• The twin sisters had been separated for 13 years. (Insight)Source: Insight
The sisters became separated after one of them left the family as she battled with a drug addiction.
Rangi Hirini

20 Mar 2018 - 12:17 PM  UPDATED 22 Mar 2018 - 9:04 AM

Growing up Sandra and Tanya were inseparable. Tanya describes herself as more of the tomboy while she says her sister was the more girly of the pair. However there was a shadow cast over their childhood.

“We were pretty close but our childhood was horrible, there was five of us kids and there was domestic violence,” Tanya tells NITV News.

Appearing on tonight's night’s episode of Insight the twins from South Australia talk about their troubled past and how after Sandra’s drug abuse they were able to find each other again.

“In my head, I was thinking, 'no something is wrong with her' - I thought she was dead in someone’s backyard, but my heart was telling me, 'no, she’s out there'.  I guess if something did happen to her, I did feel it,” Tanya says.

The sisters will appear on tonight's episode of Insight on SBS at 8.30pm.

In her early thirties Sandra became addicted to drugs, her life transformed and she became so dependent on it she left her family behind.

“I was a completely different person, I was somebody else,” Sandra tells NITV News.

Her twin sister, Tanya also agrees and said it was sad to see her sister had lost pieces of their culture over the years.

But drug addiction is an issue the Indigenous community continues to battle with.

“Everybody is a drug addict or they know a drug addict,” she says.

“It use to be we were all together, and blackfullas we're all about culture and family and one mob. And now they’re killing each other, it’s so sad.”

For 13 years Sandra abandoned her family and had no contact with them for most of that time.

Tanya says she had filed a number of missing person’s reports on her sister but her twin wasn’t ready to come back to the family.

“She went through some issues and drugs and she sort of left and I guess drugs can do horrible things to people and they got a hold of her and she left,” Tanya said.

Over those years Sandra says she lost her culture and her true identity after becoming consumed by her addiction.

“You do lose a sense of identity when you’re not around your family, or your people. So yes, I really was away from my culture and from me as Sandra too,” she says.

Sandra says a huge turning point in reuniting with her family was the loss of one of her brothers.

She remembers being told by someone who wasn’t in her direct family, and it had been four months since his passing when she found out.

“After the incident happened, and they told me, and that was the moment that I decided I needed to work my way back to getting to my family because what if somebody else goes,” she says.

Sandra had been contacted by the police after her sister filed the original missing person’s report, however because Sandra was an adult and did not with to go home, they couldn’t do anything.

When Tanya approached them a few years later, they advised her to seek help from the Salvation Army.

In 2016, Sandra received a letter from the Salvation Army but didn’t open it for many months.

“For some reason, in the back of my mind, I knew what it was,” she says.

Sandra says she went back and forth over email with a person from the Salvation Army and was freaking out about reuniting with her family.

The following year Sandra decided to read her sister’s letter.

“I opened the letter that Tanya sent me and read it and I just broke down. It was a welcoming letter, I thought it was going to be an angry letter,” she says.

Shortly afterwards Sandra reached out to her case manager at Salvos and asked to call her sister so they could talk.

“The first words my sister said to me was welcome home and I sat there crying and hugging the phone,” she said.

Within hours after their phone call, Sandra went over to her twin’s house to see her sister after 13 years of separation.

Tanya says waiting for her sister to arrive was ‘nerve wracking’.

She remembers feeling a lot of anger towards her sister, and being disappointed that Sandra had missed so much time with the family over the years she had been missing.

But as soon as she saw her twin sister, she said the anger just went.

“I said to her, ‘don’t worry about the past, I don’t wanna know where you’ve been,’” Tanya remembers.

It’s been under a year since the sisters reunited but they continue to build their relationship and hope to one day go back to country to properly heal.

Sandra hopes the relationship will continue to grow.

“Our relationship gets deeper and deeper and deeper and that we don’t miss anything from each other lives ever again," she says.

Tanya’s advice for other people who have family members going through troubled times is to not give up on them.

“All I can say is just stick by them and give them support and have faith in them. It’s so hard at times and I lose faith sometimes but I just think, no you gotta keep at it and keep at it,” she said.

Watch The Point, 8.30pm Thursday nights on NITV, channel 34.