did you go from feeling you didn't like it at all to accepting it do you think? 

GRIFFIN:  I think just over time it just happens really, you kind of just learn to respect her. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have you ever done the "you're not my mum"? 

GRIFFIN:  I don't anymore but I used to. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What stopped you from doing that? 

GRIFFIN:  Mum, mum scares the hell out of me if she wants to. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what does your stepmum do for a living? 

GRIFFIN: She is a police officer so if ever I like eat something I'm not meant to she'll become like a detective and find out. I don't know how she does but she'll find out. It's really annoying. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you've got a police officer as a stepmum? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Interesting?  What's the hardest thing about being a step kid do you think? 

JAYMON:  Like the change in lifestyle, how the rules again, how if, I don't know, they both think, have different rules and then kind of clash between them and you're saying well, my mum said do this, kind of thing.

HOLLY: And you have to become like more aware of the other kids, how like their emotions with particular things and stuff like that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What's the best thing about having a step parent? 

LIAM:  Having more people to be with. 

TAHLIA:  Yeah. 

NICK:  More mates. 

LIAM:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about the rest of you, what's the best thing about stepparents?  Yeah? 

GRIFFIN:  Seeing my mum more excited, like before we had Kristen in our lives she was like kind of, she was happy but like not as happy and now she's with Kristen she's like become, like probably, she's like a really happy kind of person.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, Sofia? 

SOFIA: I have an interesting dynamic that my older sister's father, I grew up with him as well as my own dad, and so in a sense he is still a step parent to me. He was probably at times in my life more of a father figure than my own father and I feel very lucky that I can have those two people.  Even though there is no blood connection or relationship between him and my mother, he was just always there for me and never, ever treated me differently to my older sister. And I think that's like incredibly, probably a testament to how lovely he is as a person. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you think the relationship is different to the relationship with your biological parents, the relationship with a step parent?  Yes? 

EBONY: There's kind of a case of like your biological parent is almost like you don't get to choose them and it's like they're what you've got, but with a step parent it's kind of like you make that choice every day whether or not they're family, so it kind of…

JENNY BROCKIE:  You feel you make that choice? 

EBONY: I feel like, well I live out of home, my parents, my two mums are split and I only go see my stepmum. She's the one which did most of the raising, she's the one which has never treated me any differently so it's kind of this knowing that they chose you is different than knowing that you are just…

JENNY BROCKIE:  So that's a positive, a big positive for you? 

EBONY:  Yeah, it's different in that that kind of, it's a different relationship because it's not like you never, it's hard to feel unwanted when you know they're still choosing to have a relationship with you. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about the rest of you, how is it different?

LIAM:    Every now and then you'll feel like they love you, sometimes you feel like they hate you, but it just depends on what's going on at that time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And is that different to how you feel about your parents?  

JAYMON:  Yeah, because they always love you. 

LIAM:  Yeah, I mean, well you know your stepparents love you but when they get angry at you or you've done something wrong like they hate you. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're not so sure? 

LIAM:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Kye, do you think your stepdad loves you? 

KYE:  Yeah, I guess, maybe, kind of, sometimes, depends on what mood we're both in, as I say, like if it's been a good day for both of us might get along, but like most of the time like just feel sort of distant. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Ty, tell me about your family? 

TY:  It's kind of funny because my, both my stepparents and biological parents get along really well to a point where I think it's those four against me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you're an only child? 

TY:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And describe your other parents and your stepparents for me? 

TY:  Well, it's kind of hard to tell who my mum is. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Which one's your mum? 

TY:  So it's the one with the purple hair. And it’s funny because first day of year 7 someone thought she was my sister.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And they all have quite different backgrounds? 

TY:  Yes, dad's South African, his wife Leola is half Chinese, half Fijian, my mum is full Filipino and my dad's Indonesian, stepdad's Indonesian. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell me a bit more about what it's like to have all those parents from different cultural backgrounds?

TY:  Um, so my stepdad, he's Muslim so when it comes to fasting and Eid, I don't fast with him because of my sport but I actually like to pray with him when it comes to Eid.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So if people ask you what your background is, how do you describe yourself? 

TY:  Um, I say I'm Blasian, a black Asian.  Most people just jump to the conclusion that I'm Indian and then they look at my mum and stepdad and they get really confused because they think why is he so dark? And then they get awkward because they think oh, is he adopted and then I'm open, I get it a lot. My dad's South African and my mum is Filipino. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how old were you when you first met your stepparents? 

TY:  I was like three when I met my stepdad so I don't really remember that, and then I was six when I met my stepmum. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Has it always seemed just the way things are to you, or does the family feel different to other families? 

TY:   I feel like it's a lot different to other families because, neither of the families have argued between each other and like there's no real conflict between them and I feel like, it's hard to explain because it's just so, it's so wholesome and it's such a good environment that when you asked about what's bad about being a step kid, I really didn't have an answer to it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what's good about it? 

TY:  Just being able to like go, I actually enjoy the travels. Like for example, if I'm at my mum's house and I just don't feel like staying at hers, I'll just drive to dad's and it's just a different environment but it's still positive and it's not like oh, I don't want to be here because of her. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you listen to your stepparents as much as your parents? 

TY:  Yeah, just because as they, since they both came into my life really young I've always seen them as, as important as my biological parents and I didn't really know better either so I've always treated them just as equal. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how much of your experience being good do you think is about them all getting along together?  

TY:  I feel like it's played a big part because my, it's hard being a step parent, just coming into, coming into someone's life and oh, especially for a child and hoping that their child likes you because if they like, as we can see tonight that not every step parent gets along with their step child.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why do you think you get along with them? 

TY:  Um, I've just been brought up very open minded and to not really like head on anyone. I feel like I'm like, sorry, I forgot your name but I'm a lover not a fighter. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Like Liam, you're a lover not a fighter? 

TY:  Yes.

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're also the centre of attention of four adults? 

TY:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Aren't you, you haven't got to compete with anyone, really? 

TY:  You make it sound like it's a good thing. 


TY:  It is, it is, don't get me wrong but it means I can't hide anything from four parents.  If I was doing something that I really wasn't doing, I'd have to keep my story consistent because I have to go through four people. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You've got, they've got a WhatsApp group, haven't they? 

TY:  They've got a group chat, I'm not even in it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  About you, yeah, and we've got some screen shots, this might come as a surprise to you. Have you seen these? 

TY:  No.  Not in the group. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Have a look, have a look. "So we need to be so careful it doesn't impact the relationship negatively. We can't give away our cues, otherwise we don't have any other means of monitoring it." So they've got cues to deal with stuff to do with you? 

TY:  Yeah, they're always watching me but they don't like, they don't tell me that they're talking about it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, so this is a conversation between who, it's between your dad and your mum and your stepmum? 

TY:  Yeah, so Sheila’s my mum, Leola's my stepmum and my dad's Mervyn. So basically in this I had snuck my IPad to my dad's house and at that time I wasn't allowed like technology after bed time, and so obviously I had my IPad and I was like talking to people and my parents knew I had it but I don't think they wanted to give away that they knew. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So they keep it to themselves on WhatsApp? 

TY:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah. Aubaney, you've mentioned that you've fought a lot with Jahara and that you were possessive of your mum? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  When you were younger. How do you feel about her now, about Jahara are now? 

AUBANEY:  Sometimes it's worse when we fight, like the fights are really bad now. But when we're happy it's really better. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And something changed, didn't it, when Jahara got sick?  Can you tell us about that? 

AUBANEY: Yeah, so we all kind of got a lot closer to each other, like the whole family, just because we were always there for Jahara. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What happened Jahara? 

JAHARA: I was diagnosed with anorexia in 2013 so that was like a big thing on the family and I think that brought us closer together because the one goal was to try to get me back together and get me back to health.  So we kind of put all our arguments aside and I guess I really came close with Naomi then as well because she was doing everything she could to help me. Whether that meant like taking days off work or, and the same with dad, he was doing the same.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So how do you, you're all a bit down the track with your step siblings, how do you all feel that you're getting on in your families now that you've been together for a few years? 

LIAM:  Great. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Great for you Liam? 

LIAM:  Well, it's like the occasional arguments but all together it's just fine, great, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah!  The others? Josh, you and Nick have moved out? 

JOSH:  Yeah, it's better living away because then I'm not like caught up in the argument, I can just go there and not be involved in any of it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lola, you had a stepdad living with you for how long?  

LOLA:  I think it was eight or nine years. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Eight or nine years from when you were two? 

LOLA:   Ah yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what happened? 

LOLA:   My mum and stepdad divorced when I was ten and then since then I've seen him like twice but, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How did you get on with him during all those years you were together?

LOLA:  I got on with him like really well and he's like my stepbrother as well, I got on with him.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And do you see your stepbrother now? 

LOLA:   No, like sometimes I'll bump into him like around Bondi or something but not like planned or anything. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what's that like when you've had all those years with a stepparent and the relationship ends? 

LOLA:   Yeah, I was pretty sad at the beginning, especially because we were pretty close and like it just kind of felt kind of like empty for quite a while. But yeah, it was pretty upsetting at the start and like now it kind of just feels normal, I guess. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And he had a tattoo of your name? 

LOLA:   Yeah, he did. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah.  So does mum have anyone now in her life, does she have a partner? 

LOLA:   No, not at the moment.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how do you think you'd feel if she did have another relationship with someone now? 

LOLA:   I think I'd be slightly less trustworthy than I was when I was like two.  But like yeah, I'd be okay with it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How would you be less trustworthy do you think? 

LOLA:   I don't know, I'd just feel like less cautious because I did get really attached to him.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How would those of you in step families feel if those parents split up now? 

LIAM:  I reckon it would suck because then we would rarely be able to see like our step siblings because like, I mean we go to the same school and stuff so like…

JAYMON:  It would just be awkward when you just walk like…  What would happen. 

TAHLIA:   Also like you're sad as well. You'd miss them a lot. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How would the rest of you feel if your families changed?  Yes, Ty? 

TY:  I just told my mum that if my mum and stepdad divorced, I'm moving with my stepdad. It's kind of slack…


TY:  I just love, I just let along with my stepdad heaps well, he's been there since I was like three and we've always had like a good, a good vibe together and so like I was kind of joking when I said it but even if I moved in with my stepdad I wouldn't even like, like I would love it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What sort of families do you want to have? 

HOLLY:  A big one. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  A big one? 

HOLLY:  Yeah. 

TAHLIA:  A happy one. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, what about the rest of you? Griffin, what sort of family would you like to have? 

GRIFFIN: I think the one I have now is probably the best one I could hope for. I mean I would really like having a family that I had with my mum and my dad, but I think, every time I think about that, putting Kristen out of the picture, I can't do it. The way I put it is without Kristen I wouldn't be where I am today, I wouldn't be the same person.  I'd probably be running amuck and be really annoying to everyone and probably just doing really bad in school. And so I would like it with all like my older brothers, I can't get rid of the people I have in my life right now. So what I think is what the people that I have right now is perfect. I can't ask for any more. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, thanks so much everyone for joining us, it's been great to hear your stories, really good of you to share them with us. And that is all we have time for here but let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook. Thank everyone, thank you.