Unconditional love a game-changer

Published 9:00am 28 December 2021

Unconditional love a game-changer
Words by Jodie Powell

When self-confessed “frustrated naughty kid” Corey Gieskens was kicked out of home at the age of 12, he never imagined he would go on to become a high school teacher.

But Corey did just that – starting his career as a teacher at Pine Rivers State High School – the very school at which he was a troublesome disengaged truant a few decades earlier.

Coming from a “very dysfunctional” family life, Corey recalls bouncing between his separated parents from the age of five.

He says that as he approached his teenage years, he was getting “pretty rough around the edges” and was involved in “some pretty ordinary activity”.

“I was wagging school for a few weeks straight, being really naughty to get attention, and I thought that was a way my father would give it to me,” he says.

Confronting moment

“One day I came home and my dad had packed up my bedroom, put all the boxes in the back of the car and took me to the local police station.

“He told a policeman he would drive the car until the petrol tank was half empty and that’s where he was going to leave me, unless the police found somewhere for me to stay.”

Corey was referred to Carinity Orana, which has provided crisis accommodation for homeless teens and teenagers at risk of becoming homeless at Bald Hills for the past 40 years.

His stay of just over 12 months changed his life and Corey says if it was not for Carinity Orana, he believes he would have struggled to survive and likely ended up in prison.

“It was initially a bit scary as a lot of the other kids that were there were a lot more hardened and older,” Corey says.

Turning point

“Having youth workers in the house who were there to encourage me regardless of whether I was naughty or not was great, and I attended school the whole time I was there.

“I was very happy there as I was getting the attention that I was craving. I felt loved and I felt really supported there.

“Up until then I hadn’t felt that in my life. That unconditional love was very foreign to me.”

Corey is one of about 6000 young people who have stayed in Carinity Orana’s emergency housing and accessed education and training, which aim to provide a pathway to a more positive future.

“The school that I was at during my time at Orana, I actually went back to as a teacher and some of the staff who taught me were still there. The comments around that time were that people were surprised I wasn’t in prison,” Corey says.

“Apart from being a school teacher, I’ve been very active helping young people outside of school and I’ve helped many, many homeless kids through youth groups.”

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