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Sowing the seeds of a meaningful connection

At just six and eight years old, Sara* and Eva* have been in care for the last four years and are currently living in Perth with foster carers Brooke and Glen and their two boys.

They see their mum on a regular basis, but do not have any contact with their father or with their extended family in northern WA.

“They’re great girls and have come completely out of their shells since they’ve come to live with us."

“We knew the girls came from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait background, but we had very little information about their culture and community, so it has been a privilege for us to support the girls to learn as much as possible about their culture and family connections," Brooke said.

MacKillop Family Services’ case worker Kerryn Lewis began working with the girls and Brooke and Glen in late 2019 and realised that there was no cultural plan in place for Sara and Eva. Brooke and Glen were very keen to support them to establish a connection with their culture and after working with Kerryn to fill in some of the gaps, the idea of a road trip to the land of their ancestors was hatched.

“It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. When we started to help the girls learn about the land they came from, Glen and I chatted about how it would be lovely to take the girls back there and decided to turn it into a trip for the whole family,” Brooke added.

The girls’ mum had lost touch with her roots but she was very keen for Sara and Eva to visit the land of their father. To prepare for the trip, Kerryn worked with Brooke to create a work book which contained valuable cultural information and a checklist of all the key landmarks they would encounter on the road.

The workbook included story time stories and information that would help their foster carers to support the girls to understand how they could connect and honour the land:

Take some nyaja (sand) in your hands and rub them together and do the acknowledgment.

If you are near the ocean place hands in the water and wash them and do the acknowledgment.

Getting everyone on the trip to look out for the ‘Leaning Trees’ and the ‘big lobster” made it fun for the girls to learn about the land of their ancestors and start that connection to their culture.

The road trip took 10 days and Sara and Eva have a collection of photographs and books of memories to remember their first trip to their country.

It has been a real honour to play a part in supporting Sara and Eva to connect with their country and learn more about their culture. I know the trip has made a deep impression on them and we look forward to continuing to help the girls deepen their knowledge and strengthen their links with their land and their community.

– Foster carer Brooke

*Names changed to protect privacy