A podcast sharing stories of lived experience with mental illness
Interview with Tara Stark about her young carer story and what needs to change now with the current system

September 02, 2022

Interview with Tara Stark about her young carer story and what needs to change now with the current system
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Tara Stark is a prominent lawyer, board member of Satellite Foundation, and also a has been a young carer. Tara knows firsthand the challenges of growing up with a parent who has a serious mental illness. In this episode, Tara shares her story about having a parent with a serious mental illness, advocacy, and most importantly, what needs to change with the current system. 

Before entering law, Tara worked in local government and public mental health sector roles supporting children, young people, and families affected by mental illness.

Tara has also been engaged as a speaker and community advocate on behalf of many mental health organisations and governmental bodies, emphasizing the role of young carers.

Huge thanks to Tara for sharing her story and making time for the podcast. 

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Joel Kleber  00:00

Welcome to the lived experience. I'm your host, Joel Kleber. And on today's episode, I interviewed Tara Stark. Now Tara Stark is a lawyer, and also on the board of satellite foundation and does a host of many other things as well. But I'll let her tell you about that in the interview. But the main reason I have Tyrone because she's going to pair it with a serious mental health issue, but has not let that stop her from going on and achieving really great things and just having a really successful career. So always great to share stories like this. So I'm looking forward to sharing today's episode. And if you do like it, please make sure you leave a review. If you do want to share your story, you can contact me via my contact page on lived experience. podcast.com be face to Tara for her time, and she's got a young family and very busy. So I really do appreciate it. And I hope you enjoyed today's episode. Thank you very much for joining me today, Tara. When I was looking for guests, I came across your name from solo foundation. I've had rows on performances, you're still a member of the board there.


tara stark  00:53

Yeah, I'm a director on the board. I am on parental leave at the moment. So it's a leave of absence for 12 to 18 month period. But yes, I am still on the board.


Joel Kleber  01:02

And how'd you how'd you come involved in satellite.


tara stark  01:05

I became involved in satellite from the beginning. There were some programs that used to run in Victoria for children and teenagers who had a parent with a mental illness and the Victorian government at that time called the funding. And we were really keen to make sure those supports would continue. So rose and a number of others who were involved in those programs came together in sort of a committee style to think about what could be done. So I was around in those early days as a young person contributing to some of those discussions. And then after I'd finished uni and had some professional experience under my belt came back on as a director on the board.


Joel Kleber  01:48

Okay, so what what brought you involved with satellite in the first place,


tara stark  01:51

mum's got illness called schizoaffective disorder. So it's a bit of a cocktail of mental illness. It's like schizophrenia in many ways, she can experience psychosis and delusions. But it also has a fair whack of anxiety and depression thrown in with some bipolar type elements. So it can go from high to low as well. So I was involved in some support programs when I was a teenager because of mom's illness. And that's sort of what led all the way through to satellite.


Joel Kleber  02:27

So with those support programs, how did you come evolve with those or how'd you become aware?


tara stark  02:32

I was about 15, or 16. And I was finding things really tough with mom and her health. And I had a school friend who was having counseling at our local councils, youth services. And she'd mentioned my situation to her counselor, and they said that there was a program ran through their council for kids in that situation. So it was a bit of a roundabout route. And, you know, it was a bit disappointing to realize later on down the track that I lived around the corner from some of the programs that were running for children my whole life, basically. But they're just in a mental health system, of course, isn't always the connections that there should be to ensure that people land in the right supports. So yeah, it was my mid teens, when I sort of first connected into any professional support surrounding mums health, and she'd been unwell since before I was born. So it was a bit of a long time coming. But it was excellent once I was there.


Joel Kleber  03:43

So with your with your mum, was it just you and your mum? Or was it was do you have other family members?


tara stark  03:48

Yeah, it was me mum and dad, I'm an only child. And mom and dad are together. The challenge growing up was that dad worked night shifts, and that's when mom was most unwell. So he'd sort of have to go off to work about three and four o'clock in the afternoon. And then it would be me and mom at home alone together at night in the evenings. And that's when she felt most unwell. Yeah.


Joel Kleber  04:13

For the people who don't know, what sort of challenges did you then face growing up in this environment? So I can speak from my perspective, I want to hear from your perspective. So what's, what's your perspective on the challenges that that kids face in


tara stark  04:27

this environment? It's multifaceted, right? So anyone who has a family member who's unwell, feels a level of stress about that, right? So you worry about them, you care for them, you want them to be healthy. So there's what I would call the more typical level of stress about just having someone in the home who's unwell and needing medical support. With mental health. There can be additional challenges of course, because mom can't always think entirely clear. Really can't wade through some of her thoughts about whether they're real or not. Often children end up becoming a counselor, mental health nurse psychiatrist, you know, all of the above. And that's what was going on in my situation. There's also difficulty sometimes with the finances or with, you know, advocacy type services. So you end up speaking to health agencies or Centerlink, for example, on behalf of your parents. So, from a very young age, I guess I felt as though I was a spokesperson for mum, I could wave her, I understood her, I knew what her triggers were, I knew what her difficulties were. And I in some ways, took it upon myself to to be her voice. And that's a big, a big thing to carry as a child or as a young person. And also to feel as though I think it's pretty common for young people to feel as though that they sort of want to try and fix the situation or help mom or dad or make them feel better. And of course, looking back on that, you realize that that's not your role, and you can't necessarily fix or improve a situation where someone's mental health is so complex, and so much medical support is needed. But yeah, at the time, it's really hard to see that and you just want to make the person that you are feel better.


Joel Kleber  06:29

Now in regards to dispense explain to you, as a young person was this? Will you ever sat down and sort of toggle this? Is the conditional? Did your mom ever tell you? Or how was it sort of all explained to you did you have to work it out yourself?


tara stark  06:42

Mom's pretty open about her illness, I can't remember the first sort of time it was. She had any discussions with me, I suspect it wasn't a discussion with me, per se, but that I would have been around when she was having chats with people about her health. So yeah, mom's pretty open about saying, well, at that time, her diagnosis was schizophrenia. So she would tell people, I've got schizophrenia. And she'd had discussions about that quite openly. And also, I was sort of taken along to all of her medical appointments, I remember sitting on the floor of the psychiatrists office with toys. Mom was in and out of the old institutions. So even as a three year old, sort of my earliest memories of visiting places like Orlando and not park that she was in for months at a time. So it was always very clear to me that there was something going on with mom's health, I can't really remember, sort of when certain pieces fell into place. But it was always really clear to me that our situation was not quite the norm. And that, you know, the upheaval that was going on was was different to the other kids. I was, you know, I'd be randomly just pulled out of Canada for months at a time and then come back in and I was aware that all the other kids have been there and going there every day, but I was off elsewhere, living with family members when mom was particularly unwell. So, yeah, there's, I think it was always clear to me that there was something going on, and just gradually more pieces of the puzzle sort of fell together.


Joel Kleber  08:17

Well, you, did you visit your mom ever in the institutions? Or was it something you were kept away from? Oh,


tara stark  08:23

I did. Yeah, go have some pretty early memories, I must have been three or four. Actually, I was I have a clear memory of my fourth birthday. Mom was in one of those places. And I remember quite clearly seeing her on the hospital bed. She wasn't really talking or engaging at all. But she handed me a book, and it was Peter Rabbit. And someone my grandma, I think Ken brought me along. And she handed the book to mum for mum to then pass it over present. And I sort of witnessed that exchange and then had the usual moment where mum then just pass the book over to me. So yeah, quite clear memories from quite a young age of visiting those sorts of places.


Joel Kleber  09:08

That was it. Do you remember much was a scary time for you? Or was it something where you just wanted to see your mom and you sort of like, well, I don't care where she's like, go see her anyway? Or how was that environment for you? Because I remember from my my perspective, it was very I just wanted to see mom, but when I think back to it now was very, very traumatic. So how was that from your perspective?


tara stark  09:27

Yeah, look, that early memories of mum being in those sorts of places aren't particularly pleasant. But I don't have a lot of those memories. Mum did have a more stable period during my primary school and early high school years. So she was still quite unwell was still regularly under psychiatric care, needing medication and going through a whole lot of stuff, but she wasn't institutionalized. Part of that was of course, because they closed the institutions down at that period in the early 90s. But also, she was sort of coping in the community. So those memories in the institutions are somewhat limited. Thankfully. I remember though it overall being quite a positive time apart from mum's illness, I lived with my grandparents and I had a very strong bond with my pop. So I actually have some really nice memories of spending time one on one with Danny shared, going for walks with the dog go into the park. So even though there was certainly upheaval, and I was aware that things weren't quite normal, I was definitely supported by Yeah, particularly my papa, he was just a wonderful person. Yeah.


Joel Kleber  10:46

It's great to hear, did it affect? How did how did it affect you? Did it affect your like your school? Or was it something where it made you more focused? Or wants you to push you in a certain field? Or?


tara stark  10:58

Yeah, it's, it's funny looking back on it, because of course, it's something that kind of pervade your whole life, right. And it's very difficult to try and pull out what might have been the case, if that hadn't been your life story, because it's really something that feels all encompassing. When your parents that unwell for so long. I definitely threw myself into the academic side of school. And that's something that I've seen quite a lot with young people in this situation. For a lot of people that can be the education is kind of your legitimate excuse black, you know, you don't feel as though you can just go out and have fun, or should go out and do that or be a normal kid. But education felt like it was a legitimate place to be, and that it was okay to say the mom can't write your mom and bring her homework. Definitely throw myself into that side of the schooling. And I think structure was really good for me, given what was going on at home. So the structure of the school environment was really good, because things that I would not structured things at home were the opposite. And there was quite a lot of upheaval in the early days and stress about money. Socially, though, I think that's where impacted on me. I was often Yeah, I had trouble with relationships with my peers at school. And wasn't always the nicest, because I was often angry and stressed and anxious about what was going on at home. In terms of the second part of your question, and like, where did that leave me? And how did that impact later on? It definitely impacted sort of my career choices and where I've landed professionally. And a lot of that's got to do with the supports from programs. That was sort of the precursor to satellite. And they sort of gave me the space to realize that I could talk about lungs mental illness that I could speak about what it was like to have a parent with a mental illness in a range of settings, which sort of gave me confidence with public speaking with advocacy. And so, you know, practicing law was something that teachers encouraged me to do. I never thought I could do it. But they told me to put it down and I got in. And yeah, I think it's definitely shaped the sort of professional career that I've chosen.


Joel Kleber  13:21

That's great to hear. In regards to growing up, were you involved in like the the psychiatrist or the psychologist involve you in any discussions or in treatment, or ask your thoughts with anything regarding your mum or


tara stark  13:34

not when I was young, probably since I've been, like, over 18, that's happened more, but not when I was a child, not when I was a teenager. And that was something that was really challenging, because as I said, before, you're the person that sort of knows every nuance of this person, you can, you can sense what's going on and where the train wrecks going. And you can see that the slightest hint of her facial expression, or a movement or the way that her voice is, you know, expressing her strategies, whatever it is, or the subtlest of things. And you want people to hear that and you want the medical professionals to know that. So no, I was never asked or involved in when I was younger. I put myself in the position where I wanted people to hear me, I would be the one to call the cat team. And I would be the one to occasionally pick up the phone to the psychiatrists and say, Hey, this is what's going on. We need to be here. Cap, for those who don't know, is the crisis assessment team. And I had to make a number of those calls during my teenage years to them and to the ambulance. And so even though I wasn't involved in the discussions around her ongoing care, certainly when there are crisis situations, I was the one that spoke up for her.


Joel Kleber  14:55

That's really, really good to hear. And I'm sure people who had the similar situation could we completely relate to Um, but um, in regards to your, let's say your mentality because it because it can go really one two ways I sort of think, right you have this, you have you have you as your parent or your situation, right? You can either use it to be, let's say, perennial victim where you're going to use it, I'm not going to do anything go this path, or you use it as your feel to go, let's say and do something really well. So in regards to young people who might be in this situation now, what's your sort of advice to them in regards to how to treat this situation? Or how to, let's say, leverage it into some motivation? Or what can I really do? Because the reason why I do this whole thing is because I had no guidance, I had no one that sort of helped me even to look up to you. Right? So someone like yourself is a really successful lawyer. Despite having this sort of this hardship in the background, right? He was able to do that. So what's your sort of advice to someone?


tara stark  15:55

Yeah, I guess a few things. The first, and I know it's really difficult to do, but the first thing I'd say is as difficult as what you've been through God, you've got some skills. Like to be a child or adolescent teenager who is kind of surviving that situation means that you know how to do stuff, and for people's situations very, right. But it's really common for young people in that situation, to be the accountant for the family to be the shop, or for the family to be the person who carries the mental load about who needs to be where or what needs to be done. And all of that feels really heavy at the time. But it's something that as you go through life aren't necessary skills that everyone will end up having to build later on down the track, right? Like resilience is something that everyone has to get through. And everyone has to learn once they're booted out of home, or once they leave the nest, you've just learned them earlier. And at the time, that feels really unfair. And you can get really angry, and it's really easy to get bogged down in that anger, I reckon because it just feels wrong, right? You're not supposed to be parenting your parent. And so it's a really difficult situation to be in. But there are things that you're learning the whole way through, which will actually be really valuable. If you can put them to the right uses. The other thing I'd say is find support. I know it's really easy not to trust the institutions. And you've been given reason not to trust the medical profession not to trust tutions not to drop your schooling, if you've been burned, if you feel your family's been burned, that you've been done wrong by the medical profession, that you've been done wrong by psychologists that your family member has. It's really easy to become detached and cynical and cut yourself off. But we're social people, right? We need support, we need community around us. We need to feel as though we've got people that have got our back. And that can be a really difficult thing to find. When you're in a kind of crisis situation at home. But look around school. Look around, it might it won't probably won't be your parents, medical professionals. So like the psychiatrists, psychologists, etc, that are looking after someone with a mental illness, generally speaking, they're still not great at thinking about the rest of the family. But Google it, look for supports, find anything to do with young carers find organizations like satellite, find a youth counselor. I know you've got reason not to trust those sorts of professionals. But you can find good ones and they're the ones that will help you through it.


Joel Kleber  18:52

Really, really great point there. I want to touch on what you just said then about the point about the psychologists or psychiatrists still aren't very good for their whole family because I want to raise this and I'm big on this is that mental health awareness movements fantastic now right so mental health it's it's everywhere, but it seems to be limited just to depression, anxiety, that's Where's people's awareness? Go? Yeah, and obviously there's suicide but there that's depression anxiety seems to be that that's it, right? There's nothing beyond that. So it's interesting, easy conversations, right? Because you know, if you're someone who let's say might have depression or depressed period for a bit, you get all the support in the world etc. Blah, blah, blah. If you're a young carer child or teenager is in a situation like you were let's say even now you're you're you know, you're saying to me that the there's still not even part of the conversation or going to be treated like it just made it just blows my mind in regards to who actually needs the real the support by saying one's more deserving than the other. I guess I'm sort of am but I'm


tara stark  19:56

the ideal situation is that mum gets enough help. that I'm okay. Right. So you do need the person with the mental illness to be getting top care, integrated care, people specialties communicating to specialties and looking after the whole person. So the NDIS coming along has been an improvement for them. And Sad to say, but also moving into the private health system instead of the public health system has been an improvement to. So you do need to look after the person with a mental illness is absolutely best you can because that, of course is going to have the flow on effect if mom's not in crisis, and I'm not going to be in crisis. All right. But then, of course, you can't always ensure that a person with a complex mental illness won't be in crisis that is part and parcel of the disease. And as good as the treatments and supports could be. It's still a really aggressive, awful consuming illness that no matter how much support someone gets, is probably going to be lifelong for someone like my mum. So then, of course, you also need the supports that are there for the family, particularly for the children and for people that that person is supposed to be caring for. And in those periods of incapacity when they can't care for them. Absolutely, those kids and young people need dedicated support. And the key I think, is making sure that those who are treating the person with a mental illness are very aware of the specific supports for those young people or for those family members. I understand why they can't necessarily all be one in the same, like, the psychiatrist that was treating my mom, when I was a kid playing with the toys on the floor, probably specializes in mom's complex mental health, not in my childhood, you know, early learning sort of range, right? Kids need information that is age appropriate, developmentally appropriate. So we need our own specific supports at those different stages. And the key is to make sure the systems kind of all work together so that no one's falling through the cracks.


Joel Kleber  22:00

That the thing I was talking about dreams and roses rose as well before, but this is where it seems to me though they are saying even like some of the, let's say school teachers or psychologists and psychiatrists don't know who to use or refer to which for me, it's just unfair, because you think, all right, go to a web page or go to a site, type this in and bang, there's all your numbers, and there's all your referral there. So from your perspective, because you're obviously involved in it, why? Why doesn't that happen? It seems so logical that should yeah.


tara stark  22:29

When it comes to teachers. Man, they have a difficult job, right? Like, we're in a world where we want them to do amazing things academically for our children, but we also want them to be their social and support network. And they're completely overworked and completely underpaid. And they're all doing from what I've seen of them the absolute best they can in a really difficult situation. So why aren't they going out and doing more? Well, probably they're at their limit. And they would like to if they had the space to, I don't know, I tend to try and think the best of people. And I do think that's often the case for teachers, I do think they want the best for their students. So awareness raising is part of it. But it's making sure that it's awareness about really practical things, as opposed to let's talk about mental health and why it's important. It needs to be you know, these are the the organizations that work in our area. And this is how I tap this child into this particular support. I think there is also a challenge around people feeling really scared about not doing it right. I'd been involved in educating primary school teachers about this sort of situation in one of my previous jobs. In my early 20s, I'd go to primary schools and talk to the teachers about what my situation was like and what teachers could have done for me at that stage. So those sorts of programs were excellent, but they were pretty light on the ground. Like we we didn't get around to every school. And we certainly didn't get around to every teacher and the resources needed for that sort of thing would be enormous. But it's making sure that as much as possible, as much as can be funded as much as we can put those sorts of supports into schools, that people know what the pathway is. So from what I gather, the Victorian government's done something around getting mental health support workers in each primary school, I think that was saying on the ads recently. So it's those people that need to know, this is the particular people that we can refer kids to. And the other thing that was really important part of that discussion that we would have with primary school teachers is that don't be afraid to dip into those situations. I think people when it comes to complex mental illness are scared they're gonna say or do the wrong thing. We're gonna rock what is already a very rocky boat. So it's better not to do anything wrong. If I might upset things, I might do it wrong, I might say the wrong thing, I might send a child to the wrong service, whatever the case may be. So part of the exercise that we would go through with primary school teachers was saying, all right, how do you treat? How would you support a kid who has a new baby at home? Who's just become an older sibling? How would you support a kid whose dad has been diagnosed with cancer? How would you support the kid in X situation? And we wouldn't label them. And we would ask all their tips about how they would support these children. And then one of the groups would say, Well, how would we support a child and as a parent with a complex mental illness, and then we look at the board at the end, and we realize that all the things were the same, right? You don't need to be scared of mental illness or families where there's this really complex, heavy thing going on. Because the way that primary schools can support kids in that situation is the same way they can support the kid who suddenly got a new little family member own. It's things like, sometimes going a little bit easy, if they seem really stressed in the classroom or are struggling to concentrate. It's checking in with them not in a heavy way. But you know, making sure that you're giving them the support they need around their learning and turning up for school each day. It's all the things that primary school teachers already know how to do, how to support their young people. But it's just applying it in a different setting. So hopefully not so fearful of stepping in, and being that support that teachers can be brilliant support for young people in this situation.


Joel Kleber  26:30

That's some great, great points there. And I was gonna say about well, with, with movement now and the mental health movement, you've you've touched on a bit before about the awareness channel. What do you think we need to go now beyond that? What do you think needs to happen beyond this? Everyone knows it's an issue


tara stark  26:46

service. Yeah, it's it's funding for frontline services, right? Because we could talk about it till the cows come home. But if you have to pick up the phone and call the crisis assessment team and be told that, like, literally, these words were said to me when I was a teenager, unless your mom is about to hurt you or herself, we can't help you. Right? So if our system is that stretched, then talking about it's useless. So you need primary health care to be funded, so that our psych nurses aren't burning out so that our psychiatrists can continue to have a heart and see humans, because they're so stretched, that everyone's just having to move through perhaps too quickly. Our hospital system doesn't have enough beds. So people just have to be moved on. Right? So you need to address that. And then you also need to address the intake, because you don't want people to get to crisis point. So you need different levels of service. And there is work going on in this area, right? So there are now centers been designed and set up where you can go and seek mental health support. Without sort of having to go through any of the other formal channels. We need more of that we need places where people can literally turn off and go, I'm not well, or my mum's not well, we need help and support. And the other thing, as I mentioned earlier, is stuff like NDIS. You know why the use of that sort of service, I think for people with a mental illness would be really good. Because if you can pitch it right, then you absolutely can be really well supported as a family. Through those through that funding channel. You know, mom now has support workers that hang out with her during the day, take her to the shops help her with cooking. You know, she has funding for taxis so that she doesn't have to drive because she finds that incredibly stressful, and it's a real anxiety point for her. So it's about making sure that community services, intake type services, and then crisis services are all properly funded, and accessible.


Joel Kleber  29:15

Well, how do we get that shift towards that? Because I feel as I saw this in funding announcements, you know, you got billions of dollars. And you got all these conditions where I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn, I see signs. Commission here, there's another commission here. There's a foundation here and everyone saying on this commission on this commission, and I see we're getting feedback, we're getting feedback, we're getting feedback and then nothing gets really done because as you said that service delivery is is crucial. And the the one that really hits home for me is what you said. So I had this happen to me all the time. Mom would get really unwell we couldn't do anything about it. We didn't even have a cat team was either call the cops or call the ambulance. Right. And that was evil told the same thing unless she gets really well she makes herself voluntary. We you know we comes in you wish you just never going to do we can't do anything right Hmm, that put that put me at a massive risk. And it puts a lot of young people at a huge risk because their parents unwell that could be risky behavior, like getting the car gonna drive to Adelaide, right? When they're high, high or whatever having a manic episode happen to me a bit. So just trying to think, how do we get this point home? Or how do we start getting it these people who are who are saying they're doing all these things, but then they actually, as you know, from your perspective, not putting those system delivery things in place?


tara stark  30:28

I know a question, right?


Joel Kleber  30:31

Well, there's money thrown around everywhere. This is why I get frustrated, I see are these funding announcements and we're gonna fund this and found that, you know, where we know where it needs to actually go, but it doesn't seem to be going to where it needs to?


tara stark  30:43

Yeah, we need infrastructure. Like you need the buildings, right? You need the staff. That's part of the problem. So that's, you know, investing in paying these people well, so that high school leavers go, that might be an interesting and supportive career, like, you know, who wants to go into health care, right? Like every nurse that you speak to is completely burnt out. And they're leaving. Yeah, right. And IT professionals in droves, it's just, ah, if I had the answer, I'd put my hand up for being pm, I don't have the other than saying that we need to address it from a whole bunch of angles, you need to focus on the people, which means you need to start appreciating the staff that are already in there and actually getting giving them appropriate conditions of work and pay. That means you need to draw more people then into the profession by doing that. And that starts with high school, and uni and TAFE, and ensuring all of those systems of feeding into healthcare, then you actually need the buildings, right? Then you need to ensure that you've got systems that are kind of agile, that people can go, because mental illness is just completely changeable, right? Like, one minute, someone's fine and the next their crisis point. So you need a system where people don't have to kind of chop and change their services, depending on where their health is at the time, that they have sort of continuity of care from the same people. So that needs a system that's really flexible. And that takes a lot of money and a lot of people. Yeah, it's a really challenging situation. But it has to start, I think, with the people that are within the system, the staff and go from there.


Joel Kleber  32:41

And what about the actual process for getting a person help? Because you have mentioned that before? But from your perspective, what do you think would be a better improvement to what there is now because you know, how you know how hard it was to get your mom help? When I see that I know how hard it was, and you think it should be a logical thing. You know, they're almost better off to snap their femur in half or their leg in half, and they'll get their help a lot better and why they go but your perspective, what is, is an improvement on the solution that there is currently


tara stark  33:14

people with a mental illness who want this level of support should be able to have some form of social worker or psych nurse that works as like a ongoing assessment intake kind of person I think is in you need someone who the family knows the family trusts, who knows the person who's unwell. It can go right. We're currently at this level of anxiety, psychosis, whatever the case is, make sure you tell your psychologist how can we make sure that you're getting to your psychiatrist appointments? Are you getting there? Are you taking your meds then they need to be available when crisis hits at one eight in the morning. So it probably would need to be a small team of people that work with each person. There's a similar concept in midwifery where it's like small little, like three midwives that work with the one woman and they all know the case and they all work with her, which means that person always has a known person available. So it's kind of that situation, I think that would be ideal where the family and the person have this known consistent contact who is in a position to access the right support for that person at the right time.


Joel Kleber  34:31

And what have you noticed in your advocacy over your career in regards to telling when you're sharing your story with primary school teachers and I'm sure other people time to get funding and things like that. What have you noticed? Have you noticed that people actually come up to you afterwards that I had that situation or what have you what have you noticed about it? Because the point, one thing I really want to start harping on is if people are provenance had this situation that is that telling people and getting involved and the example I always use is Greg Hunt. So Greg Hunt obviously had you know from Michael spective I found it very tough if I sort of think, well, if I was in that position I'd be doing, you know things a little bit differently. But it's hard for me to judge I don't know, government bureaucracies and stuff. But what are you? What did you find? What have you found during your advocacy with? We've talked with corporates or with teachers and these sorts of things,


tara stark  35:16

mental illness is everywhere. absolutely everywhere, right? Doesn't matter what group you talk to, there'll be people that come to you afterwards and say, That's my story. Totally get it been there, done that. I know exactly what you're going through. I've spoken at government level. I've spoken at corporate level. It impacts everyone. Doesn't matter what your walk of life is, right? There's always plenty of people in your room who have experienced it really close to home. And then in some ways that baffles you, right? Because to your point, will our we're not fixed this, if this is something that is affecting all walks of life. And I guess part of that is that it's a complex. It's a complex health issue that affects all parts of a person's life. It can affect housing affects finances, it affects employment, it affects family relationships, it can affect drug or alcohol use. It's just so multifaceted. But yeah, certainly my experience has been that I've never walked into an environment where someone hasn't come up to me afterwards and share their story.


Joel Kleber  36:35

And with your being a director settler, now, what are you? Are you surprised? Were you there at the start? Or how long have you been involved?


tara stark  36:42

I will start as sort of a young person a contributing in an informal way. So I didn't have any formal role with satellite in the beginning. But I attended a number of sort of early meetings around well, what what can we do now that these support programs are no longer being funded? What could we create to fill that gap? So I was part of those discussions at the very beginning, in an informal way. And then I've been a director on the board. My timelines useless, I've got the worst memory for this sort of thing. ladings, seven years? That's. So yeah, wow. Now, I think by the time I'd sort of gone through uni, and finished law school, gotten my feet on the ground with my career. Yeah, sort of came back on in a professional capacity in that sense.


Joel Kleber  37:37

And have you been obviously said, let's get some funding recently, which has been really, really good. And hopefully, they can get more and build that. But he very, you know, how proud of you are of that, because he's obviously rose. There's not a lot of fanfare in doing what she's done, and to sort of suddenly sort of get some reward, or let's say, reward or gets the funding and the recognition. Yeah, after, let's say, a decade. Yeah, you know, it's a must be quite rewarding.


tara stark  38:02

It's awesome. Really, I mean, it's that you often hear, like musicians and stuff, or actors, and then people will call them, you know, they're suddenly the, they've suddenly appeared out of nowhere. And being this, you know, overnight sensation. And in some ways, it feels like sunlights had its moment have been the overnight sensation, because we were, we were specifically named in the report coming out of the Royal Commission, we've had a significant amount of funding, which has now gone into our programs that's validated the value of what we do to expand it further. But as all of those views, those adapters say, there is never an overnight sensation, there has been an enormous amount of work that's gone into it. And just to have been my role in that is tiny compared to what someone like Rose has been tirelessly doing for so much of her professional career. So being able to work near someone who has just given so much. And to have seen how that is now, I guess, coming to fruition in a really beautiful way is yeah, something really lovely to be part of. Yeah.


Joel Kleber  39:17

Now, I think, even though they've got funding, which is great, and we're very appreciative for him, I think there needs to be a lot more funding. So what could a satellite what could a satellite do with all the with an increase in funding? Like obviously, is it just a purely expanding their programs or what are some things or initiatives that you know satellite would want to do, but haven't probably been able to do just with the maybe not enough funding?


tara stark  39:40

I think a large part of what we've been aware of for some time is that schools are a really important jumping point from I guess, life at home to professional support services that are needed. We, unfortunately know that you know, the primary health care providers may not always be the primary source of referral to satellite. Absolutely working on that side of things, certainly social workers and other allied health professionals around families are very good at that. But schools are a place where, you know, I think there's a real opportunity for people to, to access the support that they need. So that's something that satellites certainly keen on doing and making sure that we can, you know, have a really clear pathway from a school environment where a child might be identified as having a parent with a mental illness to the right level of support. And then it's program delivery. It's making sure that there is, you know, we host a range of programs there, we try to sort of cater for every interest, right? There's like, building professional skills, career type stuff, there's creative stuff, there's resilient stuff, there's a whole bunch of programs that we run, and so ensuring that they are being offered regularly enough that people who need them can access them, and also being provided in areas where people can access them. So well and good to be based in Melbourne, right. But that's not just where mental illness leads. And I think we have been good whenever we've had funding that sort of pushing out to regional areas. But it's just never enough. I was gonna say something else. And now, I've lost my train of thought, I'm sorry. So yeah, I think it's about making sure that we can roll those programs out as much as people need them, and then also ensure that we have a greater awareness about what we do so that people will quite easily be able to tap into it. I think the other thing that's really important, though, is making sure that we have also the funding to like to actually pay young people to build our services and to be involved in our services. I think some of the really important advocacy, kind of jobs I've been involved in have been jobs they've been paid. Because we need to recognize that what young people are bringing to the table in these situations is absolutely invaluable. And it's, you know, a level of knowledge that even someone with the professional certificates and degrees can learn a lot from, right. So I think it's really important as well, to ensure that these sorts of whether it's satellite or any other service, that works around mental health can not just drain the resource of these young people, or these family members or young carers, pay them, put them in professional positions, recognize that they come with a skill set that is worth a wage. And I think that's a really important thing to do. And I know satellites very good at that I've been involved with saying they're very good at that. Because, you know, you don't want people to burn out from advocacy, you don't want carers to be going out and spending their psychological energy, when there's so little of it, when you've copies always so full. You don't want that to be just something that is costing them. I think it's something where you can build, build a professional career out of not necessarily just talking, but actually recognizing that there are skills there that people can then translate into direct service delivery, and have plenty of papers with experience working within the system.


Joel Kleber  43:40

I think it's very important. I think also having that passion to do it as well, obviously, they've lived in like in fields, I can make a change in or out a pathway into if they want to become a psychologist or a mental health nurse and obviously being paid. Well. You have that accelerated pathway with someone who's really passionate about that, about that field.


tara stark  43:58

Yeah, there's risks too though. If you work with something that's too close to home, it can get really difficult. So we need to ensure that people have also been supported throughout that process. Because talking about something that's quite difficult, is something that can re traumatize you. So there's got to be a lot of self care skills that come along with building sort of a professional career around what you've lived at home, I think.


Joel Kleber  44:26

Sure, yeah. So we've gone for a while Tara so thank you very much for your time. Um, I know you're very busy and you've got a young family so I don't want to keep you for too much longer in a very cold Friday night. If people can want to find out more about your stories, your story online anywhere via obviously they can read about you on satellite.



No particular


tara stark  44:47

place where it's all written down or anything like that, that. Yeah, I'm certainly around the tracks at satellite and have been on same speaker's list for a while. Yeah, hopefully anything that people have heard has been helpful here tonight.


Joel Kleber  45:06

Norris Thank you very much I really appreciate it. So there you go Tara Stark when absolutely gun and thank you very much to terrify the time it's got a young family very busy person so I really do appreciate the time and I could have went for a bit longer but I was conscious she had a family and I didn't want to keep her for too much longer and a Friday night. But it's just a great story to share really inspirational and for someone to have that sort of background. And you know, to live with that harsh will live all this hardship to go on to achieve what she's done professionally. Absolutely amazing. And to give back as well is really really really important. So, but on your target and thank you very much for giving me that time. Unlimited experience we did make to the episode please consider leaving a review. I do have another interview dropping next week as well with me and Emily unity, which I think we get a lot out of if you do want to share your story and the lived experience. Feel free Don't be shy. Reach out to me on lived experience. podcast.com There's a contact form and send me a message I will get back to you. So I hope you enjoyed that episode in the lab. And until next week. Stay safe

Tara StarkProfile Photo

Tara Stark

Lawyer and Mental Health Advocate

Tara Stark is a prominent lawyer, board member of Satellite Foundation, and also a has been a young carer. Tara knows firsthand the challenges of growing up with a parent who has a serious mental illness. In this episode, Tara shares her story about having a parent with a serious mental illness, advocacy, and most importantly, what needs to change with the current system.

Before entering law, Tara worked in local government and public mental health sector roles supporting children, young people, and families affected by mental illness.

Tara has also been engaged as a speaker and community advocate on behalf of many mental health organisations and governmental bodies, emphasizing the role of young carers.

Huge thanks to Tara for sharing her story and making time for the podcast.