Rooted in Culture

12 September 2023


Family, culture, and identity.

These three values lie at the very heart of the Mauheni-Edwards family – and are what have helped Aroha and her husband Huey connect with the 17-year-old young man who recently came into their care.

A Māori woman originally from the east coast and northern tribes of New Zealand, Aroha now lives on Kangaroo Island with her family.

For Aroha, connection to place has always been an important part of her identity – and it is something she and Huey have tried to keep alive for their children.

“When we first moved here in 2007, I was eight and a half months pregnant,” Aroha said. “We made a promise to each other that if we were to stay, we would return back home every two years for the children, so they knew where they were from.”

When Aroha and Huey were approached to take on the care of their son’s friend – a 17-year-old Aboriginal young man – things seemed to just fall into place.

“My son Kaea knew him from school – they were already good mates. Kaea really just wanted to support him,” Aroha said. “So, when DCP asked us, we sort of just went from there. He was already part of the family, but now it wasn’t just for the weekends.”

The concept of raising a child with no blood connection is not a new one to Aroha. In fact, the idea of a ‘whāngai’ has deep roots in Māori culture.

“In our culture, we have a similar system, but it’s not seen as a system – and it’s called a whāngai,” she said.

"A whāngai is someone who is loved by someone who is not their (biological) parent,”

“My husband Huey was a whāngai, and my eldest son is a whāngai to my parents. They brought him up for five years.”

Having witnessed the strength of whāngai first-hand, Aroha believes it is important to provide her family, including whāngai, a strong connection to identity – and for them to understand their roots.

For the young man in her care, this meant bringing him back to Country.

“When he started living here, we asked him where are his roots? Where are his rivers, where are his oceans? We told him we would take him home, and we did.” she said. “It was important for us that he return back, just as it’s important to return our kids back home.”

Although the young man has now been reunified with family, Aroha still cherishes the individual moments they spent together as family.

“Table talk over dinner is huge. We talk about our highlights and our fails. The first couple of dinners, he’d say ‘I don’t have a highlight.’ Now, when we ask him, he’ll talk for the whole dinner,” she recalls. “I love just seeing him communicate confidently and all those normal daily things that he now loves doing with us.”

However, she was most proud of the fact that he could eventually laugh with no reservations – as loudly and robustly as the rest of the family.

“I’m happy to say, he now laughs from the bottom of his belly. Head back, eyes closed, watering,” she said. “That’s what I love.”

If you are interested in becoming a Foster Carer, visit our Foster Care page.

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In House and Home

7 April 2023


Facing homelessness during the height of a global pandemic wasn’t something that Reece, a long-term private-renter from the Fleurieu Peninsula, ever expected to happen to his young family.

As housing prices sky-rocketed during COVID, the single father and his two boys, now aged 7 and 9, were forced to move from their family home when the landlord decided to sell.

“Before COVID, I was paying $250 a week in rent. That home is now $450 a week. We just couldn’t afford it,” Reece said.

After applying for over 160 private rentals with no success, Reece started reaching out to services for support.

“I was telling everyone – ‘I have two kids and I’m about to be homeless’,” Reece said. “I was applying for everything, from the Fleurieu all the way down to Marion.”

In June 2022, with nowhere else to go, the young family found themselves sleeping in a caravan. They spent the next several months living day-to-day with no fixed address.

“We were moving every few days. Sometimes we were in a cabin or motel – that sent me broke. Other times we were in a carpark,” Reece said. “We stayed in a caravan on the side of the road for a while. We had to notify the council and put a ‘temporary’ sign up.

“It became so stressful. I found myself drinking a lot, which led to me losing my license.”

Despite these many setbacks, Reece managed to keep his boys in school the entire time.

“The boy’s schooling came first – they never missed a day,” Reece said.

“We spent lots of time outdoors – they love going to the skatepark, they love their sports – anything we could do for free.”

After connecting with Junction, the young family finally found some relief and moved into their new home right before Christmas.

Utilising services and donations, including a couch found on the side of the road, they began to re-build their lives.

“The boys now play football at their local club. I love watching them. They want to get into basketball next – They have lots of energy to burn,” he said.

“We’ve become good friends with the neighbours, they have kids the same age. They play together, have sleepovers – they have even been boating.”

Reece soon found part-time shiftwork as a cook, before settling into a gardening and landscaping job, matching his skillset perfectly. He has also been volunteering at the local Neighbourhood Centre’s Repair Café.

Now, a year on, the young family is thriving and looking to the future. They hope to build a greenhouse and chicken coop in their backyard and have plans to try new activities, including archery.

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For Them

3 April 2023


For Murray Bridge resident Shohan, becoming a carer had always been in the cards. Growing up in a tight-knit family, she quickly developed a natural affinity with children.

“Even as a child myself, I was always offering to take care of the other kids in my family. My mum said I started doing it when I was only three,” she said. “As I grew older and my friends started having children, I would also offer to take care of them.”

Shohan, who has a 19-year-old biological son, opened her heart to a little girl after meeting her through work.

“I was a SSO (Student Services Officer) at a primary school and the principal there had short-term care of a young girl. At nine months old, she was so tiny, she couldn’t even hold her own bottle,” she said. “When they struggled to find her another home, it just broke my heart. So, I decided I’d do it.”

After undergoing the appropriate processes, Shohan took on the young girl’s care.

“It happened so quickly but I knew she needed a home, so I didn’t mind,” she said.

“She is the most beautiful little girl. My whole life has changed.”

Three years on, Shohan now also cares for the little girl’s sibling – a one-year-old boy. Supported by Junction, her family and community, Shohan has enjoyed every moment of her journey.

“I have never once regretted it. There are challenges for sure. Recognising they have trauma and dealing with the emotional side is always difficult,” she said. “But it’s been amazing seeing them grow, seeing them smile, hearing their laughter. Just knowing they’re happy and safe.”

Now three-years-old, the little girl has grown to become brighter and more curious than ever.

“When I first got her, they said she wouldn’t walk, wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t do anything. She has since proved all the doctors wrong,” Shohan said. “If she was left in the environment she could have been left in, she may not have hit her milestones.”

She hopes both children will grow to live their lives to the fullest.

“No child chooses to be born into a bad situation. I don’t want them to feel that they’re disprivileged because they were in foster care,” she said.

“At the end of the day, you’re doing it all for them.”

If you have ever thought about becoming a foster carer, visit our Foster Care page for more details and to get in touch:

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Year in Review 21/22

2 November 2022

Point of Impact Year in Review 21/22

We are pleased to present our Point of Impact – Year in Review 2021/22.

What’s the impact we want to have on the people and communities we work with? It’s the most critical question for everyone at Junction.

In defining our brand and strategy for the next five years, we determined supporting South Australians to not just survive but thrive in life, is our direction.

This report reflects our journey to date. It is a tangible and authentic product of our evolution towards an Impact Report demonstrating outcomes as they align to our strategy and within the broader social and political environment.

We are breaking new ground for an ambitious future.

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