Published Jan 05 2021
Joanne Lau first become a carer when her son was born 13 years ago. As a full-time worker who emigrated from Malaysia, Joanne has experienced challenges finding the support she needs to be a carer for her son while returning to work to help support her family.
We spoke with Joanne about her experience and how Carer Gateway has helped.
"As much as I love him, caring for my son comes with its challenges. Some mornings I’d have to call up sick to care for him, which made it difficult to balance my career. Each morning was different and I wouldn’t know what would happen. Other people who have children seem so happy, but I wasn’t one of them. My husband was working full-time to support our family financially so I was left to care mostly for our son. He didn’t want to eat, would rarely sleep and was under developed.
He was in childcare from 9 months old so that I could return to work part-time. However, I noticed he was very different from the other kids. He wouldn’t settle and he was very upset every time I tried to take him to childcare. I spoke to the childcare worker who said his emotions were due this new transition. I wasn’t familiar with the Australian childcare system yet I chose to keep him in it. I will never forget how much distress it caused him. But I had to keep him in childcare to help my husband with the bills.
I was worried and scared about his health. I took him to the hospital and they said nothing was wrong and that some kids are just like that. It wasn’t until he was in third grade that I knew something was wrong. Every time I’d pick him up from school he was overwhelmed and I found out he would always eat alone and never joined in for sport.
From grades three to five, he didn’t want to go to school. He didn’t enjoy it and wanted to be home-schooled. He wanted to stay in cupboard and would cry. My son wouldn’t eat or drink, he would spend hours playing Lego and seemed to never really enjoy anything.
When things weren’t getting better, I thought it was the school that was the problem and I was trying to make it change. However, nothing changed and I felt alone as though no one was listening or able to help. I didn’t have information or support. There were no other parents in the school who had experienced this and, being a stay at home mum, limited who I saw and spoke with.
I found it hard to make choices and find information. I didn’t know where to go or where to get help, especially since we had seen a number of doctors and accessed whatever support we could find in his school. We went so long with his Autism undiagnosed, with only a formal diagnosis by the end of Year 6. I was working four days a week during that final year of primary school, but had to stop working as my son’s Autism only became more severe and unmanageable.
Being a migrant has clearly made things difficult. It made it hard to understand how the systems work and how to access support where and when we need it. Carer Gateway has made it easier for our family to access support and help me transition back into work. Now my son is doing much better. He is well prepared and we have much better access to information and support through the Carer Gateway.
Carer Gateway has helped in so many ways. It has made it easier for me to prepare information for my son, linked us with a carer to help around the house – which has meant I can go back to work one day a week – and the carer also has given me information about looking after myself."
To find out more, visit www.carergateway.gov.au, or phone 1800 422 737 8am – 5pm weekdays.
Emergency respite is also available 24/7 - call 1800 422 737.