Staff reflect on what family means this National Families Week

National Families Week is held every year between 15 and 21 May, and the theme for 2017 is ‘Stronger families, stronger communities’. Department of Human Services Social Media Advisers Clarissa, Renata and Sarah talk about the strong bond they have with their families, and what family means to them .

Clarissa, who works for the department in Canberra, is a twin, but Clarissa and her sister Briana aren’t the only twins in her family!

“There are three sets of fraternal twins on my mum’s side. I’m a twin, and both of my aunties have twins,” Clarissa said.

“Growing up as a twin was nice, it’s like having a partner in crime. You always had someone to do things with, so I never got lonely. I also remember a lot of matching outfits – thanks Mum!”

Although Clarissa and Briana are twins, they couldn’t be more different.

“People don’t believe we are twins because we don’t look alike at all,” she said.

“We have different personalities, Briana was the adventurous kid and I preferred to sit on the sidelines watching her get into mischief.”

Despite their differences, Clarissa and Briana are very close.

“I always know when she’s feeling down and it affects me. Being so close to someone, you always want them to be happy.

“Family means everything to me, family is number one. I’m Italian and have grown up with those values. I don’t think any amount of time with them is ever enough.”


The move across Bass Strait to the big smoke in Melbourne was an adventure and a major adjustment for Hobart girl Renata – and her sisters. The triplets were living apart for the first time.

For Renata, family means always being there for each other regardless of distance.

“It was strange this year on our birthday – it’s the first one I can remember the three of us not being together,” Renata said. “Instead of sharing birthday cake together we had to ring each other to say ‘Happy Birthday’. It sounds strange, but usually we wouldn’t do that.

“We’ve got an older brother, 18 months after he was born we came along. There was no history of multiple births – well there is now I suppose!”

Renata and her sisters always had the same interests and circle of friends. The girls attracted a lot of curiosity but for each, going through that with their two best friends made it a lot easier.

“We took part in quite a few studies. At times it felt like we were a bit of a novelty,” Renata said. “One of my sisters and I are identical. But we politely, and firmly, set people straight when they ask ‘Oh are you guys twins?’ – ‘No. We’re triplets.’

“I’ve got to admit we sometimes enjoyed watching their faces as they tried to get their heads around it.”

Growing up, ‘family’ meant Renata never had to be by herself. Although not so physically close anymore, she still feels the bond and the support, love and respect which was the foundation for her childhood and family life.

“I’ve found I really don’t like being completely by myself,” Renata said. “But I know my sisters are only a call away – and they’re always looking for an excuse to come visit me in Melbourne.”


Families come in different shapes and sizes. Sarah who works for the department in Melbourne has a family which firmly sits at the ‘larger’ end of the scale.

The eldest of 7 kids, Sarah has 16 uncles and aunties – then there are their wives, husbands and partners. Then there are the cousins.

“It’s impossible to get us all in one place at one time – I’m not sure it’s ever been done!” Sarah said. “But when we gather in big groups, parking is usually the biggest problem.

“Being the eldest of 7, I was definitely protective of my younger siblings and still am! We used to fight a lot as kids, it’s inevitable when there are so many of you, but we’re all quite close now as adults.

“My sister lost her home in a fire around 6 months ago, and it was family who rallied around them to get them back on their feet. My cousins were even a part of the Country Fire Associate crew who attended the fire. It was one of the most incredible displays of love and generosity I’ve ever seen, and that’s what family really is.

“To me, family are the people who are there for you in both the good times and the bad. I’m incredibly lucky to have such a supportive family,” Sarah said.

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