Australia’s biggest celebration of families in all their diversity is set to take place this month – National Families Week runs between May 15-21.
Coinciding with the UN International Day of Families on May 15, the theme of this year’s celebration will be “stronger families, stronger communities”.
Families Australia CEO Dr Brian Babington told Hope 1032 that the theme “highlights the important role families play as the central building block of our communities and delivers the message that community wellbeing is enhanced by family wellbeing”.
Dr Babington said that National Families Week will be “a time to celebrate the meaning of family and make the most of family life”.
But he also acknowledged that not all families are the same.
“Whatever form they take and in all their marvellous diversity, families need nurturing, respect and support,” Dr Babington said.
“Whatever form they take and in all their marvellous diversity, families need nurturing, respect and support,” – Families Australia CEO Dr Brian Babington
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Fostering a family
And, someone who understands that all too well is Family Spirit foster carer, Dave.
Five years ago, Dave began the process of becoming a foster carer with Catholic Care’s fostering agency, Family Spirit.
“It was a major decision,” Dave said.
As a self employed IT trainer, he knew it was important that he was able make a real difference in the life of a foster child.
Dave made the decision to foster a child over the age of 11. The need for foster carers for children between 11 and 15 years old is very high in NSW and so Dave’s decision helped to fill a critical gap.
Dave began caring for foster child Nathan when he was 11 years old. While Nathan and Dave have now been together for over 4 years, it’s important to both of them that Nathan has continued contact with his mother, siblings and grandparents.
For Dave, he knows that Nathan’s continued contact with his relatives builds a stronger community around their family.
In addition to the care that he provides for Nathan, Dave has opened his home for other children requiring short-term foster care. However, he said the decision to bring another child into their home is one that Nathan and Dave make together.
“It can sometimes be a bit disruptive, but overall, it is a positive experience for both of us,” Dave said.
Dave sees the fostering experience as one which provides benefits for both the child and the carer. He said that many people tell him that Nathan is lucky but Dave strongly believes that he is the lucky one to have Nathan in his life.
Adoptive parents Maria and Charles understand that feeling. The couple adopted their two daughters Revathi and Aradhana. Maria told Hope 103.2 that she and Charles are “eternally grateful to their birth parents for the sacrifice they made to help us be parents.”
Adopting a family
For Maria and Charles, the journey to parenthood was not an easy one.
“My husband and I experienced unexplained infertility and the road was long and hard, but it was worth every second,” Maria explained.
Raising their family was not something Maria and Charles said they have achieved alone. Their faith has been central to how they have raised their daughters.
“We have the support and wisdom of our priests and elders in the church, the friendship and acceptance of members of our own age group and the joy and love of younger members of our community,” Maria said.
She hopes that by raising her daughters in the faith, that they too will experience Jesus in their lives.
Charles added that their Faith in God made them stronger as a family.
“We are never alone when Christ is the head of our home, a silent listener to every conversation and an unseen guest at every meal,” he said.
For 17-year-old daughter Revathi, it is communication that has cemented her family’s bond.
“We can talk about anything; how we feel, what we do, and we are listened to and our opinion matters,” she said.
But it’s not all serious, with 13-year-old Aradhana telling Hope 103.2 about the family laughter.
“We laugh at the silliest things, at the smallest jokes that sometimes aren’t really funny but we laugh anyway.”
It is love that binds their family together.
Ultimately, Maria said, it is love that binds their family together.
“Ours is a family joined not by an umbilical cord that is cut at birth but by heart strings that cannot be broken.”