Grandcarers: Rockingham grandmother grateful for support

Stock image.
Stock image.

WHEN Audrey Austen met Ron in 2010, she had no idea that a year later they would be married and raising his young grandson.

Mr Austen’s daughter had terminal breast cancer and by the end of 2010 the Rockingham couple had begun helping care for her son Xzavier, now 12.

“She was the mum, what she could do I let her do and what she couldn’t do I stepped in,” Mrs Austen said.

With no one else able to care for Xzavier, the Austens agreed to raise him after his mother died in July 2011 and had a “shotgun” wedding on Mrs Austen’s 60th birthday.

“I kind of fell for (Xzavier) when I saw him,” she said.

“It was just the right thing to do.

“There was nobody else for him.”

Two years ago, the couple adopted Xzavier on his request.

Despite their love for one another, the family has experienced many challenges.

Mrs Austen’s four daughters have reacted in various ways to the situation and she said it had changed her relationship with them, as well as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I feel very guilty,” she said.

The differences in circumstance to that of their friends made the Austens quite isolated so Mrs Austen found Wanslea’s grandcarers support group immensely beneficial.

“I would have gone crazy if not for Wanslea,” she said.

“It was people who understood, they knew what you were going through.”

Mrs Austen said unlike most other grandcarers, they received meaningful financial support, but faced other similar challenges such as raising a child who has experienced trauma and adjusting to a different life in their senior years than what they expected.

At 67, Mrs Austen still works and is worried about coping financially if age forced her to stop.

But for her the payoff is the “love, the look on his face, the hugs” and believes she is better equipped to raise a child the second time around.

There are more than 2000 grandcarers in WA but they do not receive the same recognition or financial support as foster carers.

Community News is joining Wanslea’s campaign during the Federal Election to achieve better support and funding.

Follow @WansleaFosterCare on Facebook or email ceaston@wanslea.asn.au to back the cause.