The We Are Bonnie’s project shares real stories told by our wonderful Bonnie’s staff. In collaboration with Only Human Stories and Tennyson Sidney Nobel, we brought these stories to life, illuminating our caseworker’s experiences with the strong women who use our service.
A woman we are working with was talking about her love of Bollywood music and how it always makes her feel positive. She told us that it is impossible to stay still when you are listening to that music!
A few days later I was babysitting my grandchildren who are three and one years old. It was too rainy to play outside and the 3 year old was out of sorts. Nothing I suggested worked and she was in a terrible mood. I remembered what that woman had told me and went looking for Bollywood music on the internet. I put it on and the impact was instantaneous!
My granddaughter leaped and twirled around the living room calling ‘again, again’ at the end of every song. The one year old was laughing too as I danced and twirled her around. We had the best time.
That day will always be a precious memory for me. It reminded me of the joy of music and dance, and how our clients inspire us with what they know and love.
In the After School programme a little girl was playing with Lego and she showed me her ‘family building’. She had built a large house with a beautiful garden, full of flowers and little paths.
She introduced me to the family: her mum, her grandma, big brother, big sister and her little sis as well. She’d even made a small brown Lego dog to play in the yard. I asked her to tell me more about what the family is doing.
She grinned and said the big sister was playing in the swimming pool and the mum was cooking. She pointed to the little sister and said, ‘That’s me, playing with our dog, Susu’.
Unfortunately, this little girl’s living situation was actually so different to this picture but I was reminded how resilient children can be. There might be grief and loss in this little girl’s heart, but there was hope for the life ahead. Negative things happen in almost everyone’s life but it is amazing how people learn to cope.
The other day I picked up a young Aboriginal girl and drove her to join a group at Bonnie’s for the first time. She had a huge personality, letting me know everything she didn’t like about my car, my outfit, my hair.
It was obvious she was nervous to be with people she didn’t know. As she picked at the threads on her green cardigan I said, ‘Not much longer now’.
We pulled up outside the refuge, turned off the engine and I waited for the girl to decide whether today would be the day. Then, she noticed something on the wall beside the front door.
It was our Aboriginal flag plaque. Suddenly a huge smile broke out on the young girl’s face. ‘It’ll be okay’, she said as she opened the car door. ‘This place will be alright!’ And she ran up the path and rang the bell… she felt welcome already.
Recently I went with a young mum to the police station. She was so nervous she was shaking but we focussed on her baby, playing ‘peekaboo’ with him and making him smile.
We tuckered him out and he fell asleep. When we went into the interview room it was really cold and the lights were so bright that it was a little miracle that the baby stayed sleeping.
The police officer was kind but I could feel how the mum was struggling with the uncomfortable and very private questions. At one point she gripped my hand and even though I was not her caseworker I could see that my presence was comforting.
Being with her, seeing her courage, even when faced with unspeakable difficulty, made me proud. I am so admiring of our clients who are so brave to open up and so independent and strong. They are taking back control of their lives.
I was teaching a three week family cooking course to a Mum and three kids and one of the main outcomes was to strengthen the family’s relationship with each other.
The Mum was born in Pakistan and came here as a teenager with her parents. She is a lovely person with a huge smile that lights up the room. The kids are loud and funny and they all have her smile. One afternoon after class the Mum invited me to their home.
The afternoon I visited was beautiful weather. The kids showed me their cartwheels outside on the grass and we decided to have a dinner picnic outside, on their lawn.
That day, the Mum also offered to teach me how to make their cultural dishes – they were delicious! Getting a glimpse of this little family’s life and their culture helped me see how useful our work at Bonnies is and how generous and wonderful the families we work with are.
I’d just put the kettle on when a woman dropped in with a donation of new children’s books. She stood in the foyer looking up at the kids artwork on the walls and we got talking.
She told me she’d been here at the refuge years ago and she thought it was pretty funny when I said that I didn’t remember her. ‘Well, you wouldn’t!’ she said. ‘I was here with my Mum and I was only five then. That’s like 35 years ago.’ I was amazed that she remembered Bonnie’s but she said she’d never forgotten the kindness and that staying here had made her a stronger person.
‘I’ll never be in a situation like Mum was,’ she said. ‘I’d never let my husband have power over me like that.’ That made me so proud of all that we’ve been doing for so many years now. ‘Cup of tea?’ I asked her. ‘I just boiled the kettle…’