Dr Reeny Jurczyszyn reflects on embracing her care experience and CREATE’s 20 year milestone

Dr Reeny Jurczyszyn is a former CREATE Board Member who spent 18 years in the out-of-home care system. A huge thank you to Reeny for taking the time to share her experiences and help celebrate CREATE’s 20th Birthday!

As many were singing the Prince song, Lets Party Like its 1999, CREATE was born. Little did those around know it was the start of something significant for our one of most vulnerable populations in Australia. Growing up in care was not like a party but when you connect with others around that share some of your experiences, it is like being part of something that gives you belonging and hope which is more than a party game or lolly bag.

Spending 18 years in care is something that, as Katy Perry sings in Part of Me, I chose to embrace. Yes, it’s an important part but not all of me. There were times growing up I was known as different names, lived in different places and fought hard to understand why I was in the situation I was in. I didn’t quite accept the care experience until I became a mother and embraced the fact I will never understand the whys and how’s and it’s now up to me to grab every opportunity with both hands run and look ahead not back.

Meeting others who had grown up in care through CREATE assisted in me understanding others were in a similar situation but we must not limit our potential from our care identity. Meeting others with a care journey was great but equally meeting people who didn’t have a care background was good when transitioning into adulthood to help extend your opportunities. Moving out of home at 17 years of age, enrolling in TAFE then into university was the game changer. It was the steep and hazardous end to the care years but the start of a new chapter that was not defined by the care years.

I look at what CREATE has done as a Board Member and it certainly takes the collective efforts of every State and Territory at a system level to reorientate the lives of our care leavers and pursuing social justice, which is a evergrowing and challenging task.

My care years have made me resilient, determined and strong across the many areas of my life. Wanting to assist others who are coming through now is a gift and a legacy many involved in CREATE are passionate with. It is the energy, spirit and collective efforts of the many care leavers involved and staff that make CREATE strong 20 years on.

My care years are not known to many people I work with now and at times I forget this heritage. Recently listening to the radio, the ACDC Who Made Who came on and my son said to me “this song could be about your family mum”. We chuckled; 20 years ago it would have made me sad, but when talking with those in care now, it’s not about my care years, it’s about me being a mum, marathoner, friend, PhD completer and other roles we may have in life. Most importantly, the life I am living being the best it can be and seeing the care years as an influence in my life, but not the sole thing that defines it.

Happy Birthday CREATE and to all those who have contributed to the development, creation and thriving lifeblood with care experiences, you are what makes CREATE great and the next 20 years ahead be even better and yes party like its 2039. Hip Hip Hooray and enjoy the celebration ahead.