Light at the end of tunnel

April 04, 2018

Tracey, Ebony and Georgia Styles have come a long way since the children entered foster care four-and-a-half years ago.

Andrew Galbraith, Danny Barlow, Charles Hart, Lesley Hart and Olivia Barlow listened to Ebony Styles share her experiences when she visited their office recently.

For most, the thought of being torn away from your mother and siblings as a young child is difficult to comprehend.

After moving from multiple foster families, the hope of becoming reunited as a family became a receding dream for Ebony Styles.

At eight years old, Ebony was placed in foster care along with her older sister Georgia, who was nine at the time, and their half brother Peter, 6.

Suffering from depression, their mother Tracey Styles worked tirelessly to provide for her children as a single parent.

As the illness continued to creep in, Tracey’s control of her children began to lessen.

‘‘We would go to bed really late and then not get up for school,’’ Ebony said.

Soon after, the Department of Human Services came for Ebony, Georgia and Peter.

‘‘They told us we were only going to be away for one night so we were told to pack an overnight bag,’’ Georgia said.

‘‘And then they said for the weekend and then a week and then after that we basically didn’t hear from anyone.’’

Mrs Styles said: ‘‘I was going through depression and crying all the time, I just locked myself up after the kids got taken’’.

The three Styles children spent about two years moving from different foster families.

‘‘We started to forget what mum was like,’’ Georgia said.

Ebony still recalls traumatic experiences while in foster care.

‘‘I was bullied by the other children, who would tease me about not having a mum, call me names and say terrible things about my mum.’’

With the help of a caring DHS worker, Mrs Styles regained access to her children and in October 2016, Ebony, Georgia and Peter began living with their mother full time.

‘‘I was so happy,’’ Mrs Styles said.

Originally from Wangaratta, the family now lives in Shepparton, close to Wilmot Rd Primary School where Ebony is the school captain in her final year of primary education.

After attending five other primary schools across northern Victoria and repeating grade one, Ebony and her family are delighted to be together in the one place.

She has also been the lucky recipient of a Talent, Opportunities, Potential scholarship funded by Dawes & Vary Riordan Lawyers.

‘‘When I read the letter for the role of captain and the scholarship I had tears in my eyes,’’ Mrs Styles said.

‘‘It really touched me, I was so proud of her.

‘‘We’ve come a long way and I’m proud of how much we’ve accomplished after everything that we’ve been through,’’ she said.

Wilmot Rd Primary School is also extremely proud of Ebony and her achievements.

‘‘Through recognising her challenges, Ebony has thrived with the right support and recognition,’’ student wellbeing and community relationships co-ordinator Paul Greenwood said.

The TOP scholarship is an initiative organised by Wilmot Rd PS and local businesses to support their students’ academic ventures.

Dawes & Vary Riordan Lawyers has been involved in the program for many years.

Director Lesley Hart was delighted to provide Ebony with a scholarship opportunity.

‘‘Ebony is a young girl with ability, passion and dedication. She just needs opportunity to achieve her goals,’’ Mrs Hart said.

‘‘The Dawes & Vary Riordan Scholarship is predominantly given to recognise the recipient’s talent, and then support and inspire them to pursue their goals.

‘‘The exciting part is that each success story for one individual can lead to a success story for the next generation.

‘‘We are honoured to play a small part in that,’’ she said.

Ebony is also the youngest and first primary school student to be part of the Word and Mouth committee, a youth organisation that aims to provide a voice for young people in the Greater Shepparton region.

Word and Mouth project manager Jim Gow was happy to have Ebony on board.

‘‘She’s been great so far and she is only getting better as she comes to more meetings,’’ Mr Gow said.

Ebony is looking forward to the future, with plans to attend McGuire College next year.

She hopes to become a lawyer after finishing her education.

‘‘I personally feel that we’ve come a long way,’’ Ebony said.

‘‘With all these roles it’s made me feel special because of when I got bullied.

‘‘It’s proving to them that I’m not what they say I am.’’

Care system faces many challenges

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children was agreed to at the Council of Australian Governments in 2009.

It states that out-of-home care is a last resort for keeping children safe.

Providing support to families and children so the child can safely remain in the home is the preferred option.

The framework goes on to say that the care system faces many challenges including limited resourcing, difficulties recruiting and retaining foster carers and challenges in providing adequate support for relative and kinship carers.

For more information about foster caring go to the Foster Care Association of Victoria’s website at or call Berry Street in Shepparton on 58228100.

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