In Humans of SKY, Kingsville

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Resident of South Kingsville, lawyer, wife and cat-foster carer

The Pursuit of Education & Working in Child Protection

I’m a first generation Australian. My father Jerry left Poland for Australia when he was five, and my mother Lena left England for Australia when she was 11. My mother was always sick, and coming to Australia was for the benefit of her health.

Coincidentally, three of my four grandparents have a Polish background. My Grandfather was 102 when he passed away this year; the men seem to live a long time! Lena and Jerry met in St Albans while still in high school, and got married when Lena was 17. Dad left for Vietnam for a few years, and when he returned, they started a family. I’m the second of three children. My mother was 21 years old when my older brother was born.

My parents bought a house in Craigieburn. At that time, Craigieburn didn’t have a primary school or a high school, and the backstreet was a massive paddock. There was no infrastructure. My father’s sister lived in Werribee then. ‘Why don’t you move down here? There are schools, and this is a better place.’

As a result, I grew up in Werribee. I went to high school in Geelong, and currently have three degrees – an Arts degree from the University of Ballarat, a Social Work degree from Melbourne University and a Law degree from Victoria University. There’s a connection between them – I’ve always had a passion for caring and looking after people. I love standing up for people and being their advocate. For me, I’d always thought I’d be a lawyer. I’m great at arguing and debating but I didn’t study hard enough in high school. At one point, I asked myself ‘Why don’t I be a psychologist or something like that?’

I liked the welfare aspect of the arts degree. There was an opportunity then, where if you want to upgrade your degree, you can go into social work, as both Universities (Ballarat and Melbourne) had an affiliation. There were five of us at Ballarat Uni who jumped at the chance to switch courses as it presented more job opportunities.

From there, I moved into child protection. One of the best experiences I had was working with a mother and her three children, who were fleeing from a domestic violence situation. Initially, the mum wouldn’t leave, and the lawyers and I were working very hard to get the four of them into a better environment. In the end, I was able to get her to connect with her estranged family on the other side of Melbourne.

Six months after that, she came back to thank me as she was doing better, and the kids continued to stay away from the violent partner. She was feeling better about life and was no longer fearful of losing her children. It’s about making a positive impact on her life.

One of the worst memories was going to a hospital as a 16-year-old girl had had a fight with her mum. She had decided she wouldn’t live there anymore and set herself on fire. Her parents tried to put the fire out, but they got burnt in the process and died. The girl suffered third-degree burns on her body and survived. Unfortunately, a ten-year-old also witnessed the incident.

Education is very important to me, hence why I have three degrees. I also have a Diploma in Play Therapy, and even thought about pursuing my Masters. However, I parked the idea once I started my job.

Going to High School in Geelong means I spend a lot of time there; a lot of my friends were in Geelong. I’m a big westie and have lived in the west most of my life.

When I completed my arts and social degree, I worked in Centrelink for awhile as a Social Worker, before wanting to see more, and decided to head to the UK. I was 24 then and had this idea of looking out for the kids. I was young and stupid enough to think I could have a positive effect on everyone’s life, only to find I was emotionally sucked dry and burnt out. I spent three years in the UK, realizing there’s never enough resources, and everyone who sticks around too long ends up not caring anymore, I didn’t want to be that jaded!

I ended up working in child protection for ten years, which was probably well and beyond what I should have done. When I returned to Melbourne, naturally I returned to child protection. It was a no-brainer.

I began doing a lot of court work and had a ‘I think I can do better than you’ mindset. As part of the service Child Protection offers, a client can engage someone to be a court advocate. This is someone who knows the regulation and is able to represent someone without being a lawyer. When there were uncontested matters or just the first hearing, someone like myself can be hired, as opposed to a lawyer.

While working full time in child protection, I realized I hadn’t studied in awhile, so decided to pursue my third degree – law. I was 33 when I graduated and went to work in a law firm. Wanting to go back to what I knew, I was going to be a family lawyer, but realized I didn’t love it.

I moved around in different law jobs over the years and gained a lot of valuable experience and worked with some amazing people until I decided to start my own business.

My husband Jay likes to think he owns half the law firm as I’ve used both our names when naming the firm. He’s in IT, but also my technical and emotional support and sanity. We’ve been married just under seven years.”

Discovering South Kingsville & herself

How did I end up in South Kingsville? Well when I got back from the UK, I bought my first home – a one bedroom apartment – in Carnegie. I upgraded to a three bedroom apartment in Kew, before selling it as by that time, Jay and I were settling down to get married and our goal was to try and start a family.

Jay’s family is in Ballarat, and mine’s in Point Cook, and we wanted to be in the West and be closer to them. As Jay worked in the city, we compromised on finding a home near the city.

We were looking in Newport as we were priced out of Yarraville. We could buy something in Newport but couldn’t find anything within our price range. We liked Spotswood and saw a few houses, and one day drove over the railway track.

We were now in South Kingsville, and we have never heard of it.

We ended up buying a house in South Kingsville at auction, which was just under our budget. It’s now home!
I have a lot of empathy. At times in my career, my billables were not what the business wanted. My clients all loved me, and I’ve had clients tracking me down when I moved firms. They all wanted me to do jobs for them. I don’t think people should be ripped off, and we need to spend time with them.

When I left my last company, my father was dying of terminal cancer. There were a lot of medical appointments, and I would be involved in the whole process. It was traumatic for everybody, and I didn’t quite know how to process it all. On the back of that year in 2014, my trainer had died of heart attack, a friend of mine committed suicide, and my father was ill.

It made me reflect on what’s important in life, and I wanted to do something important. ‘Life was short,’ I realized.
I reflected on all of that, and what I wanted to do. I asked myself how I could contribute, using the skills and knowledge I have? It’s not about making money. Having a good lifestyle is important, but it should not be to the detriment of people who are in need. It should never be a detriment. Ever.

Some lawyers are quite happy to charge significant amounts of money. I’m not prepared to do that. One of the most important things is education. It’s about educating people with information. Sometimes I spend a little too much time explaining the ins and outs of things. It’s important people understand what they’re getting into.

I like travelling. Jay and I travel annually, sometimes with other people. The goal is to see as much of the world, while we can. I have travelled a lot more than Jay has.

I have three foster cats, or furbabies, as I call them.
Momma Rosa is our first foster. She came to us in January 2017 with five babies that were three days old. We nursed them and Rosa just stayed with us. The five babies have seen been adopted out. The other two came to us in September last year as their foster carer was moving interstate permanently. They are called Cindy and Oreo.

I can be found in Spotswood, particularly Duchess of Spotswood, or the Junction Beer Hall && Wine Room or the Spottiswoode Hotel for a drink. In South Kingsville, anytime an original house gets sold, two or three townhouses get put up. There are a lot more people coming through. Where the Don Factory is now, I think it’s going to be called Altona East as the Post Office there is called Altona East Post Office.

One thing I like about the gentrification of the area is the interesting shops that come through. The Spottie used to be more of a gentlemen’s bar, and the whole revamp of the area has made it more family-friendly, and somewhere we all want to go now.

I’m an advocate for female and children and am on the executive board for Girl Guides of Victoria. I was a Brownie, and a Girl Guide when I was little, and I think that ties in with the whole thing about empathy and education. Girl Guides are continuously educating and providing opportunities for young women, who normally wouldn’t have the opportunities in their everyday life. It’s a fabulous organization and I am so proud to be a part of it.”

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