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"With any father, everything is about love"

Francis Khan is a father to four grown children. He’s seen the rewards of fatherhood and for the past year, he’s been experiencing these rewards again as a foster father.

Francis feels a strong responsibility to provide a safe home and a strong connection to culture for Aboriginal children in care.

As part of the stolen generation, I know what it means to grow up disconnected from my culture. More than anything, I want to provide young indigenous kids with an opportunity be in an indigenous community.

– Francis

Francis is the first carer under a new model of foster care developed by Aboriginal controlled community organisation Woolkabunning Kiaka and MacKillop Family Services designed to provide culturally appropriate support to Aboriginal children in care.

The model sees young Aboriginal children grow up on-country at Roelands Village, a former stolen generation mission and now home to Woolkabunning Kiaka, an organisation that exists to create a positive place of healing and development for the children of the mission and their families, and opportunities for Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their future.

“Being a foster carer for me means we get to have our grandson in our community,” Francis said.

“It’s not just me looking after him; we’re raising him as a community. On the land we teach cultural stuff – our stories, history, sport and an understanding of our spiritual life as Noongar people.

The connection to culture and to the land has provided stability for the young person in Francis’ care.

“When he first came to us, he was timid, shy and aggressive – he had a lack of trust. By raising him as a community and teaching him about his culture, we’ve seen a drastic change. He has respect for his elders, and for his community,” Francis said.

According to Francis, being a foster parent – just like being a father – is about being available and flexible.

“I had to learn to be a father, I didn’t have any role models. With any father, everything is about love. It doesn’t matter who the kid is, it’s about being there for them,” Francis said.

For Francis, being a foster father is about a responsibility to look after his community, but it is also a role that brings him joy.

“As a father, you see changes in your kids that bring you joy. As a foster parent, these changes come about as the kid builds trust and knows they are safe. It’s rewarding to see. Kids come with a pattern of behaviour, but you just need to teach them what parenting is about; what love is about.

“That sense of belonging and identity that we should all have comes from being part of a community. Our community has a responsibility to provide this for our Noongar kids and try to give them a better life,” Francis said.