Less than a year ago, Natalie was incarcerated for using stolen credit cards to buy food to survive.
Stuck in a cycle of addiction, and a situation of domestic violence, she says her time in gaol was a chance to escape her problems and start over.
After leaving gaol, Natalie was determined not to return to her old life. She moved into a rehabilitation clinic where she gave birth to her son, Toni, and began looking for programs that accommodated mothers and babies together.
Her search led her to Wesley Mission’s Mums and Kids Matter, an early intervention program helping mothers with severe and complex mental health needs to remain with their young children.
“I was in a really bad situation (before joining the program); I just had nothing to live for,” Natalie recalls. “I felt like I was screaming for help but no one was there to help me because I didn’t have the stepping stones to help myself.”
“I had no living skills, but Mums and Kids Matter was a transition into me having my own home. It was a practice run, because you’ve got this 24-hour support and it made me ready to move out on my own.”
Since it began in 2014, Mums and Kids Matter has cared for and supported 73 mothers and their children, and the NSW Government recently announced funding for three more years.
A large part of Natalie’s recovery has been re-discovering the joy in the small moments.
“When you get off (drugs) you become so low that nothing interests you anymore and that feeling right there, that boredom, that ugliness, makes you want to relapse,” she said.
“But you find the little things that make you happy again and you hang on to those sorts of things.”