/19 Australia

Raphaela Rosella

You didn’t take away my future, you gave me a new one

My work with young mothers stems from the reaction I had when my teenage twin sister told me she was pregnant. I was angry; I called her a ‘slut’ and told her to get an abortion because I thought she could have a ‘better life’. But what is a better life? I always knew that at some stage she was going to be a mum, I just hadn’t expected it to be so early in her life. On reflection, I realised my reaction framed my sister’s pregnancy as a social problem. Instead of supporting her choice, I defaulted to the all too common assumption that becoming a mother at a young age was irresponsible and irrational. Similarly, most public discourses do not consider that becoming a mother at a young age could ever be a rational choice. However, for many disadvantaged youth, becoming a parent young may not be a ‘failure of planning’, but instead a tacit response to the limited choices and opportunities available to them.

Through exploring relationships between class, stigma and gender, and giving voice to young mothers through documentary storytelling, ‘You didn’t take away my future, you gave me a new one’ seeks to explore the lived experience of three young mothers; Nunjul, Tammara and Rowrow.

The aim of this project is not to argue the oversimplified narratives of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ mothers. Instead, it is hoped that the project can serve as a platform to show the complexities of each woman’s lived experience, and challenge conventional views of young mothers through recognising the validity of their (often misunderstood and stigmatised) choices. Please note: The installation of this project was presented with audio scapes of the women telling their own stories.