ACT News

Patricia Mowbray, OAM

Carer who takes work home

Not many people have the compassion and commitment to adopt a child with special needs - much less four.

But for Queen's Birthday honour recipient Trish Mowbray, her chosen career in disability has ended up being her life's work.

Queen's Birthday honours recipient, Trish Mowbray, at her home in Macquarie with her husband Glenn and adopted children, ...
Queen's Birthday honours recipient, Trish Mowbray, at her home in Macquarie with her husband Glenn and adopted children, Emmalee, 24, and her five-month-old son, Noah, Paul, 21 (in red), Peter, 26 (with hat), and Luke, 28. Photo: Graham Tidy

Growing up in western Sydney, Mrs Mowbray first remembers the compassion of her aunt and uncle in caring for her cousin Sharon, who has cerebral palsy.

''I remember watching how they loved and looked after Sharon and how open they were to her friends and, while I was keen to consider a medical career, I went into special education teaching instead.''

The career skills she learned would end up as life skills when Mrs Mowbray and her husband Glenn learned they could not have children biologically and decided to offer their love and home to a child with a disability.

''We wanted a baby, and when we learned there were no babies available, we stumbled across a special needs list so we ticked the disability section and put our trust in God.''

Luke, a child with Down syndrome, changed their lives for the better.

''I was a little scared at first because I had worked with children with a disability and I knew it was a lifelong commitment. Glenn was really open to it.''

Their commitment did not stop with Luke.

As Mrs Mowbray gave up work to care for Luke full time, the couple added to the brood with Peter, who also has Down syndrome, followed by a daughter with a medical condition which has since been resolved, Emmalee, and finally, Paul, a third son with Down syndrome.

''I'll be honest and say that it has had its challenging moments. But our children have taught us patience, resilience and perseverance. There is a lot of love in this family.''

Even more since Emmalee gave Mrs Mowbray her first grandson, Noah.

''Whenever things get really hard, our children say something to snap us out of it. I say at home that we don't like to play the misery Olympics because sometimes in the disability world, parents are expected to focus on the negative aspects of disability rather than the gifts and talents of their children.''

As many parents wonder how to continue caring for their grown children as they age, the Mowbray

family has plans in place for Luke, Peter and Paul to remain in the family home with the support that they need to be able to live as independently as possible.

''I think it is really important to plan for retirement and to look to the future when we are no longer in a position to care for our sons.''

Along with raising her children, Mrs Mowbray has worked tirelessly as a volunteer in various educational, community and faith-based organisations and more recently as a part-time employee with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference as its disability projects officer.

She doesn't quite recall how she found the time for work on top of caring for four children of her own. But she is shocked and overwhelmed by her honour which she says also honours her entire family.

  • For a full list of the ACT's 2013 Queen's Birthday award winners, click here and follow the prompts.