In Their Own Words


Across the northern beaches, The Burdekin Association provides accommodation options, support and hope to young people and, when appropriate, their families. Our aim is to ensure young people have a safe place to live, are cared for, can work through their early trauma, complete school, learn how to pay the bills, clean their bedroom, to strive to be all that they can be, to aim high, complete university get their dream job and live the life they want.

Our success rate is high, with over 90 % of the children and young people we work with completing education, securing work and moving home or to independence. Completely free from a life of disadvantage.

With the support we are receiving from our donors, business and the government, we can continue to assist our clients and offer a high-quality service – the same quality of service Anna received and every child/young person has a right to receive. If you wish to support our work get involved or donate, we look forward to hearing from you.

Our Stories

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Anna's Story

Hello everyone. I am Anna. My teenage years were years full of stability, safety, security and a nurturing environment. I remained at the same school, completed my HSC, travelled to Lismore for University and completed a double degree, all with the support of the Burdekin Association. I realise how fortunate I was to have such a stable upbringing given the fact I was homeless. I am one of the lucky ones. To be part of Burdekin was like being a part of a bigger family. Many years after formally leaving their support I still drop in and I know they still are there for me.

Since leaving Burdekin I have travelled Europe and taught in a school in Oxford. I now teach at a school on the beaches and contact Burdekin to help me support the kids I teach. I also now collaborate with Burdekin on a project called the Northern Beaches Project which is aimed at identifying young people at risk. The education system and support services are collaborating to make sure kids in need get help early and can be assisted to stay at home or helped to be moved if they are deemed to be in danger.

The Burdekin Association is so much a part of this community and it is fantastic that the community is supporting kids like me to have the most normal upbringing possible with access to services and materials that we need to succeed.

I don’t like to ponder what my life could have been like if I had not ended up at Burdekin.

Thank you.

Lanai’s Story

I’m an orphan.  My Mum committed suicide when I was seven and my Dad had a heart attack when I was 16.

LanaiThankfully, I wasn’t living with either of them at the time. I was removed from my mother’s care at age five and my relationship with my father was estranged since before I could remember.

I’m now in my twenties, have completed high school, been to university and am living my dream career.
At times it has been really, really hard. But in the end, I made it through what is unquestionably an out-of-touch and over-stretched child welfare system.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not going to pretend I do. But I’ve lived through the system. I’ve seen it from the inside, and I know what helped me get to a point where I can be here today, writing this.

I was in kinship care with my grandparents for most of my infant years. At 14, I was placed back in out-of-home care. My grandparents and I were fighting all the time and the situation was explosive for all parties involved.  This was one of the hardest times for me, and the time I needed help the most.

Most of my years in out-of-home care were spent with the support of a non-government agency called The Burdekin Association.

Burdekin gave me one of the best caseworkers in the world. Someone who spent time every week with me, and was always there to help when I needed a guiding voice.

She made a real difference in my life and I believe she was able to do this in part because the caseloads for agency workers are often a lot lighter than their FaCS equivalents. These organisations often target a smaller area of the community and as a result, there are fewer children to spread their time across.

Often kids in care just need the right emotional support and guidance in order to turn their lives around.  Smaller community-based agencies can and do provide this level of support better than FaCS.

This was my reality. My FaCS caseworker touched base with me on average once every three months.  My Burdekin caseworker was there every week.  In a troubled life, this can make all the difference.

I am currently working for The Australian Newspaper as a journalist and writing articles for The Punch.

I survived. I was one of the lucky ones. But I shouldn’t have to be.

Jesse Wilcox – Home Is

Home is a way of feeling.  Home is a way of feeling less alone, even if there’s no-one there but you.

They say a man’s house is his castle.  After you’ve been homeless, you thank Heaven for every brick.  Pliny the Elder said home is where the heart is.  After you’ve been homeless, you’re grateful to have found where it’s been hiding all these years.  Helen Rowland said home is any four walls that enclose the right person.  After you’ve been homeless, it changes your life to know the right person is you.  Goethe said one is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.  After you’ve been homeless, even the peasant’s plough and straw bed is peace and prosperity beyond your dreams.

I started out with nothing, and I still got most of it left.

Home is a shelter in a storm.  Home is oasis in a desert.  Home is a glimpse of afternoon sun after working down the mines.  Home is a moment of reprieve in a lifetime of worry.  Home is the only place where nothing else matters, because you are safe.

Home is the last bastion of free will.  Home does everything that running away couldn’t accomplish.

You first walk through the door and Providence smiles upon you.  You are thrust headlong into an incredible sensation, the scintillating knowledge that you are home.  As if seduced by a persuasive whisper, your tension and worry drips away.  The drapery falls, and you realise:

You don’t have to smile, and you don’t have to scowl.
You don’t have to be white; you don’t have to be black.
You don’t have to act gay; you don’t have to act straight.
You don’t have to love, and you don’t have to hate.
You don’t have to believe what you’re told.

You can be true to yourself, for the first time.

All the labels evaporate under your radiant heat, every particle in your body excited to be free at last.  The scaffold of thought buckles as you realise you are the author of your own experience.  My home was where I realised that I was a person like everyone else.  My home was built the moment I knew I had what I needed to start living for me.

My home is the place where I can lock my doors and windows and prance around with no pants on.  My home is the place where Bill Posters will not be prosecuted.  My home is guitars and harmonicas.  My home is water, food, and prayer.  My home is free love.  My home is the bill of rights.  My home is the Louvre.  My home is the Library of Alexandria.  My home is the Pantheon.  My home is the Forum, Circus Maximus and Caesar’s palace all at once.

My home is the Launchpad, and I am the Lunar Lander.

With a little imagination, my home is whatever I want it to be.  It’s my home.

Everyone needs a home.


Simon is now in his forties, living in Sydney with his family, he has a nice home and a good job. This story shows what a huge difference can be made to the direction of a young person’s life with support. He left home as a teenager, couch surfing for a bit, then living in a car with some other kids before the police took it away. After the car, Simon ended up spending time with other Northern Beaches kids, sleeping rough, taking drugs and stealing. Some of the kids he hung out with overdosed or were taken away by police, not an uncommon experience for young kids on the streets. Simon refers to the time as “a low point in his life”.

Simon met one of our Case Managers, Warren, by chance and attributes the turnaround in his life to him. “He was the one who got me back on track and I am forever grateful to him.”

Simon and his girlfriend had been hanging out with another couple for some time, sleeping on the floor of their accommodation and hiding from Warren. Rather than kicking them or the other couple out, Warren helped them.

Our Case Managers’ work aims to develop the potential of young people and strengthen the communities they live in. The Burdekin Association organised for the couples to stay at a local backpackers until suitable accommodation was found. Things started to change for the better. Simon started attending TAFE and with regular visits from Warren who supported him with his TAFE work, life skills and looking for employment, he began to thrive. After a number of years with us, Simon did eventually move home back home. When he occasionally passes where he lived at Burdekin it brings back good memories.

Without Burdekin we don’t know what would have become of Simon. For some the transition from childhood to adulthood is more difficult than for others. The Burdekin Association is here to help children and young people … physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.

Today, Simon says: “I honestly believe Warren and The Burdekin Association have helped me get to where I am today. And I thank you all, Warren especially so very, very much. I wish you all the best and keep up the good work.”

There is no better news than this for us. We love hearing from former residents, we love hearing how the supportive environment we aim to  provide has actually had the impact we thrive for.