Rosie Masthead
young girl woman garden_feature

A big ‘whoa’ kind of moment

HerCanberra Team

When I think back to what I was doing at 12, I think of me wearing my “buy me chocolate and no one gets hurt” t-shirt at school discos and socials.

When I think of me at age 14, I think of me staying at friend’s houses and attempting to stay up all night so that we could watch an entire season of One Tree Hill.

For me, this is what a normal childhood looked like, but for 16-year-old Jenae, this couldn’t have been further from reality.

Jenae grew up in a family that experienced domestic violence and mental abuse, and by the time she was 12, she had already moved out of home for the first time.

From 12-15, Jenae was drinking, doing drugs, couch surfing, sleeping on the streets and doing other things that she describes as being “not exactly legal”.

“There were quite a few points when I was like ‘I’ve gotta get myself together’, but then I would just go back into that friendship group, it was second nature to me. I just ended up thinking ‘I can’t do this’,” says Jenae.

This spiral continued for three years. In this time, she saw counsellors, went to three different help organisations and switched between living with parents, but nothing could get Jenae back on track.

“Every time I walked into a counsellors office I was reminded that if anything I said may be of harm to myself or others, that they would have to pass it on. They just couldn’t relate to me. You knew they were only talking to you because that’s their job,” says Jenae.

“When I met Zach from YouthCare Canberra, it was such a big ‘whoa’ kind of moment. He talked to me in such a unique way that it didn’t even feel like counselling. He didn’t have a notebook and it wasn’t textbook, it was just talking and all of a sudden I felt better,” explains Jenae.

YouthCare Canberra provides a pro-active outreach service to young people at risk, including those who face homelessness and violence. They currently employ two, full-time youth workers who are helping approximately twenty at-risk youths at a time. They are available at every hour and provide their youths whatever it is they need at the time, whether it is food, clothing, shelter or just someone to talk to.

“I know that if Zack was there when I was 12, I wouldn’t have touched half the stuff that I did touch or been at half the houses that I was at. It was just a matter of finding someone I could talk to, someone I could just have a chat to when I was feeling down, and just to know that I was not alone,” says Jenae.

Jenae first got in contact with YouthCare Canberra in November last year, and since then has moved back in with her Mum, maintained a full-time apprenticeship in business and cut contact with the people that were a part of her downfall. Jenae says that although she now has her life back on track, she still stays in contact with YouthCare Canberra and often calls them to check in, or when she is having a hard day.

If you are experiencing hardship or need someone to help get you back on track, contact YouthCare Canberra on (02) 6248 7771 or at [email protected].


Join YouthCare Canberra to farewell and give thanks to Stephen Moore, Captain of the AQUIS Brumbies. The event will feature a panel discussion involving Stephen Larkham, Rod Kafer and the man of the hour, Stephen Moore.

Funds raised will go towards their pro-active outreach services to young people at risk, including those who face homelessness and violence.

Happening Tuesday, August 30 from 6.30pm at the Hotel Realm. Purchase tickets and find more information here:

Image: Supplied


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