By Brendan Rees
Paige Baker, 16, can’t recall how many high school she’s attended. She thinks it may be seven.
Born in jail, she says the earliest photo she has of herself was when she was about four years old. But again she can’t be sure.
“My birth wasn’t registered until 2017 and it turns out I was actually born in 2002 and not 2003,” she says.
The Berwick College student addressed a packed room during a Lookout Conference held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Monday 2 September.
Hosted by the Department of Education and Training as part of National Child Protection Week, the day aimed to support the work of early childhood, primary and secondary educators working with children and young people in out-of-home care.
During her presentation Paige spoke about loving school but finding it so difficult to attend regularly and achieve when her life was in such chaos.
She was bullied a lot in primary school because of the “ratty clothes” she wore and was embarrassed to bring friends home as it was “disgusting.”
“I was living with dad and he didn’t make us go to school,” she says. “Sometimes we didn’t go because we had no lunch or no uniform.”
“Other kids referred to my dad as the local junkie and that really hurt me because, despite the abuse and neglect we were experiencing, he was my dad and I idolised him,” Paige explained.
“I wanted to feel like someone cared and wanted me at school. After a while, I felt like I was forgotten about.”
Paige said she was taken out of her dad’s care in 2016 before staying with her grandmother but before long was back in foster care and residential housing.
Today she is enjoying living alone with her puppy: “My future is looking brighter than it ever has but I still have lots of personal battles to overcome.”
“I know there is no way I could’ve done this one year ago and I’m constantly working on my self- confidence.”