Rose Cox: Kookaburra Kids
Rose gives back to charity that helped her as a child
Rose isn’t just a volunteer at the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation. She’s a living testament to its success.
The foundation runs programs for children whose families are affected by mental illness.
When Rose was eight, her mother was diagnosed with transverse myelitis and spent a year in hospital unable to walk because of the rare neurological condition.
Her father had a breakdown, affected by depression, anxiety and drug addiction.
“We were a dandy inner-westie family and with a click of your fingers everything changed,” says Rose.
The young girl was thrust into a parental role. She was only in Year 4 and took on responsibility for looking after her little sister and her father. “I had to motivate my dad to shower, shave and clean his teeth, which he wouldn't want to do for weeks on end."
At Kookaburra Kids programs, children learn about mental illness, resilience and looking after their own wellbeing. There are also fun activities, which the kids may not have time for in their home lives.
“You aren’t alone, but as a small child you don’t know that,” says Rose. “Knowing other kids took a weight off my shoulders.
“I learned so much about dad’s mental illness. I learned it wasn’t my fault or my mum’s."
Fast-forward 10 years and Rose is now a volunteer and youth ambassador for the foundation, supporting the programs she attended as a child.
“I realised I could dwell on my life, whinge and maybe repeat the cycle, or I could turn a negative into a positive.”
In 2014 she became a youth ambassador, doing lunch talks.
She also became an advocate and sits on a government advisory council for carers, where she has an influence on legislation and policy.
Rose says it's nice to be voted a Westfield Local Hero, but her priority is ensuring more children receive support. “I do this regardless of any pats on the back.”
The charity will use the $10,000 Westfield grant to fund 15 more children to attend the Kookaburra Kids programs.