March 4, 2024

“Friendships instead of fighting” – Finding a new freedom in South Australia

When the walls close in

Joanne couldn’t blame her eldest son James for wanting to leave home. A three-bedroom house for a family of six doesn’t offer a young person much time or space to be a teenager. At 16, James was couch surfing more often than he was sleeping in his own bed. At one point, he pitched a tent in the backyard to escape the increasing tension and cramped confines inside the small house his family had clearly outgrown.

“It was hard not knowing where he was,” Joanne says. “I hoped he was safe. And I knew the people that he was with, but it’s not the same as being home under your family’s roof. There was just no stability.”

Joanne says her two girls were ok sharing a room because “girls usually get along better” but by the time James reached 15, he didn’t want to share a room with his seven year-old brother. It reached a point where Joanne felt “he didn’t consider this his place anymore”.

Diverting the pathway from uncertainty to opportunity

The Kids Under Cover Studio Program has been designed as an early intervention solution to the problem of young people leaving home – often due to overcrowding – before they have developed the skills or can access the resources required for independent living. In short, the aim is to mitigate the risk of homelessness through the provision of extra space. However, the impacts of the program have proven much more far-reaching and include relieving household conflict and tension, strengthening family bonds and offering greater clarity about future educational and career pathways. Studies like this from Swinburne University’s Paul Stolz also show that the additional space offered by a Kids Under Cover studio can assist in the development of identity and a sense of belonging for young people that is often lacking in crowded households

A welcome addition to a family on edge

When a Kids Under Cover studio was installed in Joanne’s backyard, there was an immediate shift in the dynamics of the family unit. Tension between the siblings eased along with Joanne’s anxiety, which had permeated the household. The stress of James’ restlessness was replaced by the opportunity to rekindle family bonds and prepare a pathway forward. It was the first time any of Joanne’s children could enjoy a bedroom of their own, a bathroom of their own and “their own place they can call home”.

At first, Joanne admits she wasn’t exactly sure what to expect having a Colourbond Studio built in the backyard. Being a keen gardener there was some concern that it might

look and feel out of place. But she’s since grown to love how it has fit in, saying she’s “made it look like it grew in my backyard and that my garden just grew around it.”

Joanne also became fascinated by the eco-friendly Durra Panel that’s used for the walls and ceilings of every Kids Under Cover studio. She explains how her curiosi

ty led to some deep research into the durability and energy efficiency of the locally produced building material. She also appreciates a feature that the studio designs have purposefully omitted.

“One thing I’ve really liked, is that James still  had that chance to spend time with everyone else in the house, and then he could go off and enjoy the quietness.”

“He was still connected to us without being in the house. He had his freedom and could do what he wanted when he wanted; come and go when he needed… he loved it because it was his own place.”

Adapting to a family’s shifting needs

James’ experience in the studio offered him a freedom without detachment. It came at a poignant chapter of his journey and enabled the development of independence at a critical period of personal growth.

When James left home to start his own family, Joanne’s eldest daughter, Heather, had the chance to enjoy the extra space. The studio allowed her the separation she needed to complete an online diploma in Music Management while also working in a medical office. It gave her a privacy she’d never known and a sense of independence that’s helping her prepare for life outside of home.

Reflecting on the impact the studio has had for her family, and particularly on the outcome for her eldest son who she feared had lost his connection to home, Joanne notes a marked improvement in the relationship between the siblings.

“It was a relief because there wouldn’t be any bickering – no, I can’t say that because we’re a family, there’s always bickering – but there would be less bickering and arguing because the constant stresses aren’t there. It was friendships instead of fighting.”

“It gave her a privacy she’d never known and a sense of independence that’s helping her prepare for life outside of home.”



*Names and images have been changed to protect the identities and privacy of Studio Program participants.