Barnardos Australia Mother of the Year 2009

EVERY month in the VIP section, we feature a mother many of us recognise – a celebrity in either television, music, sport or the big screen. But this month, as we celebrate Mother's Day, we chose to highlight eight amazing mothers, ordinary mums that may not be well known to you, but who have made an extraordinary commitment to motherhood. This month we shine the spotlight on the eight finalists in the annual Barnardos Mother of the Year Awards.

bernadette black and familyBernadette Black – TAS finalist and 2009 Barnardos Australia's Mother of the Year

When Bernadette fell pregnant at 16 she did not let the situation derail her life. Instead the young mother became an inspiration to others. Today, the 32-year-old mother of three is a regular speaker at schools and community events and has writen a book about her experiences as a young mum called Brave Little Bear. Bernadette also set up a website providing advice and support on teenage and unexpected pregnancy. "She works tirelessly to show single mums how life's adversities can be turned into positives and that with support and encouragement anything is possible," says Bernadette's son Damien, who nominated her. "But she also always has time for her own kids and makes us all feel very special - and she makes great choc chip cookies!"

How has motherhood changed you?

It turned my world upside down. I remember being in the delivery suite about half an hour after I had my baby and I was alone with Damien for the first time. He started crying and in that first moment I felt the total weight of the responsibility of this little person, and with that, an overwhelming feeling of love and protection that until this day. It was like I drew in a totally new breath I had never breathed until then. That responsibility, love and protection are still my anchor points as a mum to my three kids today.

What do you love most about being a mum?

Helping and watching our children become more and more independent every day, even though it can be hard!! I love being able to give them a safe place to make decisions from. One of my greatest desires is that we lead them to great points of decision-making and see them become amazing individuals. I love seeing this in action with the three of my children. I will be there for my children to bounce off their decisions until I am 99!! Parenting is a lifelong commitment and journey, we will never stop the privilege of being active parents.

If you had one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st Century parent, what would it be?

To have an education system specifically developed for young women facing parenthood. They have little support structures and we often see a generational pattern of the loss of hope and a future. I would love to see, and be a part of, an education curriculum (by correspondence) developed and made accessible to all women in Australia, that have not completed their secondary schooling. This would be tailor-made to the demands of parenting, with continual mentoring and motivational counseling.

 

Julia RollingsJulia Rollings - ACT

Julia is a mother of eight, six of which were adopted from overseas. She was nominated by her friend, Helen Fenwick, for being “an inspiration and a champion of children's rights.” Nowhere was this more apparent than when Julia discovered her two youngest children had been sold for $50 by their biological father in India – unbeknownst to their biological mother. Through Julia’s determination and courage she successfully reunited the children with their biological mother and siblings.

How has motherhood changed you?

Motherhood brought a sense of purpose to my life and changed me in so many ways. It has been the central theme of my life since the birth of my firstborn, twenty seven years ago. I soon realised that this wasn't going to be just part of my life but, rather, mothering became my passion. It brought me such a sense of joy and fulfillment that I became a mum of many kinds - biological, step and adoptive - as well as mothering the children of others through years of family day care and foster care in our home.

Becoming a mum meant I was no longer the most important person in my universe. I had a pressing reason to care about the environment, to want my community to be a safe place, and to hope for a better world. I learned to be patient - to stop rushing and to share my children's sense of wonder.
Raising a child with severe disabilities changed me yet again. I learned to take life one step at a time and to see small achievements as big accomplishments.

What do you love most about being a mum?

I love the special pleasures of being a mum: little love letters given to me by my kids as they were growing up, watching my proud but slightly embarrassed child receive an award at the school assembly, listening to my teenager play a special song on his guitar that he'd composed for my Christmas present.

I love watching my little ones grow up, slowly turning into wonderful young adults and stepping out on their own. I love looking at my lanky son going off to work, and remembering the small boy who wouldn't let me out of his sight during the first few years in our family.

I also love that being a mother connects me to other women everywhere ... across racial, cultural and language barriers. When so many other things divide us. When I have travelled through remote villages overseas, I've been able to find a commonality with other women.

If you had one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st Century parent, what would it be?

The lack of community support. While we may acknowledge that it takes a village to raise a child, in reality too many parents are left to cope on their own. We no longer have the extended family living together or neighbourhood mothers gathering around to share their collective wisdom.

All parents struggle at times, whether it is with soothing a fretful newborn or coping with the challenges of teenagers pushing the limits. So, I'd like to see a shift in this view - with neighbourhoods becoming more proactive in providing both practical and emotional support to parents. Children need to be seen as our collective responsibility.

 

Vicki BadgerVicki Badger – WA

Vicki is mother to three biological children but has cared for more than 150 emergency and short-term foster children. A single mother for the past 14 years, Vicki endured a violent marriage for decades and she now helps mothers in similar situation. Vicki is a tireless advocate of children's rights and has worked with local special needs children, many child support agencies and has travelled to remote Aboriginal communities to assist with building and health projects. Her son Kit, who nominated her, says his mum is, “a legend and a champion. She is there for anyone who may need some guidance or support.”

How has motherhood changed you?

As a small child I would be asked "What would I like to be when I grow up?" and I always answered “a Mother.” My dolls, my prams, my play.....copying, that great example from my mum, just proves the fact that children learn so much through play.

What do you love most about being a mum?

To be a mum has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. To watch children grow into beautiful adults, the adventures along the way, the unconditional love you share. And what you learn from them is just amazing, you never stop learning.

If you had one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st Century parent, what would it be?

My wish for the 21st century Mums (and Dads) to be. Having a child is a lifelong commitment - be there 24/7 to love, nurture, discipline and guide your children, they are depending on you, for their future.

 

Christina CrossChristina Cross – NSW

Five years ago, when a relative was no longer able to care for her five children, Christina unhesitatingly took them in. Despite having two children of her own she fought to keep the children together and give them a proper childhood. "Mum was on the verge of getting her life back," says her daughter, Tracy, who nominated her. "But she put all that on hold so that the children could have a proper childhood and not be separated."

How has motherhood changed you?

It has made me a more fulfilled person.

What do you love most about being a mum?

Being a mother is frustrating and demanding but I and all mothers wouldn't change it because you get to see what an incredible human being, flaws and all, that tiny child can become.

If you had one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st Century parent, what would it be?

That all children could live in a home where there was love, not violence. That no matter what, the parents were there to fight tooth and nail for their children. Times get tough but the children and the family must always come first.

 

Jeka MalbasaJeka Malbasa– SA

Jeka's life reads like it was taken from the pages of an epic novel. When civil war broke out in Croatia in 1994 her husband was killed leaving Jeka the sole carer of her four young sons aged under 14. Jeka worked in labour-intensive jobs, found bomb shelters to keep them safe and often went hungry in order to feed her boys. She eventually managed to flee to Australia. "She endured hunger, poverty, sickness, disease and personal grief to come to Australia and provide a better life for her children," said her son Daniel, now 22, who nominated her.

How has motherhood changed you?

It became a great responsibility but one that was joyful and fulfilling. Motherhood changed me in the sense that it provided me with a deeper understanding of life, often it was the purpose for me living. This was particularly true after the war ensued - and I lost my husband and all contact with my family members for over 20 years. My children were the only motivation for me to keep going and not give up.

What do you love most about being a mum?

There are many aspects of motherhood that appeal to me, but I would have to say seeing my children happy and healthy is something that any mother would say is the best aspect of motherhood. Likewise, I think seeing my children work hard, demonstrate good work ethic and show respect towards others is something that makes me proud to be a mum.

If you had one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st Century parent, what would it be?

Parents needing to show more care towards their children. I think many parents these days are too busy with demanding work and other commitments and this usually puts children last. I think Australian parents need to spend more time with their children, they need to show more interest in what they are doing and, where possible, try and do things together.

 

Pamela DeaconPamela Deacon – VIC

Pamela endured 16 years of IVF treatment in order to have her five children, one of which is blind and has cerebral palsy and another who requires regular hospitalisation. But she didn't stop there. The Victorian mother has also fostered several children. “Mum has the wonderful ability to turn a negative situation into a positive,” said her daughter Alice who nominated her.

How has motherhood changed you?

I am thrilled and garteful for all my little miracles, but they didn't change me. I had cared for children with disabilities before. However, Pat's disabilities do have an enormous impact on our family. I had to quickly learn how to be a physiotherapist to not only allow Pat to develop to his full potential but simply to keep him alive. Another major change involved travelling which we had never done before. We travelled to the UK each year for about six years for a walking program for Pat in the hope he may be able to walk with assistance. Pat is alive and well and additionally our other children benefited from the experience.

What do you love most about being a mum?

I love everything about being a mum. I am very fortunate to have my children and I can't imagine my life without them. They were so adorable when they were little and now they are my best friends.

If you had one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st Century parent, what would it be?

Australia is a great place for children. If I could have one wish granted, it wuld be that all Australian children shared the benefits most of us take for granted and that no child is disadvantaged by neglect or poverty.

 

Barbara PopeBarbara Pope – QLD

Despite having three children of her own, Barbara has never turned away a child in need, fostering and adopting several children since 1977.

How has motherhood changed you?

I feel that until you grow up and have children of your own you don't fully appreciate what a wonderful mother your own mother was. You have a better understanding of her hard work, going without for you, her tolerance, love and always putting her children above and beyond herself. I knew I had reached motherhood when I too could do this.

What do you love most about being a mum?

The unconditional love that you receive over and over again and the wonderful feeling of always being needed. Watching children grow into great little human beings, especially the children who have had a tough start and then make it into adulthood as decent human beings. Finally, watching them as parents to their own children and being terribly proud of them in all their achievements. I feel blessed to have had so many children to love and been loved by.

If you had one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st Century parent, what would it be?

My wish would be that every child born in our great country have the same amount of love, opportunities, respect and selfworth. Equality is paramount. No child asks to be born, so all of us as Australians do our best to guide them. This is a very big country with few people, so lets all make sure our greatest asset to this country is our children. Without them there is no future for Australia. I wish this with all my heart.

 

Joan StokesJoan Stokes – NT

From the age of 17 Joan made it her mission to love. care and support the young children in her community who were suffering or in trouble.

Over the years Joan has raised 34 children, including her own four biological kids and an adopted son. Even though she is sick and money is scarce, Joan's dream is to create a sanctuary on her property for disadvantaged indigenous children.




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MotherInc.com.au is proud to be a Sponsor of the Barnardos Mother of the Year.

For more information on Barnardos and their work to help Australian families and children log onto www.barnardos.com.au.

 
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