A care leaver who published her first autobiography at the age of 16 and recently launched her own advocacy organisation, is now a nominee for the Young Australian of the Year.
For more than nine years Felicity Graham moved around in the child protection system, struggling with her mental health and in search for a family who would accept her for who she is. When her last foster care placement broke down, she set about writing a book to help process her experiences and to help other young people in care know they are not alone.
Since publishing her book, Not Held Down, Felicity has been speaking at various forums and conferences (including as a member of DCP’s No Capes for Change), advocating for change within the care system, and launching Fostering Change Australia – a not-for-profit organisation aimed at helping to improve the child protection system and giving voice to those with a lived experience.
Now 19 years old, Felicity is one of the four South Australian nominees for the Young Australian of the Year 2023.
Felicity said she was shocked when she heard she was nominated but ecstatic that the ongoing work in advocating for change in the child protection system is being acknowledged.
“Being nominated is an epic achievement, but none of what I do is to make me look good or be in the spotlight. I’m the second foster care advocate to be nominated for this award this year so this shows me that, after so many years of people trying to speak up and make a difference in the system, we are finally being heard, and that brings me joy,” Felicity said.
Felicity said if she won the award, she would first celebrate with her village of people who believed in her and reminded her of how proud they were, even on her ‘bad days’, then she’ll continue doing what she loves: advocating and speaking up for children and young people in care.
“If I were to win, I’ll use it as a chance to be able to talk to young people in the system who feel like they don’t matter and remind them their story is important, that they can make change. No matter their circumstances, their past or struggles, they can do anything they put their mind to, that they can break stereotypes and be more than just the label of ‘a child in care’,” she said.
To top off a busy year, Felicity is currently working on her first children’s book, Oscar’s Layers, which tells the story of Oscar (an onion) who learns how to ask for help and allows adults to help him with his big feelings that come with moving around in care. Pre-orders of the book are now available.
The awards ceremony to announce the South Australian finalist will be held tomorrow night at 7pm. You can watch it online at www.australianoftheyear.org.au.
A big congratulations to Felicity, we are super proud of you!
Thanks to Felicity for openly sharing her experiences in care and letting us use her story in our blog.