11 March, 2021
Chris and Bill Fairbrother have lived on the Tablelands for the past 30 years. During that time, they both worked as chaplains at the Lotus Glen Correctional facility and have foster cared for over 110 children. Now they have decided to slow down and retire from official duties.
Yungaburra couple who served as chaplains at the Lotus Glen correctional
facility for nearly 20 years and foster cared for over 100 children have
decided to call it a day and start their retirement.
Before moving to Yungaburra over 30 years ago they lived and worked in remote Cape York communities.
The couple will also celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this easter and have now decided to spend more time together and with their family. Chris said that they were originally invited by another Chaplin to volunteer at the jail.
“We were invited into Lotus Glen to wander around and meet some of the inmates and for a while we were resource workers, holding courses for the inmates,” she said.
After a few years, the Fairbrother’s were asked to become the prison chaplains.
“It meant we had the full run of the prison and could and talk to the inmates in their units,” Chris said.
“Sometimes we visited a couple of times a week, but we liked to visit the jail minimum once week.
“It was a great feeling working in the jail, the inmates were always open to having a chat or asking for advice.”
Chris said she always felt safe. “The people in there are just like you and me when they’re not drinking or getting into trouble, I felt safe at all times,” she said.
“A lot of them were interested in talking to us about how they could change their lives, so we would explain right from wrong and explaining how domestic violence works and how they should always walk away.
“Once people got out, we were not supposed to contact them, but we would often get stopped in the street and they would tell us how they had turned their life around and would give us updates on their life.”
Chris and Bill had three children of their own and over the past 40 years they also foster cared for more than 110 children.
“We started fostering in the 1970s after we saw an advertisement for foster carers,” Chris said.
“Our first foster child was born deaf and she lived with us for 4 years. After she moved on, we enquired about taking care of other children.
“We ended up with a lot of children who were born with disabilities and we cared for a lot who were born very sick.
“We mostly looked after sick infants that stayed with us for a year or two until they became better and were ready to go into permanent care.”
Chris admits that it was hard raising a baby and then having to let go. “We understand that we never posses a child we only care for children,” she said.
“Even though you love them as much as your own children it’s always good if they are going onto a better situation later.”
Chris said she is still in contact with a lot of the foster children she helped raise. “A lot of them have grown up, gotten married and had their own children and have stayed in contact and we get photos of their children which makes us very happy.”
For all of her community work, Chris was awarded an OAM as part of the Australia Day Honors list on January 2021, for service to children and to the community. An acknowledgement that Chris said would not have received if not for her husband.
“Even though I received the medal, Bill and I have done all the hard work together.”
Now that Chris and Bill have retired from the jail, she said that they would never really retire.
“We are very involved in our local Anglican church in Yungaburra and we do a lot of gardening and I volunteer in the local op shop, so we are always busy.”