I adopted four kids with disabilities

Trish and Glenn Mowbray with their sons Luke, Peter and Paul, their daughter Emmalee and her son Noah.

Trish and Glenn Mowbray with their sons Luke, Peter and Paul, daughter Emmalee and her son Noah. © Fairfax.

Trish and her husband Glenn first looked into adoption nearly 30 years ago after discovering they wouldn’t be able to conceive children themselves.

Desperate for a family of their own, the Canberra couple took in any kids who needed a loving home, adopting a daughter with cerebral palsy and three sons with Down syndrome over the next five years.

This year, Trish has received an OAM for her services to people with a disability, and is a finalist in the Australian of the Year, Local Hero category, for the ACT.

“I worked as a special needs teacher, and had seen children left to languish in homes first hand,” Trish says.

“I knew I could give those kids a better life, and happily my husband agreed after visiting an institution with me.”

Describing adoption as a gruelling process for anyone, Trish will always be thankful for the women who gave up their children.

“Their courage and selflessness meant my husband and I could have a family, and I am forever grateful for them,” she says.

Trish’s children; Luke (27), Peter (26), Emmalee (24) and Paul (22), are all still living at home, with a young grandson also joining the mix.

“Our daughter’s health issues have resolved, and now she’s a single mum to her beautiful son, Noah,” Trish says, adding: “It’s a bit of a squeeze, but we love having everyone at home.”

Trish’s work for people living with a disability extends beyond her family, and she works both in a paid and volunteer capacity for the Catholic Church.

“I want to show people how much my sons can do, despite their disabilities, so I organised a group called the Shamrocks,” she says.

“The boys do a range of jobs – making packages for the needy, photocopying – tasks that are useful and make them feel valued.

“They get to hang out with their peers, and I spend time with other parents who have children with disabilities – it’s lovely watching the boys at work.”

As well as her voluntary work, Trish works as the church’s National Disability Projects Officer. It’s a full schedule by anyone’s standards but Trish doesn’t think she’s anything special.

“I just do it,” she says. “I’m fairly structured, and home life has truly been a joy … I feel blessed.”

Trish is uncomfortable with her recent accolades, insisting she has no idea who nominated her for the awards, but admits she has enjoyed the process of meeting other nominees.

“It was lovely to meet all the ACT finalists, and it will be very special to be part of the Australia Day celebrations next year,” she says.

Trish adds that she wishes other people could see the potential she does in people living with a disability.

“Each of our children has been a gift,” she says. “I see what they can do, not what they can’t do, and it frustrates me that others can’t see what they add to society.

“My eldest son is profoundly deaf and suffers from severe autism as well as Down syndrome.

“Last week I saw him sitting on the couch with Noah, our grandson, teaching him the alphabet on his iPad. It brought tears to my eyes.

“They’re like hidden treasures to me: revealing incredible moments when I least expect it. Watching someone reach their full potential is a gift, and I feel so lucky to be with my children on their journey.”

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