Keelen Mailman is this year’s Barnardo’s Mother of the Year.
She was nominated for the award by her niece Fay, for her selfless dedication when she opened her heart and her home to Fay and her four brothers and sisters.
She represented herself in court to get full guardianship of Fay, Elizabeth, CJ, Donna and Maggie in addition to looking after her own three kids (Allan, Christie and Charlie) and running a cattle station 700 kilometres west of Brisbane.
It wasn’t easy but she told NITV she drew strength from her own mother and her ancestors.
Mother's Day is a special day for me because I’ve given birth to my children and watched them grow through the sad times and the happy times.
I’m so proud of my kids and my extend family like Fay, who nominated me for this very special award.
To watch them grow up into their adulthood has made me so proud, and to see what they have achieved and where they’ve come to today.
I think a lot of mums out there would look at that in the same way.
Being a mum is the greatest gift of all. The greatest gift my mum ever gave me was life, and the handing down of my cultural language.
Over the years I’ve said to my kids, 'you might not like me at the moment but you’ll thank me for it later on', and that’s what they’ve come back and done.
Mother’s Day is our time to get together to have a laugh and have a yarn one-on-one, and the kids all give me massages - bless them.
Fay may say that I saved her life, but I am truly blessed as well… I want to wish all the other mothers around this country of ours a happy Mother’s Day.
Fay Beth Anderson
I’ve been with Keelen since I was nine. And from that young age she pulled me out of the darkness and before that I was just a lost child.
She saved my life, it was a true blessing.
I was living in north Queensland with my grandfather and his family. We endured a lot of heartache and sadness and I remember Aunty came up to visit us and take us out for a few hours.
I remember it was one of the greatest days of my life because in that moment I knew she was going to save me.
I nominated her because I know how amazing she is, and I wanted everyone else to know that.
I nearly missed the announcement yesterday [Thursday]. I went to the bathroom but luckily I made it back in time. I opened my phone and started recording, and I nearly dropped my phone when they read out her name and she was looking around for me and I was like ‘I’m here, I’m here I can’t believe you won!’.
She inspires me every day to be strong, to be a better person for myself and for my family.
She’s had to endure so much and her strength is something I admire in her. She’s taught me how to take the world on.
It doesn’t matter that we’re niece and Aunty, she’ll always be my mum.