I remember Nunjul from my childhood, she was always reserved – she didn’t talk much, and wore a patch over her lazy eye. She didn’t live with her parents; she was placed in foster care before her mother passed away. Every second week, Nunjul and her sister would stay with a family in my neighbourhood – respite care from their main foster family. Nunjul finds it hard to remember what her mother looked like, or any interaction they had. In trying to understand Nunjul’s past, we visited her older sister in Lismore, New South Wales. Living in a caravan park at the time, her sister grabbed a pile of old photos from inside her tent. They were photos of their mother. As homage to Nunjul’s past, and her delight at discovering the images, we made a collaborative decision to include one of these images in the resolved work.
Nunjul recently turned 18, and her son BJ is two years old. In November 2011 The Department of Community Services (DOCS) removed BJ from Nunjul’s custody because she was in a violent relationship with his father. To end the relationship, Nunjul made the decision to move away from her hometown. Rather than being supported in the decision to leave an abusive and unhealthy environment, she describes DOCS reaction to her move as an ‘inconvenience’ for the department. 2012
To leave her ex-partners abuse, Nunjul moved in with her current partner into a run-down studio apartment. The apartment has no bedrooms, just a bathroom, lounge room and kitchen. To attempt to make the place like home, Nunjul stuck posters of teenage singers & celebrities onto the wall. 2012
With no car Nunjul has to travel 100km to visit her son. Seemingly reluctant to reunite Nunjul with her son, DOCS reduced visitations with BJ to one hour, once every two months. No explanation was provided. During one of Nunjul’s supervised visits with her son at a park, BJ was sick with a fever. Soothing BJ with a gentle lullaby, it became impossible to overlook the sensitivity, attention and care Nunjul displayed for BJ. Conflicted by the scarce opportunities permitted to be with her son, Nunjul nevertheless suggested to the staff to take him home and to a doctor. “I think he’s too sick, maybe you should take him home?” The staff declined. For the one-hour visit, Nunjul just held him tight. As the supervisor and myself sat watching Nunjul, we exchanged conversation about my project and young mothers. He ended by saying, “but isn’t it sad that young mothers just don’t have the skills to be a mother?”. 2012
Nunjul’s son BJ sits in a car ready to leave from the one-hour visitation with his mum at the park.
Tammara holds a bird she rescued from the street. 2012
I went to school with Tammara. Her mum was strict, and my friends bullied her because of her frizzy hair. She left high school early, and had her first baby, followed by a second soon after. She wasn’t in a good place; depression, drugs, alcohol and a turbulent relationship resulted in the removal of her first two children. She admits at that stage in her life, she had given up. I started visiting Tammara during her third pregnancy with her new partner. She was a part of my previous project ‘We met a little early, but I get to love you longer’ (2011). Although Tammara had moved interstate, her circumstances were now even more complex. Pregnant, homeless, and in a relationship with a partner waiting to be sentenced by the court, I wondered whether this baby would be the catalyst for change in her life. Despite her transient circumstances I continued to visit Tammara and her family, and we decided to continue telling her story. One year on, we celebrated Tamika’s first birthday, and one year of Tammara being clean from drugs. 2012
A homemade birthday cake Tammara baked for her daughter Tamika. Tammara was embarrassed by her own efforts. The cake was imperfect and while she was self-conscious of it, we celebrated Tamika’s first birthday, and one year of Tammara being clean from drugs.
Soon after giving birth to Tamika, Tammara moved from Nerang to Redcliffe, Queensland. The move was a deliberate attempt to distant herself and her new family from the environment, people and temptations in Nerang. As a result, Tammara, now living in an unfamiliar suburb with her daughter and partner, is isolated from her community and any support network she had.
The TV series ‘Charmed’ plays on the television at Tamika’s first birthday party. Not one child attended.
“I’ve never had that love and affection from nobody hence why I crave it so much. I crave it. I want what’s in the movies but I’ll never get it”. She recently gave up her daughter Tamika because she felt couldn’t keep her safe from her ex partner’s violence. Tammara tells me she’s lost everything, her daughter, her house and all her belongings.
Tammara holds her daughter Tamika who is in the custody of Tammara's mother.
Pictured is the damage caused by a friend of mine as he 'comes down' off 'Ice' (crystal meth). The holes throughout his partner and children's home were caused by a golf club and a pile of cloths was doused in petrol.
Tammara plays with her phone while sitting in bed. A series of violent events with her ex intimate partner has left Tammara with nothing. She has lost everything, custody of her daughter, her house and all her belongings. She hasn’t been the same since. During the time of this photo, Tammara and her partner were staying with her sister while they tried to find a home. Here Tammara was pregnant with her fourth child. With no goodbye, Braxton was removed from her custody at birth. Tammara is currently in prison and recently gave birth to her fifth child while incarcerated.
At 30 weeks pregnant with Braxton Tammara was homeless and given a tent to live in by public housing to prove she could pay rent. She pleaded with multiple community service organisations and housing departments for help. She also faced court multiple times during her pregnancy with Braxton for commercial supply of a prohibited substance. At times she thought going to prison was her best option for her and her unborn child and yet each time she faced court her case was adjourned. Tammara is a perfect example of someone who has been failed by the system. During the time of Tammara's charges I can honestly say it was the worst mental and physical state I have seen Tammara in. Instead of receiving help, Tammara’s son Braxton was removed from her custody straight after birth. She wasn’t assigned a caseworker until 5 days after he was taken. Despite what is written in DOCS current case notes, Tammara quit drugs cold turkey and enrolled herself into a rehab that could accommodate women and their children. However after six weeks in rehab Tammara left due to unconventional practices with intentions to attend a more suitable rehabilitation centre. Tammara was told by her case worker that she now had no hope of gaining custody of her son Braxton. She was not informed that she is entitled to applying for a section 90 at any point and has been lead to believe she will never have custody of any of her children again. As a result, Tammara spiralled out of control and skipped the boarder to avoid court. During this time she fell pregnant with her fifth child. Through on-going support and encouragement from myself and Tammara’s mother, Tammara chose to hand herself in and face the consequences of her charges. She is currently incarcerated and recently gave birth to a baby girl named Kaiya Lee. Kaiya was removed from her custody several days after birth.
Rowrow is from Moree, but we met at a hotel in Armidale, New South Wales. A community organisation called Beyond Empathy brought us together for a project – we were both participants. Rowrow had a life like many young people involved with Beyond Empathy; she had experienced hardship. Rowrow’s community experiences entrenched poverty, racism, violence, addiction, and a range of other barriers to health and wellbeing. Although Rowrow has a strong sense of belonging and connection to her Gomeroi culture and community, she tries to avoid many of the issues her community faces in order to provide a stable future for her children. As a consequence, she runs the risk of upsetting family members and friends for being distant and reserved.
Rowrow hangs her mop over the clothesline to dry.
Kayla and Alan (a young couple from Moree, New South Wales, Australia) hold their son Kaylan. Kayla and Alan are passionate about providing a positive upbringing for their son. Yet, despite being one of the richest nations on earth, many communities in Australia face entrenched poverty, ongoing dispossession, marginalisation, racism, violence, addiction and a range of other barriers to health and wellbeing. They hope to move interstate so Alan can achieve his dream of playing football at state level. Kayla & Alan were asked for the portrait to be taken. Little direction was given. Taken: 28th of September 2016
Baby Shane peeks through the curtains as he watches cars pass by. In trying to shelter her children from some of the devastating impacts of substance abuse in her community, Rowrow also faces social isolation.
Rowrow's partner Mitch watches TV with their daughter Jakhalia.
The outlines of picture frames have formed on the walls of a family home caused by smoke damage due to a fire that started in the kitchen. Most belongings were ruined by the thick smoke however the resident managed to salvage family portraits from the walls. After several months the house has been repaired and sisters Ashanti and Shiralee moved in after waiting months on the Department of Housing list. 04/11/2013
Shavanni stands outside her family home in Moree, New South Wales, Australia. She has eight siblings, including an elder brother who is serving time in prison. Shavanni has recently moved to another town and is staying with family members so she can attend a better school. 13/07/2014
Shiralee sits while her girlfriend Paula holds her. The two have been in a long-term long distance relationship and Paula has come to visit. Moree, New South Wales.
The remains of a stolen burnt-out car sit in a vacant lot in Arunga Street, Moree, New South Wales. Limited opportunities for young people in rural towns have fuelled the mostly opportunistic crime such as setting vacant homes alight, stealing cars and breaking into homes. In addition lack of employment opportunities fuel an entrenched cycle of welfare dependency now filtering through generations. 04/11/2013
Ashanti sits outside her family home in Dingwall Place, Moree, Australia. 17/05/2014
A Jim Beam bottle sits wedged in a plaster wall of a family home. The bottle, (along with a can of soup), were thrown at the wall by my twin sister during an argument with her boyfriend. I’ve stopped photographing my sister due to her Ice addiction. The difficulty was it felt like I was looking at myself and the act of photographing her was enabling her addiction.
Laurinda stands out the front of her family home waiting for a bus that will take her to Sunday school. 18/05/2014
Tricia and Troy lay with their three-day-old baby girl Ty-Leta. Moree, New South Wales, Australia. 12/08/2015
A card sent to Tricia from her boyfriend Troy while he was incarcerated.
Using a static channel on a television as a source of light for her bedroom, Tricia breastfeeds her baby daughter Ty-leta. Her partner Troy was in and out of prison during her pregnancy. He’d often call her daily and send her love letters and baby name suggestions. He was again serving time in prison when this photo was taken. We both sat and breastfed our babies while we talked about Troy and his time in prison.
“He’s like a gentleman. He’s not like any of the other fulla’s around here”. Tricia describes her boyfriend who at the time was serving time in Gatton Correctional Centre in Queensland. He was incarcerated for most of Tricia's pregnancy. He often sends her love letters and calls her daily. Moree, New South Wales. 16/05/2014
Kayla and Alan (a young couple from Moree, New South Wales, Australia) play with their son before bedtime.
Kayla holds her son Kaylan in the front yard of her parent’s home in Moree, New South Wales, Australia.
Cousin’s Princess and Wonna lay on a quiet street as their parents stand closely (out of frame).