Let me introduce my grandmother, Mary. Mary was born in the aftermath of WWI. She was the 13th child of absent, alcohol-dependent parents and spent much of her early years living in poverty, scavenging for food and searching for safety. When she entered the child protection system, her learning and development was so delayed they deemed her to have a disability, and she was placed into specialised institutional care.
The facility she lived in was the subject of many enquiries and investigations, both while Mary was there and in the many years since. The facility was renowned for ongoing institutional abuse – physical, sexual and emotional – and considered one of the worst care facilities in the country for keeping children safe from harm.
Mary’s story is my reason – my ‘why’. It colours the way I look at the world and gives me a lens to understand the complex intergenerational trauma we carry with us. It convinces me that we must do things differently; we must break the cycle and find ways to support parents like Mary’s, as early as we can. Families can not wait three generations – like mine has – to see difference.
There are no easy solutions. If there was, we would not be still seeing the same cycles a hundred years later. We need to be innovative and led by the families themselves. We need large systemic change, but there are small incremental steps we can all take each day. We need to work alongside families, without judgement and stigma, and co-design the solutions alongside them. Listen, be kind and create effective partnerships, where you are simply a tool to aid, and not the solution.