Through the cracks: The story of a little girl lost in Mandurah

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

The Mandurah Mail writes many stories about the achievements of remarkable young people, but this one is not like the others.

The law means we can’t show you a photo of this particular 13-year-old’s brilliant, hopeful smile or even use her real name.

We can’t tell you where she’s from or the complete story of the violence and abuse she has suffered at the hands of relatives.

But what we can tell you about Danni – this is not her real name – is both terrifying and inspiring.

For the past three weeks she has been staying in Mandurah after two months ago being thrown out of her home in Perth where she lived with her guardian.

In the middle of a cold July night Danni was told to get out of the house with only the clothes on her back.

She waited outside a friend’s house until the morning, then – unlike so many homeless young people – went to school.

Without telling her teachers she didn’t have a place to sleep – because she was afraid – she borrowed a uniform and a school bag and went to class as though nothing was wrong.

For the following six weeks she managed to eat at friends’ houses and arrange “sleep-overs”, only occasionally going hungry or sleeping in backyards.

But three weeks ago, she met a Mandurah mum who learnt about Danni’s circumstances and decided enough was enough.

Since then, Jennifer – again, not her real name – has worked overtime to get the authorities to take some kind of responsibility for Danni.

“She was taking herself to school,” Jennifer said.

“She’d been couch hopping for over a month and a half, and her family didn’t even wonder where she was, they weren’t even looking for her.

“When Danni told me what was going on, I said, ‘This is bulls**t’.”

She said she immediately rang Danni’s school in Perth and contacted the Department of Child Protection, but has felt she has been knocking her head against the wall, with phone calls unreturned and non-profits unable to assist.

Jennifer said she felt as though no-one was prepared to help.

“This is what I don’t get,” she said.

“These mums who were looking after her for a day or two or whatever, what are you thinking?”

Danni had spent most of her life moving from foster home to foster home, struggling to make friends and shifting schools regularly.

Jennifer was furious our community could let a 13-year-old girl live on the streets without a home while having the determination and self-discipline to take herself to school.

“You know what really p****s me off?” she said.

“There is not one person out there who is wanting to help find...I don’t even know what it is I’m looking for.

“But there has to be some means of government assistance in advising a young girl. Why hasn’t she been contacted once throughout this whole process?

“There is a breakdown in this stupid bureaucratic system and I can’t believe I’m only learning about it this way because I know there must be hundreds of kids out there that are doing this, and the government is just fobbing you off.”

She said the irony was that Danni would need her guardian’s permission to enrol in a new school in Mandurah, but that her guardian wanted nothing to do with her.

But Jennifer said she was inspired by the 13-year-old who she said would be in her life forever, come what may.

“You know what? She’s done it all on her own. The tenacity,” Jennifer said.

“She’s so brave and I’m so happy and I knew when I met her she was a good kid.

“She’s been reading books since she’s been here, she’s dug out homework from the old school.

“All she wants to do is go to school.”

Help is available by calling the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or by going to kidshelpline.com.au.

Facts and figures

  • The latest statistics collected in Western Australia revealed there were more than 5000 children under the age of 14 who accessed specialist homeless services in 2013-14.
  • In 2016, a government report revealed 28 per cent of people accessing specialist homeless services were under the age of 18 and 18 per cent under 10-years-old.