Moving out of hospital and into community

Before coming to the Synapse Cairns Community Living, Fiona was living in hospital in Townsville. She said, “I didn’t like it, it was too cold with the aircon on. I wanted to come outside.” 

Fiona lives in one of 8 supported units built purposefully and thoughtfully by Synapse. The focal point of the place is a large breezeway, which provides shelter without feeling enclosed, even during the wet season. This acts as an informal gathering place where everyone feels completely welcome. 

Kowanyama - home to Fiona

Home to Fiona is Kowanyama on the Cape York Peninsula, a 23 hour drive north-west of Cairns where Fiona currently lives in the Synapse Cairns Community Living.

When Fiona describes her home of Kowanyama, she talks of water, the mouth of the river and the ocean. Kowanyama means ‘place of many waters’, and is where the Mitchell River meets the ocean. Kowanyama has a population of just under a thousand people.

Food in Kowanyama is so very different to food in Cairns. Back home Fiona eats wallaby, geese, ibis and swamp turtle. Flying fox gets stewed in a Kup Murri. Fishing is a big part of Fiona’s way of life.

Fiona grew up surrounded by family. “We come from a lot of family. Straight across from (our house) is dad’s family, next my mum’s family and straight across from there, my dad’s nephew, next my dad’s brother.”

Fiona says, “I think about home every day. I just want to go home for one week, one month. I want to go tomorrow, but I don’t live there anymore.”

Synapse Cairns Community Living Initiative

The positive difference moving out of hospital and into her new home in Cairns has made, is stark. While it’s not really ‘home’ for Fiona, she confides that she imagines she’ll be here for a long time.

The respectful way that Synapse Cairns Community Living supports Fiona and honours her culture are equally as important as the purposefully designed physical environment she lives in.

Find out more about the Cairns Community Living Initiative