Meet John*

John is one of the young people Barnardos has supported.

“Barnardos gave me back my identity.”

Up until I was 18, I didn’t have a single piece of paper with my name on it. The Australian government was able to put me in police custody but couldn’t provide me with a license to prove my identity. Growing up, I didn’t realise how this would heavily impact my future.

“My name is John*, 18 years old and identify as Aboriginal. I had a tough start in life and because of that, I was an angry kid with trust issues. For as long as I could remember, I was bouncing from one family member’s home to the next and never felt like I belonged anywhere. My mum was heavily into drugs, so I was removed from my mother care.

Over the years, I felt more and more resentment towards everything and everyone. I started getting into trouble with the law to survive. I knew they were bad news, but I never had a real family and craved that sense of belonging. Burwood Youth Justice Office called Barnardos to get me on the right path and that’s when I met Nicole, a youth worker from Barnardos.

I didn’t have high hopes when I met Nicole. With all the services that have let me down, why would this be any different? Deep inside, I’ve always wanted to achieve things for myself, but I’ve been let down at every turn. For example, I’d been trying for two years to get a learner’s driving permit but because my birth wasn’t registered and didn’t have a birth certificate, no one would help. I just wanted something with my name on it so I can learn how to drive and get a job to support myself. But to apply for a form of identification, I had to show ID – which I didn’t have.

I was a bit taken aback when I first spoke to Nicole. She asked me what my goals were, something that no one cared to ask me about before. I told her of my struggles with getting a driver’s license or a tax file number because of my lack of a birth certificate or any other identification documents. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “We’re getting this done for you, John.”

In the 6 weeks that followed, Nicole spearheaded our search. We couldn’t access my birth records from the hospital because we needed an ID but instead of giving up (as many have), Nicole wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She was able to collect bits and pieces of my and my mum’s ID’s to get my birth records. When I finally received my birth records, I couldn’t contain my emotions. I was now ready to apply for my birth certificate. The possibility of independence, like being able to drive and getting a job became very real.

Two weeks before Christmas, my birth certificate came. It was the best Christmas present I received.

The process was far from easy. There were so many ‘roadblocks’ along the way. When I would say “it’s too hard” and “forget it”, Nicole would motivate me to never give up on my goals. Nicole never pushed me to talk about my past, nor did we do anything I didn’t want to do. She made me feel heard, important and in charge of my destiny. She would constantly encourage me, saying “you’re doing great, John! I’m so proud of you!” Having someone in my corner made all the difference.

Nicole was with me every step of the way, and her positivity, determination, and confidence in me has given me the strength to believe in myself. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. When I get angry and frustrated, she calms me down and keeps me motivated.

Today, all I want to do is to make goals and ‘smash’ them. I now have a license, a Tax File Number so half my wages don’t go to tax, a job with the local council, and I’m saving for a car or motorbike. From where I started, I never thought any of this would be possible. Nicole and Barnardos have given me the strength and confidence to dream bigger and strive for better.”

– John, age 18

*Name changed and stock image used to protect privacy.