ADJOURNMENT;Barnardos Australia’s Mother of the Year Awards – 14 Jun 2011

Tonight I rise to speak about an issue which many people in this chamber know is very close to my heart, and that is the issue concerning the care of children and parenting. Recently, at an awards ceremony in Hobart, I had the pleasure of announcing this year’s Barnardos Tasmanian Mother of the Year Award. Barnardos care for thousands of children who were robbed of the foundation of life—their childhood—so every year the Barnardos Australia’s Mother of the Year Awards show what an important role mums play in giving kids a good start in life. The Barnardos Australia’s Mother of the Year Awards are the only national awards which celebrate Australian motherhood and recognise the enormous contribution mothers make in shaping Australia’s future generations and their enormous contribution to the Australian community.

This year, 2011, marks the 16th year of the Barnardos Australia’s Mother of the Year Awards. Apart from recognising the pinnacles of motherhood, the other aim of the award is of course to raise public awareness of the nurturing role Barnardos play in the lives of thousands of children in Australia each year. For over 120 years Barnardos have been at the forefront of child welfare service provision and have embraced a tradition of innovation and holistic approaches in the quest to find real, permanent solutions for Australian children in desperate need. As one of Australia’s largest children’s charities, Barnardos have parental responsibility for the abused and neglected children who are placed in their care. The Barnardos vision aims for all children and young people to have caring families in which they can grow safely and fulfil their potential.

Families and young people must be valued and supported by quality services and engaged communities. Barnardos aim to keep the child and young person central, working for what they believe to be the child or young person’s best interest. They aim to strengthen families, believing in the importance of a child’s family having the maximum role possible, consistent with child safety, and that children should be in permanent family structures. They relate respectfully, working in partnership with and encouraging active participation of families, children, young people and communities. They respect the unique contribution of carers, volunteers, team members and others in Barnardos and in other welfare agencies.

Barnardos share their knowledge and continue to develop their expertise, drawing on their own and others’ experience. They pursue social justice, working to empower the disadvantaged and oppose social injustice. They are guided by the principles of fairness in distribution of resources and power and the maintenance of equal, effective and comprehensive civil, legal and industrial rights. Barnardos invest in the future, using their resources and knowledge to improve the future of disadvantaged Australian children and young people. Finally, Barnardos are persistent in their attempts for change, working creatively to make a real difference. Clients, particularly children and young people, need consistency and unconditional care. Barnardos, once they start a task in case management or advocacy, complete it. I was very pleased and very honoured to be asked to announce the winner of this year’s Barnardo’s Tasmanian Mother of the Year award. Being invited to speak at the Tasmanian Mother of the Year award ceremony made me think about motherhood. As a mother and previously a carer of children, many of whom were living with disabilities, I know that motherhood and parenting are enormous responsibilities, harder than many realise when they begin the journey of parenthood. It is certainly an interesting journey to take, as all mothers will attest, whether they are biological, adoptive, step- or foster mums. It is a journey that has a lot of corners, not all of which are easy to navigate. It involves speed humps, give-way signs and a lot of dead ends. The road is certainly not always paved with gold, often not even with bitumen. In fact, there seem to be a lot of those bumpy, unsealed roads along any parenting journey. Sometimes the road appears to disappear altogether. And as for those roundabouts: I think most parents have had the experience of having to go round and round and round on some issue of their child-rearing, never quite reaching the off-ramp of under­standing.

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes and play such an important role in the raising of children, perhaps the most important role. And each mother approaches motherhood in her own unique way, whether they are stay-at-home mums or mums who go out to work, whether they are teenagers or older mums, whether they are rich or poor. Mothers who are not good at parenting are found in all walks of life, and so are mothers who are great. As an ex-childcare worker I have seen young mums of 17 who were brilliant with their children, whose children grew up to be dux of the high school and the college, who went on to university and really made a difference to other people’s lives. I have also seen mums with more degrees than a thermometer who gave food, clothing and shelter, but seemed to apply different standards of caring to what I thought was appropriate—not abusive, just different.

Most mothers are trying to do the best job they can and are succeeding, but unfortunately there are some mums that cannot cope for whatever reason, and this is where Barnardo’s can step in. These awards are a wonderful way of providing some well-deserved recognition to just some of the millions of unsung heroes that are the mums of Australia. The awards play an important part in recognising and promoting parenting. The three finalists from Tasmania—Robyn Butterworth, Dianne Sharp and Tracey Steel—have all given so much of themselves to help improve the life or lives of children. This is the greatest gift to give, and I commend them and thank them for their hard work and commitment.

The Tasmanian winner, Dianne Sharp of Railton in northern Tasmania, is a remarkable woman. Dianne’s heart and home are always open to anyone in need. Ten months ago, her 17-year-old stepson, Jake’s, friend Joel was having a hard time so Dianne took him in and made him feel like one of the family. She has given him a job at her car detailing business and he is studying a horticultural agriculture course at the TAFE. Her children often bring their friends home and they may stay for a night, a weekend or even longer. And they know that the door is always open to them. Dianne also has two sons, Bailey who is 11 and Jackson who is nine.

Dianne was absolutely shocked, and really humbled and honoured when she was awarded the title of Tasmania’s Mother of the Year. Although she was not ultimately announced the national winner at the gala dinner held in Sydney on Thursday, 5 May—that prize went to Rebecca Healy of the Northern Territory—Dianne should be incredibly proud of her achievement. I take this opportunity to congratulate Rebecca on her national win too. The other Tasmanian finalists, Tracey Steel of Dodges Ferry and Robyn Butterworth of Youngtown, should also be acknowledged. They work very hard on behalf of their families, and should be very proud of their achievements and of the wonderful families they have created and nurtured. They do the state of Tasmania and, indeed, the nation proud, serving as an example of what good parenting embodies.

Finally, I would like to say a special thank you to Barnardos for giving us the opportunity to recognise the endeavours and achievements not only of these three Tasmanian finalists but of all mothers who were nominated around the country. It is through their efforts and through their love that we build a better tomorrow today.