One Moana is all we need…

27 June 2017

Helen Johnston is a care experienced young person and a lover of all things Disney. Here she relates the relationships she made in care, or didn’t, with the characters in her favourite film.


Lately I’ve been obsessed with one of Disney’s most recent films – Moana, and I can’t help but compare it to the journey I’ve been on, and the journey of other care experienced young people.

Moana is someone who is determined to see her people succeed and thrive, and perseveres even when all odds are against her, so she’s sort of like those ‘key relationships’ we all need and deserve in our lives. Her island and the people on it are our communities, our peers, our corporate parents.

The stigma of care

Regardless of how much her island means well, their actions are hindering Moana and themselves. You could almost say that they’re setting their people up to fail in the same way that our peers, our communities, our corporate parents set up care experienced young people to fail in the past. Despite their best intentions, there was and often still is, an ingrained prejudice and stigma that exists toward the care experienced voice within our communities.

Tifitti, (or Mother Nature depending on how you see her in the film) is like me in the sense that she represents our care experienced people. No matter how good, true and kind she is, the islanders and those that encounter her only get to see a certain side of her- the angry, aggressive front she’s put up to protect herself. They don’t see the good because they don’t take the time to challenge their own negative perceptions and the myths surrounding the care experienced community.

Now these points do come together so bear with me.

See past our defences

Tifitti has put up a front, a defence to keep people out, in the same way that many of us with care experience do, we put up a facade to keep those around us out. To protect ourselves in whatever way we can. It’s a coping mechanism for many of us, to save ourselves from the hurt and chaos that results from trusting the people around us in the past. It’s a wall we create to keep people out, to keep them at a distance in order to self-protect.  People around us often don’t stick around long enough to see past our defences. Each time someone leaves us our wall gets higher because it somehow proves to us that we are right to keep people out of our lives. However, the magic really happens when just one person stays, through good and bad.

Moana sticks around Tifitti long enough to see through her front, long enough to see the good, the love, the beauty within her. Moana sees Tifitti for who she truly is and not for who she is pretending to be. It is Moana’s love and care that manages to break through Tifitti’s armour.

Now in my head it just makes sense, if we just had one Moana in their lives can you imagine the difference it could make to us? If we all had at least one person who could see through our facade, who saw who we truly are and loved us enough to persevere and stick around where others have failed and left us?

Remarkable things can happen when someone cares

I absolutely adore Moana, but I think it’s my love for what the film represents to me that truly holds my heart. Now don’t get me wrong I am a Disney lover, most of my childhood was spent curled up with my sisters and a Disney film, but it is the hope and love present throughout the film that really, truly has me captivated.

We need more Moana’s in our lives, more determined, caring and giving people to stand up and own us because remarkable things happen when they do. When someone takes the time to go against the stigma, to stand up and claim a care experienced person, our defences, our armour grows less impenetrable. When someone takes the time to actually stop and look beneath our masks, we are given the chance to shine. Having just one person makes the unbearable bearable, and yes it may not take the pain away or fix everything, but it allows the process of healing to begin.

If we all had a Moana, can you imagine how unstoppable our family would be?

Read Kenny McGhee's blog - The Power of Caring Relationships

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders.

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