Harry's story

Harry stands smiling at the camera
Harry stands smiling at the camera.

Homeless at 14

I have always been told that teenage boys are the hardest ones to foster. No one wants to look after them as it will be too much work. Then I found myself in need of a new home. When I was 14 I was kicked out of home where I lived with my mum, stepdad and younger brothers. My dad lives in England and I hadn’t seen him in 10 years so I couldn’t go to live with him. Besides, Australia is my home. It’s where I belong and where my connections are.

Staying in Australia meant that I had nowhere else to go so I ended up moving into a youth refuge. I had a hard time there and I wasn’t the only one. I guess that’s what happens when there are a whole bunch of young people dealing with tough stuff all living under the one roof. In my experience, this is where chaos breeds.

It was when I was living at the refuge that I first met Amber. One of my earliest memories of Amber was when I noticed a tattoo on her arm that said ‘Even monkeys fall from trees’. She told me the meaning of that tattoo – that everyone makes mistakes. We have talked a lot about that since, and it helps me to remember that no one is perfect, and you have to get up and keep trying.

When Amber first came to see me , I could tell she genuinely cared about me and what happened to me. She listened and tried to see things from my perspective. 

I told Amber I was really unhappy at the refuge; I felt like I did not belong there. Amber then found me a better place to stay which was quieter and, while I knew this was temporary at the time, I started to make better connections with my family, including those in England, and some of the support workers at school and in the community. I started to feel a little less lonely, and I knew that Amber was working hard to try to find my forever home.

When I think back to how I came to live where I am now, it seems a bit like a miracle. One of the support workers I had connected with asked her mum if she would consider fostering me, and she said yes! It didn’t happen straight away as we first spent time getting to know each other. But now, here I am, living with someone who I know cares about me.

Despite hearing that teenage boys are the hardest to foster, my new family didn’t believe that. Instead, they welcomed me into both their home and their family. As the family welcomed me, I knew that I would have to open myself up to them as well. I had to be honest and real with them so they could get to know me, just like I needed to get to know them. Now I know that I am home and am called ‘son’. There is so much in a word. The word ‘son’ tells me that I am loved, I am part of a family and I am connected. 

When I think about how my life has worked out, I think about how Amber helped me feel like I belong. Amber showed me she understood that I was going through a lot by meeting me halfway.

She had ideas and suggestions but was willing to compromise. Amber also knew and understood that actions speak louder than words. It would have been easy for her to say, ‘Oh yes, I understand what you are going through.’ But Amber did more than just say those words. She really listened to what I wanted and needed before going away to make it happen. The way that Amber always followed through on what she said made all the difference to me – she made me feel valued and important. 

One thing Amber did for me was arrange for my dad to come and visit me from England. Amber understood that family connections are important to me, and, after 10 years, I got to hug my dad. This meant everything to me, and I am looking forward to going to England next year to see him again. I will also get to see the rest of my dad’s family, who I am now regularly connected to via technology.

I know how important it is to feel like someone is in your corner. Amber did this for me. I now want to advocate for other young people in care to experience the same. I applied to join Youth Consult for Change and am now a proud member! I am looking forward to doing my part to help other people to feel connected and valued.

Harry today

Since my story was written, things have changed for me, and I am not living in the same home anymore. This came unexpectedly and was not what I wanted or chose. But I am now looking ahead to what the future holds for me. I’m not saying that it has been easy; in fact, it has been really tough. Despite this, I have still chosen to share my story. I have decided that sharing my story is not about me – it is about how it can be used to help others.

I want others to see my story as an example that it is possible to find a place to belong and be connected. By reading this story, I want both young people and practitioners to know and understand that there is hope. 

When things get tough, keep trying, keep pushing ahead, as you never know what is around the corner. 

Remember, permanency is not just about placement but is about connection – connection to family, friends and community. Permanency is possible for both you and for me.

Amber with her arm around Harry's shoulder.
Amber with her arm around Harry's shoulder.
Last updated:

17 Apr 2023

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Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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