In Her Own Words: Savannah

The following story is unedited, having been written by Savannah to tell her story and of the impact SHINE has had on her life.

Savannah’s Story

My name is Savannah, I am a Wadjarri Yamatji girl and was born and bred in Geraldton. I entered the SHINE program three years ago when I was a year 9 student at John Willcock College. I now have graduated Year 12 from Geraldton Senior.

I want to talk about how this opportunity back in 2014 has shaped who I am and my life today.

When I was more or less 10 years old my parents split and my father left to live in Perth while my 5 siblings and I lived with our mum in Geraldton. The effect that this had on my life was bigger than what I thought it would be especially soon after my mother adopted a drug habit.

I went to school hungry every day. I never took anything to school for lunch or recess because we had no food, I never brought lunch or recess at school because we had no money. Everyday even when it wasn’t my groups day in the SHINE salon, Mandy (SHINE facilitator) would have the breakfast room open for anyone and everyone to help themselves. It was like my sanctuary.

When I graduated from SHINE I was so upset as were many of the other girls, because I would miss the support, the friends, the environment and SHINE as a whole.

Soon I was in year 10 at Geraldton Senior College. Life was okay, going smoothly with a few bumps here and there. My oldest brother and sister had moved to different towns, my mum was still smoking and our relationship had gotten so sour that I decided to leave Geraldton to live with my Grandmother and sister in Shark Bay. It wasn’t long and that same year I was back at home with mum and I was the second oldest child still at home. My mum did not pay any bills during this time so when I got back from Shark Bay there was no electricity, gas or food at my house.

I argued with my mum day and night because of the wellbeing of me and my siblings lives. I was so upset that she let our lives get to this point. Did she care about us? I went to school in the mornings hungry, dirty, no clean clothes and bawling my eyes out because I literally would have just finished arguing with my mum in the car at the front of school.

My mum soon got a job and she had the job for a good couple of months, she stopped smoking and life was getting better for all of us. However, my mum got a job on the mines two weeks on, one week off, not a great idea when you’re a single mother with 4 children, but I totally understand because we were desperate.

I was 16 by this time, I stayed at home and took on the role of my mother, cooking dinner, waking my siblings up for school, doing the food shopping, doing errands to pay mums bills for her etc. Whilst also trying to live the life of a 16-year-old girl.

Mum had to stop working because my little sister and brother where getting into a lot of trouble at school and with the police. I was not their mother or old enough, so I couldn’t go bail them out of lock up (yes, it was that bad).

So, when mum quit and came back home to stay we were back to square one. I had a job and my 17-year-old brother had a job, mum was trying for centrelink but didn’t end up getting on it till 6 months later, so we were really the only source of income in our family at that time. I wasn’t even earning $100 a week. I was slowly giving up on everything, no food, no gas, no electricity, we had nothing, again. I was 16 and trying to support my family.

My mind was always somewhere else when I was at school, I was thinking of what we would have dinner, adding my hours up in my head to figure out how much money I would have at the end of the week, who else I could ask for some money. I began lashing out at school, I was breaking down and having emotional outbursts at school all the time. I lost a good friend because I was so frustrated and angry. I wagged at least 3/6 of my classes every day for most of year 10 and partly year 11.

Why partly year 11? Because this was the year SHINE had been built and introduced to Geraldton Senior College. I finally saw Mandy again and it didn’t take her long to realize I was really struggling. I remember her just looking at me, she didn’t even have to say anything, and I began bawling my eyes out in front of her as a plead for help.

I know for a fact that if SHINE did not come to Geraldton Senior College that year I would not be writing this letter, I would not have graduated last year, I would not have worked at a local grocery store, I would not have had supported my mother and helped her, I would have done nothing and my life would have faded away into an ending cycle of pain and stress.

The SHINE program is a life changer and I hope that one day it is available for every girl. We are a family. SHINE supported me and I began to concentrate, get better grade and actually smile more. I spose I could see hope again.

Today I am now working with a company called CSIRO. I am full time, Mandy always taught us how important it was to find a purpose and you will be passionate. She is so right. I am now an independent getting stronger person and I do not put up with stuff that brings me down.

I love my job and I feel important in so many ways. Someday I will give back to SHINE.

Once a SHINE girl always a SHINE girl and we all believe it.