Michael Whitehead (Manager, Ryde Family Support Service, facilitates a grandparent carer support group): It’s a difficult time. And it’s more difficult if you’re planning to retire, or if you are retired, if you’re looking toward the future and you’ve spent your time earning your money; you want to go on a trip. You’re looking forward to retirement and all of a sudden, you’ve got responsibilities. And they’re big responsibilities.
Rae (raising 2 grandchildren): You don’t get to go on the holidays that you used to be able to, and all the rest. You’re sort of very restricted in that now, and where you can go and cost-wise, again, for that. But, we go to the snow once a year, and that’s good. And you know, if we can get away just for a day out, it’s as good as a holiday probably.
Freda (raising one grandchild): It was just really, really difficult at that time, because I’ve been working as well. And trying to juggle her and work was a bit hard for me at first. But I’ve had lots of family members come and help as well. My sisters helped with rearing her as well, because with Aboriginal families we all tend to look for extended family members to help rear a child in the family.
Rae: It’s also emotionally involved because you’re fighting either your daughter or your son, you know, and you’d really like to see them raising the kids, not you. So, it’s an up and down ride all the way, it really is.
Margaret (raising one grandchild): The situation now is not very good. Things have changed; the relationship with his mother has gone downhill because she has got involved with a guy who has physically, mentally and verbally abused Joel in some awful ways. And DOCS have become involved. This has made parenting for me very much harder for Joel, because his mother now resists my involvement, and she’s tried to stop me from seeing him. It’s going now through the courts, and things are being turned around.
Freda: It is a challenge sometimes to be looking after your grandchild. But if I can change her life and make her life better, make her a better person, well the end result is positive for me.
Margaret: As far as the future is concerned, I will always be there for Joel. Joel knows that I will always be there for him. As I get older, I know that I’m not going to be there all the time. That’s why I’m hoping that now that things have started to turn around, the relationship between Joel and his father will gradually build. Because his father has been denied from seeing him very much over the last 2 years, they are building up their relationship again, so that Lee will understand Joel and what his needs are. Gradually, he can take over my role and responsibility. And I’m sure he will do that.
Rae: When the boys get older I’d like to see them get their own relationships, get a little place, you know, have a job. The main thing in life is to have a job and have somebody beside you. I encourage that, but I’m not keen to have them move out just yet [laughs]. But I think the family is definitely important and when you come from a broken home it’s probably a lot harder.
Freda: I’m hoping that Nikia is going to be a very – how can I put it? – she’s going to be a very social person. She can be a bit shy at times but I’m trying to teach her to get out there in the community. I take her to NAIDOC, I take her to anything I have to do in the community. I take all of the kids with me. They’re doing welcome to country at their schools, representing their family in whatever, so just making them aware they are Aboriginal, they do have a culture. They do Aboriginal dancing, they do welcome to country, so I’m handing down to them things that I do.
Rae: I find the joy of raising them has been in teaching them things – teaching them in sport, teaching them in their schooling, just general things that they weren’t learning down where they were living. I’ve been able to steer them in the right direction as such, and support them when they’ve needed support. So, yeah, it’s been great.