NOTHING about Sarah Baillie’s childhood was easy.

Growing up in “a pretty poor area” in South Australia, Ms Baillie was often tasked with looking after her three younger siblings.

“I remember charities used to come around and drop off Christmas presents and things like that,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot.”

So when Ms Baillie, of Port Lincoln, welcomed her first child at age 20, she was determined to give daughter Kiara a better life.

She moved away from “negative influences”, secured paid employment and enrolled in a community services course at TAFE SA.

After years of working hard to better herself and the life of her children, Ms Baillie will today be named the 2018 Barnardos South Australian Mother of the Year.

“I wanted my children’s lives to be completely opposite to my life,” she said.

“I wanted her (daughter Kiara) to see that you could work hard towards your goals and achieve them.”

The 38-year-old – whose family has grown to also include sons Jesse, 16, and Nate, 9, step-daughter Chloe, 19, and husband Craig Bascombe – is now just months away from completing a bachelor of disability and developmental education externally through Flinders University.

She plans to use the degree to set up her own business under the NDIS.

“I think I have done more than anyone would expect because I didn’t finish Year 12 – I left school at the end of Year 11 – and I knew from a young age that I wanted to have children young. I think people assumed it wasn’t a choice,” she said.

“I guess they just thought I’d fall into a stereotype where you have kids young, live off Centrelink and just get any job. But I didn’t just want any job.” Ms Baillie — who spent this week in Adelaide volunteering at the Special Olympics — was nominated for the award by daughter Kiara, now 18.

“Mum had it tough, with very little money … she still tells me stories of how we would walk to the nearest Mc-Donald’s and share a Happy Mean, as that was all she could afford,” Kiara said.

“Anyone I talk to, they always say how difficult it must have been, and I think it would have been, but she never put any stress on the rest of the family. I just think she has been pretty amazing.”

Kiara said her mother had taught her to “always stand up for what I believe in”.

“I am a pretty well-rounded person,” she said. “I’m very compassionate and I think a lot of that comes from her.”

Ms Baillie said she was “stunned” to win the SA title. She will head to Sydney for the national award announcement next month.

(This article was first published in the Adelaide Advertiser and was written by Roxanne Wilson.)