Q and A with VSAC youth representative Natasha Anderson

Natasha Anderson is the youngest member of the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC) and draws on her lived experience to give children and young people a voice in family violence reform.

Friday 24 May 2019 7:07am

The award-nominated animation ‘TASH’ tells Natasha Anderson’s personal story of family violence for the first time.

Natasha wrote, directed, illustrated and narrated the film, which tells the story of her experience of growing up with family violence, living in out-of-home care and how it affected her.

‘TASH’ will have its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in June and is one of just three films to be nominated for the prestigious Yoram Gross Award for Best Animation.

This award offers one of the most generous prizes for a short animation in Australia and winners are eligible for an Academy Award.

The nomination also means the film is eligible for the Screenplay Award and Award for Best Director at the Festival.

Produced and supported by Family Safety Victoria (FSV) the film raises the volume of children’s voices with lived experience of family violence – through one inspirational young person.

It is a significant milestone for Natasha and everyone at FSV wishes her the best of luck with the screening and the awards.  

FSV’s Will Atkinson sat down with Tash for a chat about the film ahead of its debut at the Sydney Film Festival.

How do you feel about your story being turned into an animation that’s nominated for awards at the 2019 Sydney Film Festival?

Kind of weird! Instead of it being something that someone else has taken from me, it’s something that I’m able to talk about myself, from my own perspective. It’s me telling it as it is, and me taking control over my story, whereas before, previously that wasn’t the case. I wasn’t able to do that.

How are you feeling about your film being shown at the Sydney Film Festival next month?

Super excited! I’m kind of expecting someone to call and up and say “Hey, we got it wrong”! My family’s pretty happy about it and they want to come to the event. 

Do you think listening and responding to children’s first-hand accounts of their stories should be the response to all children experiencing family violence?

It definitely should be. It gives control back to young people and supports them to have that power to tell their own stories, the way that they believe it to be and the way it is. It makes it powerful for them.

What would you say to people who think children and young people are too young, or immature, or don’t know who they are yet, and so can’t make their own decisions?

For a lot of young people, it’s about supporting them to learn about their own story, and if that’s not possible, helping them create their own story. Supporting them and sharing with them exactly what their life can be about for them going forward, instead of trying to protect them from their own life. Because without knowing about who they are, they are going to go through their entire life asking ’What’s wrong with me?’, ‘Who am I?’ and they will just shut down from the system entirely rather than engage with it.

How could the system help a young person and who maybe doesn’t feel they know who they are?

I understand that sometimes there’s information that shouldn’t be shared with young people, but it’s simple things like explaining why you had to leave your last placement, or telling you where you’re going next, or even just sitting with them and having the conversation about where they want to go.

Did that ever happen for you?

No, it definitely didn’t happen!

After turning 18 it was then up to me, and that made it really hard.

There’s still a lot of frustration towards the things that had happened while I was in care and while I was a young person in a family violence circumstance. People would often hide from me the reasons why I was moving placements, or what was happening with my family. They would just say it was about protecting me.

What is your message for those working with children and young people?

There are a few things. First of all, hiding the truth can be just as damaging as not telling them the truth, in some circumstances. Being transparent about the things that are happening to them, is a big one. But also treating them as actual human beings and not a part-person, like they’re still not mature so therefore they still don’t have the same capacity to make decisions and understand their situation. Talk through with them why they might feel like they’re damaged, or there’s something wrong with them.

What is the cost if we don’t follow those steps?

You create a generation of young people that go into adult life with no understanding of who they are, where they come from and with massive frustration for the system. And a lot of them might go into adulthood repeating the same cycle that their family did, because no one’s explained to them that that situation was not ok, therefore they’re just going on in an endless cycle of abuse and neglect and family violence.

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Reviewed 23 June 2021

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