Katrina has always had an open-door policy when it comes to kids. As a young mother living in Moree, in outback NSW, she welcomed many teenagers into her home who wanted to talk, have a cuppa or find a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Katrina has always had an open-door policy when it comes to kids. As a young mother living in Moree, in outback NSW, she welcomed many teenagers into her home who wanted to talk, have a cuppa or find a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

When she moved to a country property near Boomi, 80 km away, many of these young people would still come out on the school bus to visit and stay a few days or longer.

“I have always found it easy to talk to teenagers,” says Katrina, 34, who had her first child at 15. “Maybe it was being such a young mother that did it. And they don’t think I’m so old now, so we can relate.”

Having such an easy rapport with kids, it was not surprising that she turned to fostering. Though she and her husband Vincent (known as Brigalow) had kids of their own, they felt they could certainly accommodate more. “Vincent certainly supported the plan to foster. He loves kids.”

“This is a great place to come and start healing,” she says of the property where she works as a farm hand in addition to raising her family and foster children.

“There’s a big house that’s right for chilling out and a creek where they can go fishing or row a boat. They ride motorbikes. They can go pigging to hunt wild pigs, come on the tractor with me or help me irrigate the cotton and wheat. The kids love it and tell me they feel better for living here.”

Katrina is of the Dharug people, from the area around Hawkesbury River near Sydney, and today she takes in both Aboriginal and other kids on a short, long term and respite basis.

“It’s important to keep the kids connected to their culture and the land, and to be proud of being Aboriginal. We go to NAIDOC Day events, Aboriginal knock outs, and concerts, and if we are in Sydney on Australia Day, we’d certainly be in Victoria Park where the Aboriginal community gathers. I believe in keeping the culture alive,” she says.

With teenagers, she is always stressing the value of education and hard work. “I had my daughter early and look, I wouldn’t change it for the world, and she’s a beautiful girl of 19 now. But it wasn’t easy and I want a better future for my children and foster children. I didn’t finish my schooling, and had to work in supermarkets and cleaning. But I did work hard and I have my own contracting business, my own home and several cars now which are achievements.”

She says she tries hard to be a role model for the Aboriginal kids in her care. “I don’t drink or smoke. I have always worked so they can see the value in work and how it brings in the dollars and how it’s not about sitting around waiting to collect benefits. We’ve got to break the unemployment cycle in our community and that’s what I am trying to do by being proactive on the work front.”

Fostering has been extremely rewarding. One of her foster daughters, who is 16, vows she’ll be with Katrina forever.

“She tells me she plans to be a nurse one day and then she’ll look after me when I’m old and return what I’ve done for her. That’s a lovely thing to hear.”