Skip to main content

Connecting to culture

Nine-year-old Harry* had to leave his country and his kin to access medical care and support, but his foster carer goes above and beyond to ensure he stays closely connected to his family, community and culture.

Every school holiday, aided by financial support from MacKillop, they take an arduous eight-hour journey back to Harry’s country so he can spend time with his siblings and cousins and learn about their way of life.

Harry comes from the Tjuntjutjar Community, 650 km NE of Kalgoorlie in the Goldfields/Esperance region of Western Australia. Harry’s parents struggled with addiction and family violence issues and their children’s medical issues placed an additional stress on an already fragile and vulnerable family.

Harry has been diagnosed with severe language delay, selective mutism, intellectual disability and anxiety. Hehad behaviour and toileting problems and his medical and dental needs have also been complex.

In need of extensive medical support, Harry came to Perth to live with his foster carer, who, as a speech pathologist, has supported his learning through maintaining links to his culture. When they go back to country together, his foster carer collects words from the language of his family and uses these to create word books for Harry to help with his speech and to keep him connected to his culture.

MacKillop encourages carers to create picture memory books for children in their care and Harry’s foster carer takes pictures of Harry’s community so they talk about their trips when back in Perth. On the last trip, they all went on bush trips, eating kangaroo tail by the campfire and hearing stories from community elders.

Harry is also in regular video and phone contact with his parents and extended family and has blossomed into a happy, cheerful young boy. When he no longer needs extensive medical attention, he will return to country and his kin with a deep connection that has been nurtured during his time in care.

*Name changed to protect privacy