by Lily Whiting
Raising little ones is one of the hardest, yet rewarding jobs in the world. Knowing first-hand the stigma that comes with being a young mum, alongside the need for more help and support that ever, Bernadette went on to found Brave Foundation, a not-for-profit charity.
Where are you from and where do you live now? I am originally from a suburb of Melbourne called Watsonia. I now live in Blackmans Bay. We have lived in Hobart for 18 years.
Tell us a little about your work? I have recently been appointed Brave Foundation’s ‘Social Economic Empowerment Ambassador’ (SEEA), leading a new systemic advocacy division of the same name. As founder of Brave Foundation, through my learnings, experience, and personal journey as a young parent, I’ve gained a deep understanding of the issues facing our most disadvantaged youth and families.
There is no perfect age to have kids. What were some positives that came out of being a young mum? Learning resilience, perseverance and understanding for others, who may not have understood my situation. I also learned to find people who did understand like my mum’s friends and be brave enough to ask questions. I was parenting, studying and working part-time all in one and I genuinely wanted to learn from others how to do it well. Surrounding myself with great people has been a golden thread throughout my life, which I was intentional about as a young parent. I’m a grandmother to a one year old now and as my family grows, the age difference between my son and I is lessening, and the ages of our friends are meeting in the middle more and more!
What are some of your Brave highlights? Looking at the village of support that has been mobilised for any young parent through Brave. It wasn’t there when I looked for it as a young mum. Throughout the 14 year journey, since I wrote my story Brave Little Bear, we have grown to over 30 staff nationally, serving hundreds of young families every year, equipping future generations to thrive. Brave faced three unexpected funding cliffs in 2021. Livelihoods were on the line and we had two doors in front of us, the first was finishing well if we couldn’t find funding, the second was leaving no stone unturned to establish some form of sustainability to continue Braves successful work. My wing woman, Jill Roche was COO at the time (and now a great CEO!), our management team and I felt like we went to war together during those months. Every pebble, fleck of stone that had a values alignment to Brave, we turned it over and investigated it – philanthropists, sponsors, state governments, federal governments, social impact, we turned over every relevant stone we could identify! By the end of 2021, our mighty team had brought through the door a mix of Federal, State, philanthropic and private funding.
Secret vice? I write poetry, and take photos to match my poetry. I have an alias on Instagram for this hobby!
What are you reading now? I just finished A room called Earth, a fiction book by Australian author Madeline Ryan and have started reading The Last Correspondent – Dispatches from the Front line of Xi’s new China by Michael Smith. As you can probably tell, this is non-fiction!
What was your first job? Wendy’s ice cream! Hot pink uniforms selling winky dink ice cream cones!
What are your daily news/social media habits? I subscribe to the Australian and read it every day. I also listen to ABC National and check local news feeds on Twitter periodically. I have recently been on sabbatical and have taken all social media off my phone and I’ve loved it. The world is so spacious and when I see people I have no idea what they have been doing.
Your favourite place for… Breakfast: My kitchen bench.Lunch: Japanese, I love sashimi. Dinner: You can’t beat Dier Makr or Landscape for somewhere really special, the Mayfair in Sandy Bay is great for something chill and locally, The Beach House in Blackmans Bay.
Favourite team? Richmond Tigers of course!
Favourite Hobart secret? Hands down Rektango, a free weekly event held every Friday 5.30-7.30 in a small outdoor courtyard, behind the Salamanca Arts Centre. It’s run by the musicians themselves, with lots of dancing, hot mulled wine and fires in the winter, sangria in the summer. Our eldest son, Damien, is in a band, Uncle Gus and the Rimshots.
Parting words? A life not lived for others is not a life, it starts with the one in front of you, which is enough to impact our world. Those trusted with the little, can be trusted with much, it’s always more important in the little (even though less glamorous!)