Home' Aurora : Aurora December 2013 Contents In life most of us encounter someone who inspires us
to change and makes us want to be a better person; a
mentor, teacher, grandparent, or perhaps a person who's
taken a strong stance on a social justice issue. Taree's
Gordon Byers, who has a history of mistakes, is inspired
by a caseworker, and his sons, to be a better person. He's
made mistakes that have led to gaol sentences. However,
the moments he's missed now, and the prospect of
missing more, motivate him never to return to gaol. In a
twist of fate, he's now becoming an inspiration to others.
Gordon Byers is only 29 but has had enough life
experience to know what it is he wants more than
anything: to stay out of gaol for good.
His motivation? He's made mistakes and paid the price.
Gordon missed the funerals of both parents because he
was in gaol. His two older children are now in foster care
and he's currently a single Dad to Jerontae, 2. "I always
promised myself I would be there for my Mum and Dad
and I wasn't," he said. "I don't want to be in gaol for
Jerontae, he needs me to be a good role model, because
I didn't have one."
In November this year, Gordon transfixed a crowd of
strangers as guest speaker at the opening of the new
CatholicCare Social Services Taree office. He publicly
shared his past and vowed to continue to make things
right with the help of CatholicCare.
"Gordon's one of those rare people who put up their hand
to acknowledge they need support and once Gordon
found out that we could help him, he basically broke
down our door to get an appointment," laughed Gordon's
CatholicCare caseworker, Candy Demos. "It's been a big
learning curve for Gordon, but he's the most reliable client
I've ever worked with and is so committed and determined,
I have no doubt he'll achieve all he wants," she said.
Three days after his eighteenth birthday, Gordon began
the first of "many" gaol stints after committing assault in
the boys' home he was "locked up" in and lived in from
the age of 14. He explains, "Overall I was a good kid but I
was young and lost. I liked school, I liked the regimented
way the home was conducted but I was also introduced
to drugs. I learnt the ropes and picked up some tools that
I eventually took with me to gaol."
After being scared initially, Gordon says he came to make
the most of each day in gaol, especially as the nature of
his crime afforded him some protection and respect from
his fellow inmates. "I learnt a lot. I learnt to cook, I learnt
about hygiene, I did laundry, sorted my clothes, again life
was regimented and I enjoyed going to work each day to
earn some money for phone calls."
Soon after leaving gaol, Gordon became a father to two
boys who are now both in foster care but with whom he
still has regular contact and a great relationship, thanks
to the support and encouragement of CatholicCare.
"I look forward to having more contact with them
eventually and having them over for overnight stays,"
says Gordon, who also acknowledges the good home
provided by their foster parents.
Now, having been out of gaol for just over a year
and with the help of CatholicCare's Brighter Futures
program, Gordon's proving how seriously he's taken
his commitment to be a better person. This year he's
taken part in a parenting course, cooking and nutrition
program, a budget course, Super Dads course, Strong
Aboriginal Men workshop, lifestyle program and
counselling sessions. As part of the Work Development
Order program, he has 'worked off' fines and is eligible
to regain his licence, something he wasn't expecting for
many years. CatholicCare has helped get Jerontae into
childcare and has helped Gordon to build on his many
"I just want to try and be a better person, for myself and
my kids," he explains. "I don't even know what religion I
am, but that doesn't matter at CatholicCare because I feel
welcome, they don't judge me and I have learnt so much.
I want to stay out of gaol for good."
Candy hopes Gordon's story inspires others to seek
assistance, to realise support is available and life can be
"I have real pride in Gordon and I speak on behalf of all
Brighter Futures caseworkers here at CatholicCare when
I say we're all 'Gordy Lovers'. Everyone knows him in
Taree, and everyone's inspired by him. It's not easy to
ask for help, yet he's committed to continuing to help
ensure Jerontae grows up in a safe, happy and healthy
environment and to spending more time with his older
boys. You can't help but admire him; you can't help but
be inspired by his devotion. Gordon has a bright future
ahead --- and himself to thank for having the courage to
turn his life around."
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Adamstown 4957 0237
Belmont 4945 9022
Beresfield 4966 5277
Toronto 4959 3600
BY EMMA BLACKFORD
Change starts with me
Gordon Byers and caseworker Candy Demos.
"I don't want to be in gaol for Jerontae,
he needs me to be a good role model,
because I didn't have one."
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
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