Extraordinary mum commended at Parliament House ceremony
MUM of two Ellizabeth Smyth is only 23 yet already she's shouldered more hands-on parental responsibilities than some might see in a lifetime.
Ms Smyth's six-year-old daughter Alleighah has four different types of cerebral palsy and is mostly confined to a wheelchair, while her four-year-old son Curtis-James is likely to be diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.
On Monday this extraordinary mum was flown to Parliament House in Sydney as one of 10 carers awarded a commendation in the 2013 NSW Carers Awards.
More than 850,000 unpaid family carers in NSW look after a relative or friend who has disability, a mental illness, a chronic health condition or is frail aged.
Before she gave birth to Alleighah, Ms Smyth had her heart set on going into law. While the desire to help people hasn't changed, it's taken a very different direction.
After completing TAFE accreditation in disability care, Ms Smyth is finishing a second TAFE course in community services and plans to start a Bachelor of Social Science.
Empowering and encouraging her children to celebrate their individuality is the name of the game.
"I want them to grow up and always achieve their own goals, instead of trying to be something they don't want to be, just because it's the typical thing to do," Ms Smyth said.
"My children will always grow up knowing that everybody's different.
"There's never a stigma there."
Ms Smyth also plays a support role to other families facing the shock of a disability diagnosis in their children.
She's recently started a carer support group and sits on a host of committees, including the board of the Summerland Early Intervention Program for children aged 0-7 with disabilities and developmental delays.
She said she hoped in the future "people won't feel disadvantaged by being a carer".