COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Coffs Harbour resident and foster parent Kerrie Burnett was the recipient of the Female Elder of the Year award at the 2015 NAIDOC Week Awards.
COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Coffs Harbour resident and foster parent Kerrie Burnett was the recipient of the Female Elder of the Year award at the 2015 NAIDOC Week Awards. David Barwell

A special NAIDOC week honour for Kerrie

MORE than 690 children who experienced abuse or neglect were placed in foster care on the Mid North Coast last year.

One woman who has seen the challenges behind these statistics is Coffs Harbour resident Kerrie Burnett.

For 42 years, Kerrie has been providing foster and kinship care to children in need - a reason why she is the recipient of the 2015 NAIDOC Week Female Elder of the Year Award.

"I've been a carer since I was 26 years old and today there are more and more children who are not being provided with love and stability at home," Kerrie said.

"I take in children full-time and in emergencies (where) sometimes you only have one hour notice - it can be anything from an overnight stay to a week or two.

"Kids have the ability to adapt, but when they've suffered trauma, they often still carry that with them - you do what you can to try and make things better.

"Every child deserves a home."

Kerrie began volunteering as a foster parent after raising four of her own grandchildren.

She says her work with support service Life Without Barriers is rewarding, but more carers are needed to provide support.

"The reality is we're always short of carers - we rely so much on the work of volunteers."

Kerrie was honoured at Monday's NAIDOC Week award ceremony in Coffs Harbour in recognition of her work as a foster carer, as well as dedication to carers' groups, secretary of Galambila, and working with people experiencing loss and grief, and domestic and family violence.

"The main thing (about NAIDOC Week) is coming together as a community, connecting with our land and people," she said.



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