From The Windmill – A Journal of the Diverse Voices of Women
I had a Dream – By Tania Kelaart
It all started on a small island off the Indian Ocean called Sri Lanka… The youngest of four children, born to a poor, middle-class family, I grew up in a very close-knit family. My mum was the homemaker, while my dad worked as a Radio Officer (Morse Code operator) in the police.
When I was eighteen months old, my dad was struck down with a massive heart attack. He went to death’s door and back. He had a near-death experience and was just able to pull through. My mum stormed heaven with prayer for his recovery. The driving thought of leaving behind a young family he loved dearly and the thought of leaving behind a baby who would never know her father, gave him the ultimate will and mind-power to survive and pull through this fatal heart attack. Not that I understood much at eighteen months, however, thinking back, I’m so glad he was around for another six-and-a half years. These years gave me the opportunity to get to know my father as the loving dedicated family man he was. Our dad was only forty-four years old with many hopes and dreams when he was taken away. I was eight years old when we finally laid him to rest. The years that followed for our family were tough. The close bond between us as a family gave us the strength to keep going after the loss of our father.
Our lives continued in general with school, friends, and many other things to distract us.
Finishing school at eighteen, I got a job as a Travel Assistant in a newly opened travel agency. I had chosen my career and went along with this until I was twenty-one. By this time, I had met a young man and was in a relationship – we had great plans for our life and future. My fiancé decided to migrate to Australia, promising to sponsor me as soon as possible to get married. All went as planned, and six months later, at twenty-one, I was saying goodbye with a heavy heart to my mum and three siblings, to join my intended husband in Australia.
With help and support from some of my relatives, we organised our wedding and married in March 1988 in Melbourne, Australia. Life was comfortable here in Australia, but in other ways it was challenging. I had to adapt to a new way of living and build a life from scratch without family or friends. Soon enough, my husband and I were able to secure jobs and start settling into Australia.
Four years later, our first child was born in November 1992. Four months after the birth of my baby I resumed full-time work, even though it was not my intent. With a new mortgage we did not have much of a choice. We were fortunate that during our stay here we were able to sponsor my mother-in-law, who came to live with us, and who was able to help us with looking after our daughter. It was rather challenging working full time, with a new baby. As time went on, we were ready to try for our next child, but were faced with two miscarriages. It took us six years before we were blessed with our second daughter, and three years later our son.
Three months after my son was born, whilst on maternity leave, the company I had worked for, for eleven years, went into receivership, so I was faced with the loss of my job. There were mixed thoughts and emotions – on one hand I was happy that it would give me more time with my kids, but on the other I was thinking of the financial situation and how we would manage, with a mortgage and three young children to support. This situation took a turn for the worse, when a few months later, my husband who had been working in secure employment as an electrician for over 16 years, lost his job, due to relocation of his company to another State. The stress of losing his job at such a critical time thrust my husband into depression.
I felt helpless and really stressed with three young children, both of us unemployed, and my husband facing depression. I needed to support him, whilst taking care of the kids. During this time, I reached out for some external support. I wasn’t very familiar with what supports were available in the community, but I then learnt about a Women’s Group that ran at a local Community Centre. I decided to attend this group. I was so thankful that this group provided a ‘safe space’ for women to come and talk, express themselves and build friendships. I experienced healing and support here and was grateful for it. Alas this group didn’t last too long.
Having experienced this support, I had a dream to create this type of group for other local women facing challenges in life, to look to provide them a “safe space” and a place to build friendships. With this driving thought, I knew I had to do some studies or training in order to be able to facilitate this type of group.
One day as I was glancing over the local paper, I noticed an advertisement about a Diploma in Counselling. This was just what I needed to be able to facilitate such a group. I decided to take the plunge and enrol in the course. Soon after completing my course, I happened to bump into an old friend who used to attend the women’s group that I used to go to. We chatted for a while and realised that both of us had completed a Diploma in Counselling. We made plans to meet again for coffee and this was the beginning of my dream coming to fruition. This started the journey… First, we got involved with our local council, under a programme called the Health Champions, and with the support and help of the Wyndham City Council were able to start the Wyndham Women’s Support Group in mid-2015. We started with a few known women. A couple of years later, my colleague moved on, however I was able to continue with the support of my sister and other members of the group.
This year we had the privilege of celebrating 4 years of the Wyndham Women’s Support Group. We have ladies from many different backgrounds and have grown in number. We learn so much from each other and have formed great friendships and connections. I have enjoyed every step of the way and have also grown a lot as an individual. Being able to provide a nurturing “safe space” for women, supporting them, building them, and empowering them, has made a world of difference to them and has added so much to my life.
I have come to understand that when you are faced with challenges in your life, having supportive people, who encourage and empower you, makes all the difference. A listening ear concerned and caring people, and a warm hug, can be all that is needed at that time.
I believe that I have found my calling in life.
I am so grateful to my sister, my family, the members of the Wyndham Women’s Support Group, and my faith, that has helped me pursue even when things were difficult. I am also grateful to everyone who supported me on this journey, especially Misty Palmer and many others from the Wyndham City Council. They all played an important part to make the Dream I Had a reality.