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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3576

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (09:43): On 15 April I attended the Barnardos Mother of the Year ceremony in WA. There were three finalists: three ladies with impressive stories and impressive characters. All have done great things for their families and embody in every way the very best of motherhood in our community. On this occasion I would like to speak of the runner-up, Tennille McConkey. Tennille is 37 years old, she is single and she has seven children. She is the mother of two and the foster parent of five. A couple of weeks ago I visited Tennille because I wanted to know more about her and why she is a foster parent. I learned a lot and she is without doubt an inspiration.

Tennille McConkey comes from a dysfunctional family. She has faced many problems since she left home at 16. She had her daughter around then, and she also left her church. She describes herself a bit of a wild child. At the age of 23 she decided that she wanted more children and decided that she would do foster parenting. In the last 14 years she has fostered more than 30 children. Often they have been Indigenous, and four of her five current children are Indigenous. She is now the legal guardian of almost all the children.

When we spoke about the issue of adoption, Tennille made an interesting comment. She said that she would like to adopt the children; however, the trouble with the Australian past history of forced adoptions is that 'this country now hates adoption'. Given the clear failure of so many actual parents to raise their children safely and positively, it is a shame that adoption of Australian children is now practically impossible. Many children would have a far better future, I am sure of it. As Tennille often says, too many children live in limbo because even now case officers seem to be trying to get children back to their parents despite there being clearly better options.

It is true to say that financially Tennille struggles. One of Tennille's children has intellectual problems due to foetal alcohol syndrome. She has seven children aged between two and 16 and it is a big load. She is in a private rental as well. Yet the children are very polite and have been well cared for. It is a highly positive home and so therefore I pay tribute to Tennille McConkey for what she does. She has a great attitude and I would like to quote her again because this is something we should all do. She says, 'I do not allow my children to use their circumstances as an excuse for behaving badly.' Tennille does not just say that, she lives it as well.

In the recent past she has had breast cancer and has lost one brother to a traffic accident and another to a heart attack in the last couple of years. In amongst all that she has been studying to become a midwife. When I think about what Tennille has achieved with her seven children and what she has overcome, I can only say that she is amazing. If everyone had an attitude like hers, this country would be an even better place to live.