It’s not every day your son is diagnosed with autism. But for Mary and Javier Centenera, of Two Wells, that day 30 years ago is one they’ll never forget.
While Mary says it was a shock, it was also the start of a new and beautiful journey.
In her self-published book “Hunno Pappy,” in her dedication to Joseph, she explains, “People sometimes say our life is harder because of you, that you are our cross in life. How little do they know! You are our special angel because you are a big help to us. You bring out the goodness in us.”
Originally from the Philippines, the family migrated to Australia in 1982 and made a life for themselves in Sydney with their two older children, Tito and Joan.
When Joseph was born in 1983 he was like every other typical baby.
But by the age of two Mary and Javier started noticing Joseph was not like other toddlers, he was hyper-active, had repetitive behaviour, and he also did not speak.
The family sought medical help, first with a local GP and then later with a specialist, who diagnosed Autism.
They were on a steep, and at times, challenging learning curve but always had the family’s best interests at heart.
With this in mind the Centeneras made the decision in 2000 to move to Two Wells, where Javier had family who wished to sell him a chicken farm.
It proved to be an astute move both professionally and personally, with the family finding welcome support from extended family members, as well the opportunity to send Joseph to a specialist school for autistic children, which was close by.
The change was a big one for the family, one requiring a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment, but it meant Mary and Javier could work together and help Joseph at the same time.
In her book Mary tells of a time when her two older children – who had stayed in Sydney to live – came for a visit and writes, “Our move was bringing positive changes. To see their Pappy working so hard because of Joseph was very inspiring and touching. To see me actually getting involved in the farm work and enjoying it was unbelievable, as I’d always been an office girl. And to see Joseph being transformed from a young student to a hard working young man was no longer a wistful thought. It was happening.”
The Centeneras’ story is set to feature in an upcoming television production, which will be televised to a global audience.
The ABC’s Dream Australia television series will appear on the ABC international channel Australia Network (AN), which broadcasts into more than 44 countries in the Asia, India sub-continental and the South Pacific regions.
Regional Development Australia, Barossa network, has part-funded the project in conjunction with the District Council of Mallala, with the 15-episode series set to explore the realities for hundreds of thousands of people who move to Australia each year, capturing real human-interest stories and delving into the differences in culture, language, lifestyle and geography for those who have decided to start a new life here.
Dream Australia producer, Paul Butler, said the show was intent on promoting regional South Australia and had also filmed in the South East of the state, with a family from Port Pirie recently featured.
Each story will run in a format similar to the ABC’s popular Australian Story program, where a presenter will set the scene with a brief introduction of overlay footage showing the audience where in Australia the family has moved to.
The family will then tell their personal story about their journey.
The inspiring Centenera episode will hopefully air before the end of the year, so watch this space!