Zina and Minera found strength at… | Alannah & Madeline Foundation Skip to main content

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s Cubby Houses provide safe and healing spaces at Victoria’s Broadmeadows and Melbourne Children's Courts.

Provided by the Foundation, the Cubby Houses are designed to be sanctuaries where children and young people can be comfortable while waiting for their court matters to be heard and to speak with their lawyers in private. 

Often, they are dealing with a range of complex issues due to the trauma they have experienced and are grappling with feelings of grief. This can include grief for parents, siblings, teachers, communities, and friends.

When sisters Zina*, 10, and Minera*, 11, attended the Cubby House they had just come from staying the night with foster carers they hadn’t met before, having been removed from their dad’s care.

Upon entering the Cubby House space, Zina appeared withdrawn and disconnected, a Foundation youth worker, John said.

“There was a history of lots of tough times in the family when their needs were overlooked. With this in mind, as the children entered the space with their case manager, I gave them choices – choice in activities in the space, the choice not to participate if they wished - while making sure they knew I was present and approachable,” he said.

“Slowly as the day continued, I found the children seeking me out and we engaged in some painting and therapeutic activities, one of which was the Tree of Hope. Zina expressed that she felt there was hope and her hope was for “everyone in the world to be safe”.

“Minera approached me in this activity and spoke of how she was meant to have a baby sister, but that her mother had miscarried. Zina was silent for a moment, and I could feel the weight she bore of the unsaid grief. I worked with them both to process this and talked to them about being connected to family through love even when they are no longer with us.”

At this point in the day the children’s lawyer came in.

They were unsure, and it looked like they were questioning who this was and whether they were someone who might make things worse for them? It looked like a new experience for them to have someone take the time to explain what was happening and ask them each specifically for their ideas of what they thought would help keep them safe and secure. Minera expressed clearly her ideas, and then Zina hesitantly told the lawyer her thoughts too.

“I noticed the strength Minera had at only 11 years-old to know her mind and what she felt she needed to do to be safe emotionally,” John said. Minera kept checking on her sister through the day, like she was her caring mum.

After they had spoken with their lawyer, the children’s case manager came and asked if they would like to attend a NAIDOC week smoking ceremony which was being held at the court.

This ceremony spoke to healing from the wounds of the past, cleansing the land and the people of bad spirits and protecting the visitors of the land.

“As the gum leaves burned, we each took a moment to walk through the smoke, waving it over us,” John said.

“This message, experience and emotion was clearly felt by the children. At the end of the day, they told me it had been “the best day ever” and asked when they would see me again.

“We parted ways as they left with their case manager, and I told them I would remember them by the pictures they had drawn and the conversations we had had. I told them that they could remember me by the books I had given them.

“In each little book I had written a note which talked about their strengths and wishes for the future, knowing that today they had encountered some adults who listened to them and together with their case manager and their lawyer, these hours together while brief were positive and impactful.”

*names have been changed to protect privacy