To view information on Coronavirus COVID-19 click here.

YouTube Channel

Repair childhood trauma with safe non judgemental care and avoid people pleasing, abuse & misfits!


From the age of 2, Shane didn’t have the normal upbringing. His mother left and he lived in kinship care with his Nan and Pop until his Nan dies when he is 5yo. He lives a haphazard life with many moves, including a breakdown in his permanent foster care family, and he is subjected to sexual abuse and unimaginable losses as people come and go in his life. He attempts to end his life once, suffers bulimia as a form of self punishment, struggles to fit in and feels broken and dead inside. Yet outside he appeared happy, confident and was able to achieve success in the creative arts (he joins Johnny Young Talent Team and stars alongside Colette Mann and works on Neighbours and other TV series). Eventually he finds his voice, comes out as gay in his 20s and finds success in nursing and education after reuniting with his foster family).

Shane wants others to learn from his experiences. He encourages parents and carers to validate children and to learn and educate themselves where they don't understand sexual identity or gender and to provide a safe space without judgement so that children may be an open book and share their feelings. He wants parents and carers to understand that sometimes that means Scouts or Sports are not enough and that encouraging children to have inner drive is important. He also recognises that if children are befriending the misfits, or older friends, it may be because they are being bullied or don't fit in, or it may even be that any attention, even sexual abuse, is better than no attention. Your child might just be looking for someone to befriend. Further to that Shane reminds us that sometimes children will attempt suicide, and live with an eating disorder or even reject parents and carers outright, just so those people they love the most don't have the opportunity to reject them. Belonging and identity are so interwoven.

He wants Government and support agencies to look for ways to support families to stay together with the right supports in place and for social workers to get some lived experience behind them so they can support children and know what questions to ask. Above all else Shane wants all children to feel safe, secure and to feel like they belong and to get psychological and other support and diagnoses early. Shane hopes that other children can learn from him rather than turning to drugs to run away from the inner turmoil. Shane leaves us with insights we can all learn from in raising our children.

00:00 - Start 01:53 - Who is Shane today? A 44yo mental health nurse. 02:47 - My Mum was young and damaged, suffered severe epilepsy and there were allegations of abuse by an older brother. My parents relationship was a violent one and my Mum had a temper. She would go from man to man looking for validation after my parents divorce. One of those men lost his temper and smothered my face with pillows. To this day I cant have anything on my face and am claustrophobic. 8:50 - Living with Nan and Pop offered structure, routines and family traditions. It was the happiest of times until Shanes Nan dies when he is 5yo. 11:52 - After Shanes Nan died his sister got pregnant and his Pop just didn't know how to care for him 13:20 - DHHS were involved as they realised Shane needed support. Instead of removal that could have been in home support. 14:52 - As a child you don't understand sexual abuse. You just like the attention. 15:53 - Shane's Grandfathers and Uncles feelings towards his Dad rubbed off on him. 17:10 - Shane's and his Dad never understood each other. A tale of two cultures. 18:40 - Shane's foster parents were supportive of contact with his Dad, but accepted in his teens that he had had enough 20:50 - Trying to help Shane make friends by joining sports or scouts made him feel more isolated. You need to do things that truly fit. 22:29 - Disconnection feels like an emptiness, not a sadness, a dead feeling inside. The mental health issues and attachment disorder amplify that. 29:34 - If you don't have friends, or you are bullied. you may be drawn to befriend the misfits 35:00 - Shane was afraid of rejection from the family, and ended up attempting suicide and resorted to bulimia before rejecting his foster family by ending the placement. He had to reject them so they couldn't reject him. Strange but true. 37:10 - Drugs offered the opportunity to run away from the inner turmoil and feelings and create a high 38:50 - The self loathing and not respecting or loving himself took 12 years of drug use before he moved on. 43:35 - Provide a safe, accepting, non-judgemental environment and educate yourself where you don't understand sexual or gender identity. Validate and learn. 46:20 - Don't let anything stop you in achieving things. Its drive that is important. 48:44 - Social workers need life experience and to learn from real lived experience


This is Sonia Wagner, representing PCA Families in one of our recordings that capture lived experience and best practice evidence based learning that assist kinship, permanent and adoptive parents/carers in supporting young people.

PCA Families has a zero tolerance of child abuse and follows child safe standards.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay respect to elders past and present and express our intention to move together to a place of justice and partnership.

Today we are speaking about foster care, kinship care, identity, being gay, abuse and more with Shane Bautista.

From the age of 2, Shane didn’t have the normal upbringing. His mother left and he lived in kinship care with his Nan and Pop until his Nan dies when he is 6yo.  He then lives a haphazard life with many moves, including a breakdown in his permanent foster care family, is subjected to sexual abuse and experiences unimaginable losses as people come and go in his life. He attempts suicide once and gets support the next time he feels suicidal. He struggles to fit in and feels broken and dead inside. Yet outside he appeared happy, confident and was able to achieve success in the creative arts (he joins Johnny Young Talent Team and stars alongside Colette Mann and works on Neighbours and other TV series). Eventually he finds his voice, comes out as gay in his 20s and finds success in education (supported by his foster family).

What can we learn from Shane about how we can offer safety, connection and peel back the layers to understand the child within?

Warning this story discusses care, sexual abuse, grief, mental health, suicide, addiction and more. Best suited to adult audiences. 

1:40 Welcome Shane and thankyou for joining us.

That was a long intro!

1:53 Thanks for joining us. Do you want to start off by telling us who you are today before we delve into that history?

I am 44yo and I work as a mental health nurse and alcohol and recovery. My main passion at the moment is my candle business (Impact Candles) via ecommerce and business to business also.

2:47 So you have experienced and done a lot in your life. Can you teel us a little bit about what you experienced in your Mum and Dads care before being cared for by extended family?

One of my sisters Julie who was adopted out and who I met at 18yo actually described Mum (from her adopted file) as when she was young as damaged: mentally, severe epilepsy, a bit of drugs and allegations of rape or abuse by an older brother. So it’s a bit of a family history there that could blow up if I stirred the pot

My Mum as far as I know had a temper and she would go from man to man for some type of validation. She met my father and he was Filipino and my Mum is English. The story goes that he was on a Filipino navy ship and he jumped ship so he could stay in Australia. What I can remember is that it was a pretty toxic relationship. At around 3yo I can remember Dad coming home and there was a fight and Mum throwing dishes at him. I would just hide under the bed. I’ve witnessed my Mum having an epileptic fit on the couch and in a toilet where we were locked in there for an hour or two. That was pretty heavy.

They divorced and separated and my Mum moved to her Mum (English grandparents) and my older sister Christine was in there as well. Mum had her when she was 15yo. It was a bit of a messy upbringing and my Mum was in and out of my life from then until about 5yo.

My Mum tried to take care of me and one of her boyfriends was living in a caravan park and I wanted my Humphrey B Bear light on and was having a bit of a temper about it. This angered this man and he tried to shut me up with pillows over my face. My Mum pulled him off and we took off and my Mums twin brother came and got us. He was a bit protective towards us. He would have wanted to flog this guy. To this day I can’t have anything on my face due to that time. I am claustrophobic also.  It used to come back in nightmares but not anymore.

When I was with my Auntie and Uncle I was having these nightmares but that has stopped now.

8:50 You ended up living with your Nan and Pop. They offered you safety, connection and love and encouraged you to be ambitious with skating and other creative pursuits. It sounds like you really thrived in that environment. Why was that?

With my Mum and my Uncle Stephen, they were twins and they were put through dancing lessons, tap and ballet and dancing. So that carried on with my older sister Christine going into figure ice skating as she was 10 years older. As a teenager she was pretty much skating full time. which she did very much full time before and after school. So when I got to 5yo my Nan put me in skating also. They dressed me up as the Easter Bunny once at the Easter show! Often Nan would put meals off or ask Steve to help pay some of the house bills so she could put us through these lessons. She really put us first before herself.

10:30 Did you thrive in that environment?

That was the happiest time in my life. The Sunday roasts and whoever from the family wanted to come on Sunday. I remember her with her baking and her cupcakes on Sundays. So she really took care of us and that was the most stable time for me for a few years. I was 5yo when she died and I was by her bedside and witnessed her gasping for breath as she had liver cancer. I still unfortunately have that last memory of my Nan but I try and remember the good things.

11:52 Your Pop found it hard to care for and be available to you after she died is that right?

Yes he didn’t know how to do anything. Wives did everything back then. He would forget to feed me. Often I would go to school in prep or grade 1 without underpants on. Nan had done all that stuff making sure I was dressed properly. I just was really left to my own devices.

My sister Christine had at the time moved out and she was across the road at her boyfriends place and she got pregnant at 17yo. I guess as he was getting older and didn’t know how to care for a young child.

13:20 Do you look back and think something different should have been done at that time?

Yes DHHS were involved in that way at the end of that because my Auntie and Uncle took me on and I lived with my cousins. No support for my Pop. Maybe some additional support for my Pop would have helped but maybe he was getting to old to care for a young person. I was 5yo running the streets, hanging out with teenagers and living beyond my years. After my Nan died sexual assaults were happening. There was a boy next door that would play with me and his older sister would babysit me at times. If I went over to their house or he came to mine he would do things to me. My sisters boyfriend his younger brother was doing the same thing too.

14:52 Is that something you are aware of at the time that it is happening to you and you should speak up?

As a child you don’t know that it’s wrong and you like the attention.  I was lonely and the friends I hung out with were older so I guess you don’t think at that age you just things its a game or something. As you get older it affects your behaviour and the way you do things in your adult life.

15:53 You ended up having more contact with your Dad Roy before a foster family was found for you?

Funny story my Grandfather and my Uncle hated my Dad so I guess that rubbed off onto me. I was told this story about when I climbed the house with a box of rotten tomatoes and when my Dad came I would throw them at him.  I idolised my Grandparents and my Pop was like my best friend so I guess he rubbed off on me as a young impressionable boy.

17:10 Can you differentiate that now in terms of your real feelings and how you were impacted by other people?

My Dad and I never got along or understood each other. I was brought up in Australian Culture. He was Filipino culture. He would say you are too Aussie. And he didn’t know how to be a father. He was never around so we never got that father son bond. It was not much of a relationship at all. Even when I was in foster care and he would have access, he wouldn’t spend one on one time with me, he would take me to friends parties, or take ladies shopping. It was never one on one father and son time. After a while I just said I don’t want to go there anymore.

18:40 You were living with Joan and Bryan, your foster family, at that time around 7yo. Could you talk to them about it? As a biological family member you would be encouraged to spend time there but he didn’t have the skills?

They were quite supportive and would always encourage me to give him a chance. There was a time when I was 8 or 9 and there was some reason why he couldn’t drive me home so I caught the bus by myself in Dandenong and got off in Hallam Road, at the paddocks where the bus stop was on the other side of the freeway. It was nighttime and I got off and walked across those paddocks to back home. When I opened the door Joan was in shock and wanted to know how I got home. I said I caught the bus and she was fuming at that.

From my childhood from 5 I guess I was the most streetwise kid so I could have easily caught the bus at 5. They always tried to encourage contact but they also supported my decision in my early teens when I said Id had enough.

20:50 You lived with Joan and Bryan, your foster family, and they enrolled you in sports but at times that made you feel more disconnected as your interests differed?

It was more scouts. Joan was trying to make me find friendships. So she enrolled me in Scouts. At times it was fun but I didn’t really fit in with the boys because I was obviously gay and didn’t want to do the boy boy stuff. They did support me in the creative arts and driving me to rehearsals at school and things like that and coming to the shows. But they never had an experience of a young child that liked girly things in those days.

22:29 You are obviously feeling disconnected. What does that feel like and do you feel it daily?

With my mental health issues, depression and anxiety, and attachment disorder, that probably still carries forward in my life in attaching to people. I have a small group of friends but I have a lot of acquaintances. At times I do feel a disconnect to the world and an emptiness. I don’t feel sad but sort of dead inside.  The weekend just gone I went away with my best friend Danny who I live with and a couple of girlfriends and that was such a recharge and I came back recharged and remotivated. But a couple of weeks ago I was feeling demotivated and there was nothing inside. So Im going to find a new psychiatrist and get a proper diagnosis. I think there is a bit of ADD (attention deficit disorder) as well. So I’m going to get a proper diagnoses. Back in my day there was no help it wasn’t spoken about.

Did Joan and Bryan want that for you?

Maybe they weren’t educated on mental health and the social workers I had seemed to be younger straight out of college with no experience.  On one hand you are not being offered help and on the other you have all that shame and you are burying it down. Joan would talk to me and try and encourage me to talk about my feelings, but because Im a people pleaser, I would want to share my feelings but the anxiety would take over and I couldn’t share my feelings. That must have been frustrating for Joan because I just couldn’t share due to the anxiety and it being undiagnosed. I guess if the social workers were trained more in mental health and adolescent mental health that would have gone a long way.  If someone had said we understand you are going to have these feelings. 

As an adolescent if you get asked to go see someone you would just say no I’m fine. I think you need to be forced! Even if it was just you know go and see a psychiatrist or psychologist and just give it a go. They may be able to help you. These days there is a lot of support and resources which wasn’t available in the 70s and 80s.

Even the book you have written about your life is helpful for others to see those feelings are normal. That was an incentive for me to express everything, which was quite healing. I wanted to help adolescents in care or not to go through their sexual orientation or identity, to see that there are other people out there experiencing what they may be experiencing and that they are not alone.

29:34 You talk about being bullied for being gay and then being tortured by your friendship group and then you hang out with the misfits because they became your friends.

In Year 9 in any teenagers life it is the hardest year because you are out of puberty, a little bit mature but also easily led by other kids, either the bully or the victim. The first half of Year 9 I was failing everything except drama.  I had the worst attitude at 14 going on 15. Everything I had pushed down started to surface. I was being bullied because I wasn’t good at sport or people called me a poof. I would hang out with the smokers that were older because I wasn’t getting along with my peers. I was getting attention that wasn’t the best.

It sounds like you were doing everything you could to keep hidden.

The funny thing was I went to Hampton Park Primary and Secondary. In the 70s and 80s it was quite an affluent suburb, very white, middle class, upper class. That school sucked. It wasn’t until I blew up my life with my foster family in Year 10 and moved to my cousin Tanias high school in Doveton, a rougher school, the second half of year 10 and Years 11 and 12, they were the best years of my life. For me middle, upper class kids could be awful and entitled. Anything else would be a chance to frown upon and be bullied. Found less judgement in that environment and safer to be myself, but still not coming out as gay. I didn’t come out until I was 23 with my foster family.

35:00 You were prepared to lose your foster family at that time to keep everything hidden and not affect them?

I was afraid of rejection from the family. When I tried to kill myself that didn’t work. I guess I was in the defensive and rejecting them before they could reject me which is just stupid. They kind of knew that I was gay but no one spoke up about it. I wish they had spoken up and forced the conversation. Joan and Bryan didn’t understand it due to age and culture. When they grew up there wasn’t much of that around so they weren’t equipped to deal with that fight against the sexual tension, the confusion and self loathing and I was self punishing with bulimia. In this day and age I would have been sent to hospital.

37:10 You ended up exploring with ecstasy and a whole lot of other drugs when you were 23 and came out?

The first guy I ended up with at 23yo was a drug dealer. Then I was obsessed with Italians and Greeks and “wog” boys. I had my first fill of ecstasy and it just started from there. You take one pill then you are taking two then you are trying speed, cocaine, amphetamine, GBH, Ketamine and because I have an addictive personality I would chase that high. It would be Thursday to Sunday chasing that high and then Monday I am supposed to try and work. Very wasted.

38:50 You talk about wanting to get away from that shame and find identity. What’s the turning point for that?

From 23 when I came out to about 35 I was a drug user. I was just running from myself and all the turmoil and feelings. Drugs did that for me. When you are out and take drugs with your friends and you meet more friends because everyone is on the “love” drug it’s a really good time. So I would be picking up a guy at the pub, going off and making out at the toilets. I started to get a name for myself as easy. It wasn’t until my 30s that I started to slow down. When I was 24 as a dancer I moved up to Sydney. That didn’t work out and I was working for Virgin records as a casual and then a manager. I wasn’t getting paid enough and when my dancing finished my housemate suggested I try escort work as I was already giving it away for free. So I did. For 6 months I was a male escort. What I realised is you don’t get to select your customers. Lots of older men, married men, straight men. Hardly ever gay men. Mainly closeted men.

One of the guys was smoking ice at the time and offered it to me so there we go again I was addicted to ice for 6 months. It really takes a hold of you that drug as it makes you feel invincible.  I guess the older, uglier men didn’t matter as I was drugged up and it was all about making money. On a weekend I could make $3,000. The self loathing part of me and not respecting and loving myself allowed me to do that.

43:35 As parents and carers we have an opportunity to learn from you as despite having people around you you didn’t aske for help. I don’t mean that negatively as how can you in that situation. So what do we do when there are kids feeling like they don’t belong or depressed. What do we do that could be different?

Provide a safe space to not feel judged and to be spared of rejection. We have a lot of kids identifying as non binary and using the pronouns correctly. So if they say I look at myself as non binary and I would like to be called they/them, try and embrace that as a carer even if you don’t understand it, educate yourself. There is a lot of support for children’s sexual identity so just try to understand where it is coming from and don’t call it a phase like I got. Provide a safe space without judgement. Fear of judgement is the biggest catalyst for teenagers behaviour and whether they shut down or open up. Even if you don’t understand it.

46:20 You really have made a difference in other people’s lives as a nurse and drug and alcohol counsellor. So what has given you that inner drive and how do we get others to tap into that?

One thing Joan would always drum into me as a teenager was that you can always achieve what you want to as long as you have the drive. Don’t let anything stop you achieving things. So having the confidence to allow myself to do that. I also didn’t want to be like my parents. There is something in me that wants to achieve things and life is short so make the most of it. I do still suffer from mental health but I have a lot of good family support now. Sometimes I wish I didn’t do 3 degrees and bought a house instead! That innate drive to want to be better.

48:44 Is there anything else to discuss today?

Something else to discuss is social workers coming out with degrees is to try and gain some more life experience and educate yourself in what kids go through today. Don’t just look at things from a text book. Get out there and look at life. Volunteer at different support groups and see how people live and the conversations they have. See it face to face. I guess they have placement and things like that which is good. I guess just educate yourself and live the life of other peoples shoes to gain that understanding.

To anyone making the time to listen to this recording, thankyou for giving up your valuable time for the benefit of the young people in your life.  Until next time have an amazing week


Resilience by Shane Bautista – available here

Impact Candles – Shane’s business – see here