Every parent goes through it at least once, twice maybe even three times. But as a mother of nine girls, Daniella Borg went through the adolescence phase of teenage angst nine times, with each round being even wilder than the last.
The Noongar woman from Perth, raised all nine children completely on her own after her Husband tragically died from a coward punch in 2004. Hannah, their youngest daughter was only a few weeks old. Daniella says the challenges she faced were unthinkable, but the lessons she learned were priceless, and that if she could do it all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.
In my experience every child is going to test the boundaries in some manner. Some are easier than others, you might have one child and everything goes fantastic whereas the other child is always pushing the boundaries.
I think that every teen is learning who they are and also experiencing growing up and with that comes peer pressure. Unanswered questions such as ‘who am I’, ‘where do I fit in society’. Growing up in the city, one of the big things I’ve noticed is that children experiment with lots of stuff…
"I let them know what to expect when they go to parties, so they can make an informative decision when they’re confronted with the situation, which is bound to confront them in a busy city."
As a parent, I’ve learned that we can’t be naïve with what’s out there. As society develops, with brighter lights and bigger clubs, there becomes more peer pressure, so as a city mum I’ve got to really take a proactive approach whereby I’m honest, upfront and tell them how it really is. I let them know what to expect when they go to parties.
It’s about teaching them to be resilient, don’t pretend, but inform and educate. I give my kids as much information as I can for them to be able to make an informative decision when they’re confronted with the situation, which is bound to confront them whilst living in a busy city. You’re not going to be with your child 24/7 so you’ve got to be honest with your approach. At the end of the day, kids make mistakes. They do things but you can never close the door on your children, they can only grow through life experiences.
Daniella's key parenting rules:
- Respecting yourself is number one
- Treat others the way you want to be treated
- Can’t skip school
- Earn your own money – if you want credit, earn your own money
- No technology late at night
- No Facebook until you’re a teenager
What did you least expect while parenting?
Doing it on my own – when I had nine children I had no idea I was going to be doing it on my own.
What’s the best thing about having children?
They grow up to be my best friend – we have that bond, it’s a new formed relationship and the closest thing is a best friend, but not exactly because I have to keep that motherly status
Catherine Liddle hails from the Central Desert regions of the Northern Territory. She is currently the Executive Editor of NITV News and Current Affairs. This is her story about two perspectives of parenting, growing up out bush and then raising her children in regional Alice Springs.
I’ve lived everywhere - however primarily I grew up in Central Australia near Angas Downs Station in a remote community town. All my other family also lived in rural small towns; they were mainly at World Ntaria otherwise known as Hermannsburg.
My Nana is traditional so we had a lot of traditional practices while growing up and one of the main ones was hunting. We would go out and hunt for witchetty grubs, anaty (bush yam) and honey ants. Because we lived out bush, hunting meant dinner on our plates that night, but it really is an essential life tool, it also taught me how to gather and understand more about nature and the country I live in.
"The main things I remember from living out bush are the red dirt, hunting and watching scary movies with my cousins."
Another memory I have from my childhood is when the river flowed we would always go and chase the Pertame rivers which are the rivers of my Nana. I never swam in swimming pools; I only learned to swim in rivers. Funnily enough, we were never actually allowed to swim in pools because my Nana said it was ‘unsafe.’ Again this was her view because being a traditional woman; unknown things like pools were somewhat scary. Going into town and engaging with others was out of my Nana’s comfort zone.
My Nana could speak up to six different languages including English so back in those days, wherever we went Nana would be able to converse with anyone, so when we would visit a new place we would be introduced in language and our linear.
I don’t remember challenges while growing up out bush - I remember having a good time. It was very free and there were things like being able to catch the river as it would come down the creek, meaning we’d be able to jump on it when the water first came down and try and ride it. We’d be able to chase billy goats who would jump, skip and hope about in the wild, we’d climb trees looking for lizards and eggs, and we’d shake Quandong trees with ripe fruit.
"I wouldn’t swap growing up out bush for the world."
The region that I come from includes areas like Kings Canyon and Uluru – it was Alice Springs, so when we’d go into town to attend school we’d be able to play netball, basketball and all kinds of sports. I ended up entering a representative Netball team, which meant I was able to travel to places like Darwin, Perth, and Adelaide to represent my town and the bonus was they were places I wouldn’t usually be able to visit.
Just to give you an understanding of schooling in remote communities… Traeger Park Primary School in Alice Springs was 99% Indigenous and at another school I attended, we spoke for half the day in the Aboriginal language of Arrentre – prtame. You wouldn’t find that anywhere in the big city!
You see with any spare time we had, my family and I spent most weekends out bush which diminished trouble that we would potentially get into, so for us it was either out bush or playing sport.
We lived in a place called St Marys and that’s where they put all the bush kids, so there were all these kids from different walks of life that were put together. By year 11 I was enrolled into a boarding school. You see the thing was, in Alice Springs it was harder to get to year 12 if you were Indigenous, and that was just the fact of life. In 1990, I was the only Indigenous girl in the entire school and my cousin was the only Indigenous male.
"Because I came from the bush I had funny habits like not using a suitcase but instead put my clothes in plastic bags to protect them from the dust..."
I’m so grateful for their decision to send me there in year 11 and 12, despite coming from out bush, with little income and it was back before the days of scholarships so my extended family had to help fork out the bill as my immediate family lived rural and with their only income being from the cattle station they owned, couldn’t afford much.
Initially I didn’t know how to engage with people around me because the environment was so different. I had funny habits like not carrying a suitcase; I would carry clothes in plastic bags because out bush we wrapped our clothes to protect them from the dust. Another element that proved I was ‘out of touch’ was when all the girls would go to the city to visit Country Road (the shop) and I never could understand why they would go to the city to go to the ‘Country Road,’ it wasn’t until one time when they brought me that I understood it was a brand name, not a place!
Being one of the very few Indigenous students at a boarding school was a tight ship. I got a report once where the teacher labelled me as the leader of the “Black Brat Pack” but despite that racist comment, I always thought I was a good kid. When my mother read that on my report card, she informed them that if they didn’t re-write the report to reflect my grades which were quite high, she’d be reporting them. This particular teacher also told me I wouldn’t get far in life and now I’m the executive editor of NITV News and Current Affairs. She also told my two younger brothers that they’d fail and they’ve both just graduated from studying medicine.
The only threat I ever got was that if I was naughty I wasn’t allowed to play netball, which always kept me in line. My brother was banned from the local swimming pool for doing back-flips in summer, so I guess that taught him and me a lesson.
"There isn’t a day when I'm away from home where I don’t think about wanting to go home."
Reflecting back on it, I wouldn’t swap growing up out bush for the world. I am so fortunate to have spent so much time with my grandmother, I’m so grateful that I know how to hunt and swim down rivers. At the time I didn’t know how valuable that family time was because I wanted to spend it in town with all the other kids, but now I’m so thankful I have that experience to live with.
My grandfather and mother were very adamant about furthering our education which meant, going from primary to secondary and university which was quite a big challenge when close friends would drop out early and not be at school anymore but we were always shown the way… and I can proudly say I’ve tried to instill that in all my children but ultimately the decision is there’s to make. I focus more on telling them to never give up and keep on being resilient.
I have four children, one girl and three boys ranging in ages from 10 to 22. My kids were primarily brought up in regional Alice Springs, but we’ve also moved to Adelaide, Darwin and Sydney with my work as a journalist but no matter what - we always go home again.
They haven’t had as much time in the bush as I did, which is something I’m in the process of addressing. I’m now taking leave so they can spend more time with their Nana and learn how to hunt, increase their language skills and learning about Jurrkapar (their dreamtime stories).
"If my kids spent as much time on their mobiles, as they did doing homework we’d have no issues."
We’re going to embark on a history project because my Nana is now 90 and she has the memory of back in the days of settlement and other traditional stories so we are desperate for her to share them with the younger generation.
When I was a little girl, my Nana was too frightened to speak to white people because white people represented authority and she was scared of that and spent a lot of time trying to avoid them. Now she has become a famous artist and senior lore woman and recently went to Canberra to address parliament to ask them to prevent the NT government from fracking at Watarrka in Kings canyon. This shift is a mark in history on how time is changing and my children need to be able to understand that so they too can share this with their children, and their children’s children and so on for future generations.
The most difficult thing about being a parent is finding out how to balance career and children. We're constantly on the move either for my job and then also away from it because when I'm not working, I use that time to teach my kids who they are and where they’re from - this balance of work and culture is a constant battle.
To be completely honest I haven't had problems with my kids sneaking out to get to parties or breaking curfew and coming home late. My biggest struggle with them is trying to make sure they hand their homework in on time. Of course like most other parents, my kids are obsessed with technology so that can interfere from time to time. I swear, if they spent as much time on their mobiles as doing homework we’d have no issues.
For all those parents out there raising children in places like Alice Springs - my only advice to you if your teen is being difficult is that: 'It doesn’t last long'.
Catherine's key parenting rules:
- Try and tidy the house before we get home
- Kitchen needs to be clean before dinner is cooked
What did you least expect while parenting?
I am one of 8 children and I have lots of cousins and extended brothers and sisters, so I don’t think I had any surprises about parenting myself - I saw it all.
What’s the best thing about having children?
Being able to spend time with them.
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