Homeless teen now voice for youth
LAUREN Magri fought a battle in her teenage years more emotionally challenging than most people face in their entire life.
Despite spending countless nights with nowhere to sleep, months hopping between foster homes and carrying the burden of her loving yet mentally ill father, the 17-year-old exudes a compassion and maturity well beyond her age.
But life for Lauren was not always so peachy.
The Ballina Shire Youth Council member left home when she was 14 and began drinking heavily and smoking cannabis.
“In Year 7 or 8 I went off the rails,” the Kids in Community awards against all odds division one recipient said.
“I had enough of dealing with Mum and Dad so I went and started drinking to get away from home.
“I would go to the park with friends and everyone would go home at about 11pm.
“I would stay in a park until the early hours of the morning, awake, until it was daylight and then I would go to a friend’s house and sleep on their couch.
“I never had any bad experiences except for one time when I went to sit somewhere in a park in Ballina and there were needles everywhere. They were scattered all over the ground for about 10 metres.”
Lauren’s downward spiral continued and so did her relationship with her parents, who would send the police out to look for her.
Before long, Lauren was placed into foster care.
She spent seven months shifting between foster families on the Tweed Coast, some of whom dealt her endless torrents of emotional abuse.
“My last foster home placement was great but my second was horrible,” she said.
“The daughters of one of my foster parents would make it really difficult for me,” she said.
“They would say I didn’t deserve to swim in their auntie’s pool or didn’t deserve to eat the food they ate. They always said I was not good enough.”
Her life as a foster child reached a boiling point when she was told by Life Without Barriers she could not attend her little brother’s birthday in Ballina.
“I stood up and said ‘no, I don’t deserve this’ and realised I wanted to have the support from my family and be treated well.”
It was then Lauren realised she wanted her life back.
Lauren moved back in with her family and turned into a voice for local youth.
“The things that happened to me, I would never want anyone else to go through that,” she said.
Once Lauren finishes Year 12, she plans to study occupational therapy or psychology at university.
She is now helping NSW Community Services improve the foster care system.