I moved out oh home when I was 16. I was fleeing family violence and had increasingly poor mental health.
The lead up to me moving out was possibly one of the scariest and most stressful periods of my life. I was in constant fear that my parents would find out I was leaving – this was not my first attempt at moving out.
I was gradually moving out my stuff by hiding it in my school bag each day and I hid my belongings in spare lockers at school. I skipped class to call legal aid clinics and social workers, trying to ascertain whether or not I could make this work. I planned and prepared for a month.
Finally, I moved out. I had nowhere to go so I couch surfed for a month while waiting for my Centrelink payment to be approved. Eventually, I moved into a boarding house that was walking distance from my school. They were the only people that would rent to a 16 year old. Everyone else had told me I was too you and to go back home.
I soon realised this wasn’t out of compassion for me, but out of a need to fill the rooms. The boarding house had 50 rooms and two bathrooms. I was the only person under 18 and one of only two girls. The other residents suffered with substance abuse and one even pressured me to deal drugs for him.
A couple of months later I was back in my social workers office at Centrelink, asking for other options. This was the first time I’d heard of Brisbane Youth Service. There was a vacancy at Phoenix House and less than two weeks later, I’d move in.
Straight off the bat I received practical help like none I had ever had before. When my old landlord refused to let me out of my lease early, my house manager Cheryl helped me enlist a lawyer from youth Advocacy Service who won me my QCAT trail.
I was let out of my lease early and received my bond back in full. Soon after, my parents withdrew me from school. With Cheryl’s help, I was the first person to enrol as an independent student at my school.
Phoenix House was an experience for me link no other. There was no judgement regarding my mental health problems, only help to find a psychologist that worked for me. They encouraged me to maintain my interest in school – even turning an art room into an office so I could study for my ATAR. There was practical help in day-to-day skills and outings to beaches and movies. But more importantly there was kindness. There was always someone who listened to what I was feeling and an abundance of people to encourage me. I felt heard and valued as a person.
In this environment, I thrived. My mental health and grades at school improved, and I maintained my job at a local bookstore. I learned about saving and investing my money, which sparked a newfound love of finance. I paid for driving lessons, got my P plates and brought a car with the money I had saved. I applied for and was successful in landing a Business traineeship with Queensland Health, which has led to a job in public service whilst I am studying at university.
Finally, I graduated high school. I have no doubt that this is something I wouldn’t have achieved had I not been living at Phoenix House for the entirety of my year 12. I received an adjusted ATAR of 99.5, a score that landed me early entrance into the degree of my dreams, the Bachelor of Advanced Finance and Economics (Honours).
At the end of year 12, I moved into an apartment with a friend and have now commenced university. I am headed towards a career in finance and aspire to improve the financial literacy of young people in Australia. These aspirations would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of BYS.