Brave as a Bear

It takes a village to raise not just a child, but also the teen parent of one.

Bernadette Black fell pregnant at 16. Her dad had a public meltdown, but Bernadette decided to have the baby. One day, she flicked through a baby name book and looked up the meaning of her own name. Bernadette, it turned out, meant ‘brave as a bear’.

“And I thought, “You know what? That’s just what I have to be. Somehow I have to be brave as a bear,” Bernadette said, even as she experienced plenty of stigma throughout her pregnancy and the early years of Damian, her baby boy.

Twenty-six years later, Bernadette heads up the Brave Foundation, which aims to build a village of support around expectant and parenting teens, connecting them with support services as well as educational and employment opportunities.

In 2019, Brave was awarded $4.4 million to roll out a trial connecting with and mentoring almost 400 teen mums around Australia. Brave partners with teen parents to help them achieve their goals, providing to them exactly the kind of support Bernadette could not access herself.

For Bernadette, the support of one of her teachers was instrumental.

“What Mr Schiele did was he looked at who I was, not at the situation that was happening. And that meant so much to me because actually that didn’t change from his perspective. He said, ‘The journey is going to be different now, but the destination can stay the same’,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation today, if Mr Schiele didn’t say those words. That gave me great strength.”

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