You are at: > Love & Relationships

Bernadette Black Brave Foundation Interview

Bernadette Black Brave Foundation Interview

Former Victorian Premier and Chairman of beyondblue, is the guest speaker at the launch of a new national charity Brave Foundation, which provides education, support and resources for teenage and unplanned pregnancies to facilitate happy, healthy and skilled families.

The Hon Jeff Kennett AC is launching the Brave Foundation nationally at a breakfast function on Friday, November 13 at Melbourne Town Hall.

In Australia, in 2012, 25,000 teenage pregnancies were recorded (19 years and under) – that's almost 70 teenage pregnancies per day. This figure is estimated from rates of live births, deaths and induced abortions.

Bernadette Black, CEO and Founding Director of Brave Foundation says: 'Brave Foundation's mission is to build a village of acceptance and support around every person facing teenage pregnancy and parenthood so they have the opportunity, with time, to grow a happy, healthy, skilled family, with healthy children."

'If an unplanned pregnancy does occur the Brave Foundation is there to provide support and educational opportunities that will enhance the pregnant or parenting teen, their baby's health and well-being and provide support for significant others alongside the journey."

'Research shows us that when a pregnant teenager engages with support and education, she has a better outcome than her counterparts (other students) and the generational risk of teenage pregnancy is reduced dramatically," added Ms Black.

Brave Foundation supports a coordinated national approach to: improve outcomes and support for pregnant and parenting young people; reducing teenage pregnancy and the teenage birth-rate; and changing societal attitudes to the stigma attached to teenage pregnancy.

Statistics show that pregnancy rates are higher among teenagers whose lives include:
Low socio-economic background
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status
Family situations with regular conflict; family violence or sexual abuse during childhood
Unstable housing arrangements/living in out of home care
Poor school performance and attendance
Family history of pregnancies at a young age
Low self esteem
Living in rural and remote areas
Having a mental health diagnosis

In 2010, births to teenage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women accounted for 20% of all births to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. In comparison, births to all teenage women in Australia accounted only for 4% of all births.

Information about the support and services that Brave Foundation offers can be found on their website at: www.bravefoundation.org.au.

Mr Kennett said navigating the teenage years can be very difficult and an organisation like the Brave Foundation can deliver a valuable service by providing specific information and support for teenagers experiencing teenage pregnancy and parenthood, their partners and families.

'I want to see all young people get support for their mental and physical health wherever they live and whenever they need it. A website is a great place from which to get information, but if they are concerned about themselves or someone else, they should talk to an adult they trust or make an appointment to see a G.P.," said Mr Kennett.

'beyondblue, like the Brave Foundation, has lots of helpful information on its website for expectant and new parents, and there are mental health professionals at our Support Service you can talk to about any concerns you may have 24/7," added Mr Kennett.

Brave Foundation has partnered with Kids Help Line which offers counseling assistance to anyone under the age of 24. This is available by telephone or online.

Bernadette Black, unexpectedly fell pregnant at 16 and experienced first-hand the stigma associated with a teenage pregnancy and the lack of support and education.

'Throughout my pregnancy, so many people looked at me critically and judgementally and made me think that I should be embarrassed and ashamed. I desperately searched for support and inspiration from others who had been in my situation but found none," says Bernadette.

She promised herself three things
–1. That she would be a good mother;
2. Complete her education; and
3. Write a book to help and encourage others in her situation.

Bernadette's book -Brave Little Bear' is a personal story that details her experience of being a teenage mother to qualifying as a Registered Nurse and ultimately to becoming the Barnardos Australian Mother of the Year. It is a message of inspiration, hope and resolve to women facing teenage pregnancy and motherhood.

Bernadette says it's crucial that children know they're valued. 'If children have that belief in themselves then it doesn't matter what the world throws at them because they'll be able to handle it. So I wrote the book to show others that through perseverance and determination you can overcome life's challenges and fulfil your dreams."

Her son Damien, now 22, is incredibly proud of his mum. 'She works tirelessly to show young mums how life's adversities can be turned into positives and that with support and encouragement anything is possible. It's like she has a flame inside her that burns and burns to help people. But she also always has time for her own kids and makes us all feel very special."

Former Premier of Tasmania David Bartlett is Chair of the Brave Foundation and has a personal connection to teenage pregnancy. He was born in 1968 to a teenage mother and was given up for adoption. His then16-year-old mother and his grandmother travelled from Launceston to Hobart for his birth and it was another 20 years before the three met again.

"My admiration for both of them is boundless really for what they dealt with and worked through," says David.

Since reconnecting with his birth parents, David says his family has extended in a number of directions.

"I have this huge, weird and wild family from all places, and all over the world, who come together in love and with love. That is just an extraordinary blessing," he says.

Case Studies:
Susan Katarzynski and Ebony Dance are teenage mums and, like Bernadette, have also experienced first-hand the stigma of a teenage pregnancy.

Susan Katarzynski:
At 17 Susan gave birth to a girl called Mabel who is now 2. She had been with her boyfriend, Lochlan for a year before she fell pregnant. Susan, now 19, is studying a Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Tasmania and she and Lochlan are engaged to be married.

'Lochlan has played a massive role in mine and Mabel's life and without his support and love we wouldn't be where we are today," says Susan.

Susan says the general public were the least accepting of her pregnancy.

'I found that people would stare at me, pointing and whispering. It was horrid. I ended up not wanting to leave the house and go into an environment where I was vulnerable for judgement." 'Luckily for me my school was supportive in my decision. They gave me a more flexible timetable and also gave me access to an area I could go at lunchtimes or recess if I needed a rest whilst I was pregnant,' says Susan.

'Initially I told a few of my close friends about my pregnancy. However, this was unfortunately leaked and students were talking and saying horrible things about me behind my back. I then made the decision to instigate a year 11 and 12 meeting where I told the entire cohort that I was pregnant. I did this because I wanted everyone to understand exactly what was happening and how I was feeling so that we could move forward. This was the best decision I made as from then on I had full student and parent support," says Susan.

Susan says the Brave Foundation has been a wonderful source of inspiration and hope for her.

'I read Bernadette's book -Brave Little Bear' shortly after Mabel was born. The book made me realise that my dreams of finishing school whilst caring for Mabel were achievable as other people had done this. It gave me the confidence to succeed."

Susan's advice to other young girls who unexpectedly fall pregnant is 'to make the decision that is right for them and to not be swayed into a decision which they may regret in the future. If they decided to continue with their pregnancy, I would tell them that the most important thing they should try to achieve is to finish their education. Education is such a powerful thing to have and once they have achieved this it will enable them to set them and their child up for the future."

'I would also tell them to take advantage of all the organisations and resources available to young mums, like the Brave Foundation. The saying 'it takes a village to raise a child' is definitely true. All mums need support no matter their age," says Susan.

'I also feel that society should be less judgemental. I appreciate it's difficult to sympathise with someone who has potentially caused their own misfortune. However, don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes."

'Whilst ultimately young mums make the decision to become just that, a young mum, more support, advice and information needs to be readily available to prevent teenage pregnancy in the first place. I definitely don't encourage young girls to become young mums, but these things happen and people need to be supportive," says Susan.

'I have made good of a tricky situation, but there are many young mums who struggle everyday in situations far worse than mine. The Government and society should support them in their quest to gain an education and a job and to better their life and their child's life into the future," says Susan.

Ebony Dance:

Ebony was only 15 years old when she fell pregnant and 16 when she gave birth to her daughter Ruby who is now three years old. She had only been with her then boyfriend for a few months at the time and admits that she was uneducated about practising safe sex.

'When I found out I was pregnant I knew immediately that I wanted to keep the baby. At the same time I was very scared of everyone's reactions," says Ebony.

'When it had become more obvious I was pregnant I received looks of disgust from society. People who didn't even know me would stare, point and whisper at me as I walked through shopping complexes," reflects Ebony.

'I have gained so much from being a young mother. I learnt very quickly about my priorities and the importance of education. In fact, becoming a young mother has made me focus even more on my education and career goals. However, having a baby at such a young age did make me lose friends because they were all interested in partying."

'Finishing high school was not as easy as I had hoped it would be. I had to drop back to completing just the compulsory classes I needed to pass but I got there in the end and graduated with all of my classmates," says Ebony.

'Fortunately I had great support from my mother, who was sadly undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer at the time I brought my daughter home. This was a huge blessing in disguise as it allowed my mother and me to bond and to share the difficulties of becoming a new mum. I believe that every new mother, no matter what her age, faces challenges one way or another in the first few months or even first few years of parenting. I had also gained experience with my younger siblings as I have four sisters and one brother and I was able to witness them grow and develop," says Ebony.

'A phrase that I kept telling myself and still use to this day is one of Bernadette's sayings that I hold close to my heart: "The journey will be different but the destination will remain the same" I continue to use this every day to help get through completing university and fulfilling my ambitions." Ebony says the advice she would give any teen who discovers they are pregnant is 'to consider what decision would support them and their baby best."

'Do not make the decision based on anyone else's opinion because you are the one who will have to live with that decision for the rest of your life. I would also recommend to them to utilise any help and programs that are available to young mothers, like the Brave Foundation," added Ebony. 'The Brave Foundation is vital for teens in their time of need and support when they discover they are pregnant. I was fortunate to meet Bernadette and hear her personal story and she remains a friend and role model to me to this day."

Ebony says she doesn't have any regrets whatsoever about her teenage pregnancy and parenthood journey. 'I believe that without this decision I would not be the driven, ambitious person I am today. I do however wish there was more education on safe sex, especially in private and catholic schools." Now 19, Ebony has been in a 'very happy, loving relationship' with Shane for a year and a half and are due to be married in a little over a year. They have a son, Archer, who is now six months old. For further information on the Brave Foundation and teenage pregnancy please go to: www.bravefoundation.org.au


Interview with Bernadette Black, CEO and Founding Director of the Brave Foundation

Question: What is the Brave Foundation?

Bernadette Black: Brave Foundation is an Australian Not for Profit Registered Charity providing those experiencing teenage and unplanned pregnancy with resources, referral and education opportunities to facilitate happy, healthy and skilled families over time.

Brave Foundation builds up the village of support and acceptance around anyone facing teenage pregnancy and parenthood. We do this by providing access to support and education opportunities nationally. We provide the following:

1. Triage Service:

Brave Foundation provides a growing online -Directory of Services', which displays outreach and educational opportunities nationally. Brave Foundation partners with and promotes existing pregnancy and parenting support services and educational opportunities, acting as a central point of reference for those seeking support. Brave Foundation joins the dots to meet the needs. We do this by connecting the village to educational services, resources and pregnancy support services within Australia. We share stories of others in this journey and share encouragement at this time in their family's life. Currently Brave Foundation provides this service online only and aims to deliver a national hotline in 2017 to strengthen the opportunity for connection points nationally. This service will be available to anyone in the village i.e.: HPE teachers, counsellors, family members and those experiencing teen pregnancy and parenting.

2. National Awareness Education Project:

Brave Foundation aims to distribute resources, information and scholarship opportunities to all secondary schools, hospitals and pregnancy support centres in Australia to promote continuation of secondary education, role modelling and support services for the pregnant or parenting teen, and information for those that might be a part of their supporting community. This will be by distribution of a Brave Foundation pack to each stakeholder comprising an introductory letter, Policy Standard to continue education for pregnant/parenting student, poster, scholarship opportunities and resource book Brave Little Bear. Resource packs will be delivered nationally to:

• Secondary schools – government, combined and private
• Hospitals – public and private
• Pregnancy support centres

3. Scholarship Opportunities:

Research has shown that if a young woman in this situation continues with her education in some capacity, she will have a better outcome than her counterpart (traditional secondary student).

We understand at Brave Foundation that pregnancy and becoming a parent takes much time and learning. Every new mum needs maternity leave for a period of time but after this time, we do encourage new mothers to continue their education at a part time capacity, even if it might be as little as one subject each week. We encourage school attendance during pregnancy, under a doctor's recommendation.

In 2015/16 Brave Foundation will be launching its scholarship program for the purchase of textbooks for pregnant/parenting teenagers.

The Charity has a full board of skill mixed Directors with The Honourable David Bartlett, former Tasmanian Premier as its Chair.

More information about the support and services Brave Foundation offers can be found at their website: www.bravefoundation.org.au


Question: What inspired the creation of the Brave Foundation?

Bernadette Black: Brave Foundation began in 2009, as a result of Founding Director Bernadette Black publishing -Brave Little Bear,' her own story of teenage pregnancy through to qualifying as a Registered Nurse to becoming the Barnardos Australian Mother of the Year.

After the launch of her book, Bernadette would receive emails from many young women facing teenage/unplanned pregnancy in Australia asking where they could finish their secondary schooling and find support where they lived. This was in fact why Bernadette Black wrote her book, as it was something just like this that she searched for at 16 but could not find.

It is a message of inspiration, hope and resolve to women facing teenage pregnancy and motherhood.


Question: Why is this foundation so close to your own heart?

Bernadette Black: When I unexpectedly fell pregnant with my son at the age of 16, I was a -good girl, from a good Catholic family.' This sort of thing didn't happen to -good girls'! My father literally screamed out in the middle of the main road - -My 16 year old daughter has had sex and now she is pregnant!' and my mum, although supportive, became very sick from shock. At this same time my boyfriend's family wanted me to end the pregnancy. I also felt I had nowhere to turn and found myself in my Year 10 Co-ordinator's office. I was scared he would react like everyone else. He didn't. The words he said changed my life. He said: 'Bernadette, the journey might be different now but the destination can stay the same." I would not be the person I am today without this conversation.

I experienced first-hand the stigma associated with a teenage pregnancy and the lack of support and education.

'Throughout my pregnancy, so many people looked at me critically and judgementally and made me think that I should be embarrassed and ashamed. I desperately searched for support and inspiration from others who had been in my situation but found none."

I promised myself three things –1. That I would be a good mother; 2. Complete my education; and 3. Write a book to help and encourage others in my situation.

And I believe I have fulfilled those three promises – but still have so much to achieve!


Question: Why did you choose Julia Gillard to launch the Brave Foundation?

Bernadette Black: Unfortunately Julia Gillard is no longer available to launch given a change in circumstance, however we are very excited to have The Hon Jeff Kennet launch Brave Foundation. Bernadette wrote to Jeff about her vision for Brave Foundation in 2009, as he is the Founding Chairman of beyondblue. Bernie knew that she wanted to do for pregnant and parenting teens what beyondblue has done for people living with depression in Australia. Jeff received Bernie's email and a short time later the then CEO of beyondblue, Leonie Young contacted her to discuss her vision. Given this and the vision of both charities to support teenagers at potentially difficult times, Jeff is the ideal person to launch Brave Foundation .


Question: How does this training ensure happy, healthy and skilled families?

Bernadette Black: Often help is around the corner, although we just don't know it. Brave Foundation aims to make sure every visitor to its site knows where you can find help in Australia. We know how important it is for a teenager in this situation to find resources available to her at the beginning of her pregnancy so she can continue her education whilst equipping her towards a happy, healthy family unit over time as a mother. A visitor can search our database and locate a service / educational provider close to where they live or alternatively they can contact Brave Foundation and we will connect them.


Question: Can you talk about the statistics surrounding teenage and unplanned pregnancy in Australia?

Bernadette Black: In Australia, in 2012, 25,000 teenage pregnancies were recorded (19 years and under) – that's almost 70 teenage pregnancies per day. This figure is estimated from rates of live births, deaths and induced abortions. Just under half of these continuing to full pregnancies –

Statistics show that pregnancy rates are higher among teenagers whose lives include:
Low socio-economic background
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status
Family situations with regular conflict; family violence or sexual abuse during childhood
Unstable housing arrangements/ living in out of home care
Poor school performance and attendance
Family history of pregnancies at a young age
Low self esteem
Living in rural and remote areas
Having a mental health diagnosis


Question: How does the Brave Foundation aim to reduce the stigma associated with a teenage pregnancy?

Bernadette Black: We aim to provide a connection point to support and education opportunities in any community of Australia. Our website is also designed so that a support person in this young person's life can also access the site and be a part of the village by seeing how others in the support role walk through this situation. We believe in storytelling and provide stories from many mums, grandparents, teachers, friends and support people that have experienced teenage pregnancy and parenting. We also have a hub of research and social media channels that grow the village of support around anyone facing teenage pregnancy and parenthood.


Question: How can Australians support the Brave Foundation?

Bernadette Black: 1) Become a Brave Community Delegate and
2) Hold a baby shower!

1) A Brave Community Delegate (BCD) is a volunteer that researchers support and educational services that assist pregnant and parenting teens in their own community of Australia, whilst raising awareness of those and Brave Foundation. The BCD also holds fundraising events for the Brave Foundation. Brave Foundation aims to have one BCD in every local government area nationally.

Specific roles of the BCD:
Register your interest to become a BCD (once site is launched)
Once you receive confirmation of becoming a BCD, you can research information about pregnancy and educational support services in your community.
Upload this information to the Brave Foundation's online database of services. This will then be available to all Australian teenagers and their support village to access the relevant services to them, whilst also connecting the dots between providers.
Identify where in your local community we can deliver information packs to extend our reach.
Register to hold a baby shower in the month of May, 2016 highlighting Mother's Day.
Provide inspirational stories from people that they can share with the local community as a result of an experience with a teenage pregnancy- mystory@bravefoundation.org.au
Raise funds for Brave Foundation and deposit via your own fundraising page

Your support means Brave Foundation can continue to raise much-needed funds that go towards:
Supporting pregnant and parenting teenagers in your community
Equipping the village surrounding pregnant and parenting teens with awareness and support
Providing resources to secondary schools and providers to assist the pregnant/parenting teen in continuing their education in your patch of Australia
Providing awareness and support to existing services in your community assisting pregnant/parenting teens
Funding scholarships for secondary school continuation
Funding research surrounding the pregnant/parenting teen, access to support services and education.

2) Fundraising – World's Biggest Baby Shower
The World's Biggest Baby Shower (WBBS) will be the signature national fundraising initiative for Brave Foundation.
There are two vehicles of registration for the WBBS that will encourage members of the community to become Community Delegates of Brave Foundation, which hold baby showers. These are:

A Brave Community Delegate (BCD) will register with Brave Foundation to hold their baby shower in the month of May, highlighting Mother's Day. The BCD will research pregnancy and educational support services in their community and input that information to Brave Foundation's national database of services. This will then be available for national access and awareness. Attendees to the BCD's baby shower will give coin/note donations to Brave Foundation, with a minimum pledge amount of $50 per baby shower. The BCD will be equipped with online resources and baby shower ideas from Brave Foundation to help in holding their WBBS event.

Women having their own baby shower can host a -sister baby shower' for Brave Foundation at any time of the year. Attendees to the BCD's baby shower will give coin/note donations to Brave Foundation, with a minimum pledge amount of $50 per baby shower. The BCD will be equipped with online resources and baby shower ideas from Brave Foundation to help in holding their WBBS event.
Register your interest to hold a baby shower in the month of May or sister shower.




Question: What is the website for the Brave Foundation?

Bernadette Black: www.bravefoundation.org.au


Interview by Brooke Hunter




 



Top
 
Join our VIP Club
Enter Competitions
Add to Bookmarks
Free Toolbar Download
VIP member - Login

Discount Hotel Reservation