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Youth mentor shares experience of foster care

Isaiah Dawe’s address was a highlight of the Patient and Family Experience Symposium.

Man on stage speaking.
SydneyConnect Image: Isaiah Dawe

Surrounded by dozens of strangers at a barbecue, Isaiah Dawe couldn’t believe he was face-to-face with long lost family. 

It was an Aunt he’d only recently been reunited with who assured him that everyone there was kin. 

It was the realisation of a lifelong dream for Isaiah, a Butchulla and Garawa man who was raised in out-of-home care, never knowing where he had come from. 

“As a boy I used to get on my hands and knees and pray one day I would meet my family and to be there with all of the relatives,” he told the District’s Patient and Family Experience Symposium today. 

Isaiah lived in 17 foster homes by the age of 18 and said he experienced neglect and felt a sense that he didn’t belong. 

It was only when he reached out to the Aboriginal community in Redfern, Sydney, as an adult that he was reunited with his mob; learning that he was part of a big family.  

He now strives to ensure that other young Aboriginal people living in out-of-home care don’t feel alone. 

Isaiah is the founder and CEO of ID. Know Yourself, a not-for-profit organisation offering Aboriginal-led mentoring for First Nations children and youth in out-of-home care or foster care. 

He shared his story of overcoming the challenges of his childhood and being reunited with his family at Sydney Innovation Week

“I always say, my purpose was found in my wounds,” Isaiah told the audience. 

“We create love, hope and belonging so every child can have that self-determination and break the cycle.” 

This year's event brought together patient advocates and community organisations to explore the challenging transition from paediatric to adult care, with a number of young people sharing their experiences. 

Highlights from the day’s program included an address from advocate Chelsea Sidebottom on her experience of youth homelessness, and presentations from service users of Rivendell Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Services. 

We also heard insights from Georja Bennett, an artist and service user of Youthblock, our District’s dedicated youth health service, and the stories of disability advocate Hannah Diviney, who hosted the event. 

Concluding his speech at the Symposium, Isaiah urged those gathered to get behind young people like those ID. Know Yourself is supporting. 

“My hope is that everybody in this room will walk with us and help support the next generation, so we can look back and say, this was the generation that broke the cycle.”