To all the amazing mother figures in our lives this Mother’s Day by Leyla Quartermaine
To all the amazing mother figures in our lives this Mother's Day by Leyla Quartermaine
Mother’s Day for me is about acknowledging all the amazing mother figures in our lives. Whoever that may be. Personally, on Mother’s Day I celebrate a few women in particular. I celebrate and acknowledge my Mum, my Nan, my sisters and the wider community. Our communities coming together to raise children and young people collectively has shaped me into the woman I am today.
I was 2 years old and the baby of 6 children when my siblings and I knocked on our Nan’s door needing a home because our Mum, her daughter, had passed away. My Nan would have been in her 60’s at the time and at the age where most grandparents were looking forward to a quieter life. Instead, from that day on she took on the responsibility of raising her grandchildren. It wasn’t easy, the years to come. We arrived to her with so much trauma and needing a lot of love and care. The love and care that would take years and that’s what she did.
Nan never wanted us to feel as though she had sacrificed anything for us. I remember her getting annoyed when people would tell us how lucky we are to have her. I know how lucky I am to have my Nan, but she never wanted us to feel as though we owed her or that we were a burden. She felt as though being in her care was the best thing for us but also for her. My Nan gave us a home, not just in a physical sense but even to this day, as I write this now, my home is my Nan.
When I was 13-14, Nan suffered from a brain aneurysm. It was serious and shook the entire family. She spent a lot of time in hospital and recovering and after the trauma her brain had experienced, we knew when she did come home life had to be very different to what it was.
It’s about 10 years since and something that still sits so strongly with me is all the love and support we received from community. At the time I had a Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) worker. I remember her helping me transition schools, she would organise groceries and meals so I had food every night. She took me to multiple doctors and specialist appointments and she’s just generally been there. I wouldn’t have been able to manage day-to-day life without that support. Throughout my life, particularly when Nan was in hospital, community raised me.
So although Mother’s Day can be hard each year, I am also reminded of all the women who came into my life at different times. I’m grateful for my sisters who had to grow up a little bit earlier than others their age to look after me. I’m grateful for my Nan, I don’t have the word count to tell you all the reasons why but anyone that knows me knows how much I love my old girl, it’s almost a personality trait. I’m grateful for the Victorian Aboriginal community, for the support that’s always been provided to my family. For helping us get through really hard times but supporting me to do it while just enjoying being a child.
Leyla Quartermaine is KYC’s Marram Nganyin Project Officer. Leyla is a proud Ballardong-Noongar woman from Western Australia and has grown up in Victoria. She has a strong passion for giving back to community and children in out of home care. Leyla has a background in drug and alcohol counselling, primary health care and education support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Leyla was an Executive member for three years and presented at the 2019 Koorie Youth Summit as a special guest panelist.