Meet our eight finalists, for Barnardos Mother of the year 2017 below.
Australian Capital Territory Finalist
Selina Rose Walker
Nominated by her friend, Maree Alchin, 46
A young woman without biological children of her own, Selina Rose Walker, 36, is renowned for being surrounded by kids. She is the foster mum to her cousin’s children, two boys aged six and 10 years old, as well as the boys’ two-year-old brother, who were mistreated before coming into her care. She mothers the three boys as though they are her own while also giving respite care to other children in need.
"Selina is one of the first people called when there is an Indigenous child at risk of harm needing foster care" says her nominator and friend, Maree Alchin, 46.
She is also a positive role model in the community, coaching football, tee ball, baseball and Oztag teams and is actively involved in local school life, co-ordinating the St Anthony’s Primary School fete and helping out in the classrooms and canteen.
A proud Indigenous artist, Selina has also contributed to art projects at St Anthony’s and has helped to redesign the Indigenous exhibit in the National Museum of Australia.
As the granddaughter of Canberra's most senior Ngunnawal elder, Selina regularly attends functions to deliver the Welcome to Country address. She is also setting up a program to help prevent Indigenous suicide after helping family and friends deal with two suicides within her family.
“She has great strength and dedication to all tasks she takes on and selflessly gives up her time to help children in need, which is why I nominate her as Barnardos Mother of the Year,” Maree says.
Nominated by her son, Thomas Youssef, 11
Hannah Daniels, 38, is a superhero in the eyes of her son, Thomas Youssef, 11. Not only does she always know how to rescue him on a bad day, but she always puts others first, even when she is having a bad day herself. She even saves lives.
Hannah is currently looking after a baby girl called Lily while Lily’s mother receives help. She is also the published author of three books and a public speaker on mental health issues.
“When I was being bullied at school, Mum made everything better,” says Thomas, who nominated his Mum as Barnardos Mother of the Year.
“Instead of going to the school about it she showed me ways to make friends with the bully and it worked!"
“Mum also looks after Lily like she is her real mum. I think that would be a hard job because one day Lily will go back home and Mum will be sad, but she says we are giving Lily so much love that her life will be better even if we are not in it anymore. That makes Mum so brave and amazing.”
Hannah intends to continue fostering, a commitment that makes her son extremely proud.
“There was another time when my Mum was really tired but her friend was really sad so she stayed up all night to make sure he didn't die. When she told me what happened, I cried and told her she was a lifesaver,” Thomas says.
“Every day my Mum does something special for other people and it makes me love her even more. She always says never stop trying. It means I don't have to be good at everything as long as I'm trying and that means a lot to me.
“I love her so much it hurts.”
Nominated by her daughter, Amanda Macrae, 26
Sharon MacRae, 54, had a tough upbringing shaped by abuse and adversity, an experience which inspired her to always protect her family and to put less fortunate people first. When the stay-at-home mother of four lost her husband and the father of her children to cancer six years ago, she had already persued a career as a police officer, undertaking training at the academy while balancing work, life, studying and supporting her family.
The caring cop now builds programs for juvenille offenders, giving them choices to change the course of their lives and to escape the cycle of crime.
"Many kids turned their life around from this process, reconnecting with family members, attending drug and alcohol programs and making amends with the victims of their crimes through community service and letters of apology" says her daughter and nominator, Amanda MacRae, 26.
Sharon has also worked with refugees, helping them to deal with everyday life and the adversities they face integrating into the community in a new country.
She is also a strong campaigner against domestic violence, working with community groups and workplaces on preventative measures as well as supporting victims and helping them to re-establish their lives.
"My Mum is an inspiration. She is a strong person who is the backbone of our family and who has also helped and inspired so many people and so many lives over the years. She deserves more than ever to be recognised for her great work in her own family and within the community," Amanda says.
Nominated by her step daughter, Kelly Haywood, 38
Thirty years ago, as a young wife, Carol Edmunds made the life-changing decision to take in her husband’s eight-year-old sister, Kelly, who had just lost her mother to suicide, and to raise her as her own. Carol treated her young sister-in-law as her daughter, taking care of Kelly’s every need and filling in for her late mother throughout her teens, twenties and thirties.
“Growing up, I never wanted for anything; they fed me, clothed me, took care of my schooling and, most importantly, loved and cared for me,” says Kelly Haywood, who nominated Carol, 53, as Barnardos Mother of the Year.
“Carol believed in me at times when I didn’t believe in myself and she encouraged me to be whoever and whatever I wanted to be.”
Late last year, Kelly gave birth to her son and Carol was with her every step of the way.
“She rubbed my back through contractions and held my hand during the birth. During the delivery, she whispered in my ear, ‘Your Mum is here with you.’ She has never let me forget my Mum."
“Although Carol has two sons of her own, she has never made me feel any different to them. She has loved me unconditionally and, because of her, I haven’t missed out on having a Mum,” Kelly says.
South Australia Finalist
Nominated by her daughter, Stephanie Bettens, 23
Val Bettens is a warrior, whose family motto is: “We are given this life because we can handle it” . A survivor of domestic violence, the 57 year old single mum of six is a champion fighter for better outcomes for her own children, two of whom are living with severe disabilities. She has also opened her home and her heart to more than 10 foster children, numerous ‘extras’, some of who were dropped off by police in the middle of the night, and has guardianship of 7-year-old Lincoln, who has recently been diagnosed as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In the thick of a busy life as a sole carer, Val, a high school dropout, enrolled at university as a mature-age student to undertake a teaching degree – and graduated with exceptional grades.
Val is nominated as Barnardos Mother of the Year by her daughter, Stephanie Bettens, 23, who wants to thank her Mum for believing in the potential of her children – biological or otherwise – and for never giving up trying to improve all of their lives, as well as her own.
“Mum raised us as a single parent, fighting fearlessly and ferociously for every service, every therapy and early intervention, and every form of school support for my disabled brothers,” says Stephanie.
“She also ensures Lincoln's needs are met and that he has access to the best therapies possible. She fought for me too. I have severe dyslexia and struggled in school. I credit the extra school support that Mum demanded for me, and the speech therapy she took me to until we could no longer afford it, as the reasons why today I am a University graduate who has gone on to enrol in a master’s degree.”
Despite having so much on her plate at home, Val still found time and energy to be involved in and volunteer at community and Special Olympics events.
“My Mum is the most genuine, caring, loving and strongest person I know I will ever meet,” Stephanie says.
Northern Territory Finalist
Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann
Nominated by her friend, Leslie Gordon, on behalf of all the children in the local community
Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, 65, is an Aboriginal elder in Nauiyu, a remote Aboriginal community 200 kilometres south of Darwin. She has one son and two grandchildren but she is mother to all in the community and from schools all over Australia in which she has taught.
Despite not attending secondary school, Miriam became the Northern Territory’s first Indigenous school teacher and Principal of the Catholic School in her community before retiring.
Miriam now brings family members into the St Francis Xavier School through the Elders program so that children know their families are walking with them through their education journey. Miriam conducts weekly Cultural Education lessons to the students at the school and is a member of Catholic Indigenous Leadership Team for Catholic Education NT.
She has also been a strong advocate for Indigenous education for more than a decade, working tirelessly to ensure students from her remote communities have every opportunity to access education.
A committed Christian who is respected and admired throughout the Northern Territory for her leadership, Miriam says, ‘If I can help to change anyone’s life around, I will’.
She is also the founder and chairperson of the Miriam Rose Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established to empower Indigenous youth through education, art, culture and opportunity. She explains the emblem on her foundation’s logo as representing ‘hands holding’.
Looking after our young in our community.
Holding onto them, making sure they walk the right paths.
Even if they stray, we are still there, walking with them.
“When I observe Miriam working in the community, I see compassion and love: a natural love and pride of who she is and the need to share her culture with the new generations of children,” says her colleague, Leslie Gordon
“There are countless children in the community who have been helped and mentored by this strong compassionate lady. Having had the opportunity to meet and work with Miriam, I have nothing but deep respect and awe for this amazing woman who shows nothing less than unconditional love and respect for her community,” Leslie says.
Western Australia Finalist
Nominated by her sister, Charlene Assan, 34
At just 23 years of age, Zoewella Cooper put her life on hold to provide a loving and safe home for her five siblings, the youngest of whom was six years old at the time. She selflessly devoted her life to raising her siblings side-by-side with her own three young children, one of whom was diagnosed with autism as a toddler.
Tragically, Zowella lost her own mother a year later. Throughout all adversity, the young mum and carer continued to show strength and dedication to her family and, in doing so, gave her younger siblings a chance at life. As a result of her commitment, her siblings have grown into thriving teenagers and mature adults, one of whom recently graduated from high school with plans to study Aboriginal theatre at university.
Now aged 29, Zoewella also juggles fulltime work at Anglicare WA where she co-ordinates the Aboriginal Early Years program and Aboriginal Mother’s Playgroup to encourage and inspire other Aboriginal mothers. She also completed her Cert III in
Community Services and plans on furthering her study to continue her work addressing the ongoing crisis that drug and alcohol causes in the community.
Zoewella hopes to become a foster carer for other at-risk Aboriginal children, to fulfill her desire to provide a loving and caring environment for all children.
“Zoewella has given our siblings a life of abundant opportunities and experiences as well as unconditional love and support” says her sister and nominator, Charlene Assan, 34.
"She continues to strive to be a positive role model for the community and is someone who exemplifies being a great mum, inspiring mothers and society in general to do better and be better for all children."
“She never asks for anything for herself and doesn’t expect recognition, although she definitely deserves it. I am proud to call her my sister.”
New South Wales Finalist
Nominated by her daughter, Lauren Ford 33
Joanne Ford, 59, has an enormous heart which she gives freely to dying children and their families to help make the most of their remaining time together. She is also the much-loved mother of five children and grandmother of four. She is nominated by her daughter, Lauren Ford, 33, who is inspired by her mother’s courage, compassion and commitment to making a meaningful difference to other people’s lives.
Joanne’s love for helping children in need began in 2009, when she gave her time to volunteer at a camp for children with muscular dystrophy. She then went on to volunteer at Bear Cottage in Manly, before undertaking formal training as a nurse. She now works at Bear Cottage in palliative care for children, a challenging role of enormous significance to the lives of all involved. Joanne attends the funeral of each Bear Cottage child who dies and is a great support to the families of the terminally ill children.
“Mum is very deserving of the Barnardos Mother of the Year Award as I’m sure all of my siblings and anyone who knows her would agree,” says her daughter Lauren.
“She is dedicated to everything she does and has made a difference to hundreds of families. She is also a positive role model to her four daughters and son, as well as her three grandsons and grandaughter."
“We love you Mum. Thanks for everything you do and have done for us all.”
The National Barnardos Mother of the Year announcement will be made on Thursday, 11th May in Sydney.