When Julia Rollings had her first born, the “unsupported” and “unprepared” single parent vowed to never have kids again.
At no time did her 22-year-old self imagine she would be a mother to 50 more infants and children, most of whom were experiencing great adversity.
Now, 58, the one remark she hears most is “Oh, aren’t you wonderful? I couldn’t do that, I’d get too attached”.
But, as Ms Rollings explained, “that is exactly what these children need – an adult who will become emotionally invested in them and help them heal”.
Her never-again mentality when it came to children changed after marrying her husband Barry, having a baby together, and becoming a step-mum to his four children.
“There was never any grand plan to have a very large family. It was something that just naturally evolved over the years,” she said.
During a trip to South Korea to adopt a child for the first time, the couple made a saddening discovery.
Ms Rollings noticed that people were often looking for healthy babies and the “slightly older children” who had special needs or medical conditions “tended to remain in institutional care”.
Even now, she said, healthy babies who are up for adoption “have a lot of families waiting for them” whereas older children who’ve been through some major hardships are often “overlooked”.
The couple adopted six children over 14 years.
They included a special-needs boy from Taiwan, a pair of abandoned brothers aged 10 and 5, and an orphaned brother, 5, and sister, 3, all from India.
During this time, Ms Rollings became a volunteer crisis carer, taking in babies and children from “just about every family tragedy you can imagine”.
The 50 she’s cared for in the past two decades were abandoned by their parents, born addicted to drugs, exposed to domestic violence, endured trauma and neglect, or had a disability or serious medical condition.
After taking on six children from overseas, Ms Rollings and her partner adopted a 17-year-old girl.
Ms Rollings is in contention for an Australian of the Year award, after recently being honoured as ACT’s Local Hero.
She’s one of the everyday heroes The New Daily will celebrate this week before Australia Day.
- Click here to meet Josie Jones, another local hero
While appreciating the title, Ms Rollings does not consider herself a hero, saying she “wouldn’t want other people to think this was something they weren’t also well capable of doing”.
“Being able to invest emotionally in the younger generation and help kids that have really been behind the eight-ball with the circumstance they’ve been born into has brought us immense joy and happiness.”
The 2020 Australian of the Year Awards will be presented at the National Arboretum in Canberra on January 25.