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I have been a foster parent for 28 and a bit years. I am just taking care of my ex-sister-in-law’s three daughters. Penny has cerebral palsy. I looked at every aspect of what I can do for them before I took them. So within my tribe I am their mother. I am of the same generation as their mother and that means the world to me. So just teaching them to be strong black women is my goal in life. To be a successful parent. I have always thought that people look at the disability rather than the ability. I want to totally explore and help Penny with her ability so she can live a full life and never be looked at as a disabled person. I went into fostering because my dad’s eldest sister was of the Stolen Generations and we could never find her. So I promised myself that I would never have another child in the Stolen Generations. Lesley Flanders. Gumbaynggirr woman

Photography by Belinda Mason.

Aboriginal children make up about 45 per cent of all children in foster care. The Department for Child Protection and Family Support tries wherever possible to place Aboriginal children within their families and local communities to safeguard their cultural identity. Some for a few weeks, some for a few years – no one really knows how long a child will need care for. The type of fostering also depends on the age of the child, and if they have behavioural difficulties or a disability. Foster children generally keep in touch with their birth parents and family members. Aunty Lesley told me that ‘birth children come from your belly, but foster children come from your heart’. Aunty Lesley has fostered over 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. I remember spending time with Aunty Lesley and the girls. I saw how much love, care and attention she gives each one of them. She has allowed the girls to blossom into strong young beautiful women. Aunty Lesley is undoubtedly the girls’ tribal mum.

Dieter and Liam Knierim

Knierim Brothers Prodcutions