Our Founder

Stolen childhood: I’m on a mission to help kids suffering the way I did

Lesley Porter remembers a lot about her childhood. A car crash killed her whole family, and the five-year-old was the only survivor. A traumatic childhood followed. But Lesley's most vivid memory is as an 11-year-old visiting a riding school at a holiday farm for the first time.

“The magic and healing that happened there was just unbelievable,” says Lesley of an experience she believes saved her life. “For the first time in my life I felt loved, and I thought when I grow up I’m going to have a place just like that.”

That place is The Good Life Farm, where kids who’ve facing similar battles are welcomed into a transformative natural environment that allows distressed young minds to rediscover their innocence - and find a path to a better future.

“I see a bit of myself everyday in these kids,” she says. “I see their struggles. I see their happies. I see their connection to the animals and I see that this place gives them a reason to live.”

Lesley’s Story

After the accident in which everyone in her family was killed she and her stepmother and grandmother emigrated to Australia.

We moved around from auntie to auntie, and finally ended up living with people who didn’t want a young girl in the house. So I was locked out, and lived outside with the animals. I was allowed in to eat my dinner and then I had to go to bed. I stayed in the shed.

My escape from this was the animals. I had a rabbit that lived in the caravan with me. I had a labrador called Punch and a pony called Patch. I used to hop on Patch, and we’d ride all around the forest with Punch running at our heels.

That’s where my love of animals comes from. They were the light in the darkness.

Finally, after two years of abuse my grandmother and I moved to Healesville. I started going to a riding school at a local holiday farm run by a lovely couple called Josie and Jim who took me under their wing. There were horses, cows, goats, dogs and chooks.

When they agreed to let me ride the horses in exchange for mucking out the stables after school and at weekends, I was thrilled.

From that moment my life changed.

The Farm That Saved My Life

The other kids there came from boarding schools, so you wouldn’t think we were alike. But they never saw their parents, so you could say there was one common denominator - they didn’t really have a mum and dad either.

We’d all go riding and we’d sing and we’d laugh and we’d feed the animals, and then we’d walk down the street with the goats and sheep, and go back and play pool and all sorts of games.

The healing wasn’t in counselling - there were no counsellors. It was with each other. All the kids benefited. Even the quiet ones would come out of their shells as we chucked mud at each other.

I ended up a team leader, and ran a lot of the programs from a very young age. I was quite independent because of my past. I met my husband Kevin and best friend there. I still have other friends from that farm.

It was just the most magic, magic place. It saved my life. It was the start of my own family life.

Caring for others like me

After Kevin proposed we saved up to buy a house with land. We had two kids, Bryan and Tennille, as well as horses, goats, chickens and orphaned joeys and wombats.

I’d experienced the healing of the holiday farm, and seen how other kids like me healed in the same way.

I wanted to do the same for others, so I went to TAFE and studied horticulture, training and assessment and youth work.

It took a while, and I split up with Kevin, but we kept on good terms and I transformed the home we had shared on Chum Creek Road into The Good Life Farm for vunerable young people.

A $50,000 loan paid for the construction of a classroom and paths around the farm. The kids helped me build fences and animal pens.

We opened our doors to the kids in 2005, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before we started to see amazing transformations.

Finding someone who cares

Jim and Josie’s farm showed me that there are people who care. That what happened to me wasn’t right. That’s why I know young people are the victims.

The kids who come to The Good Life Farm haven’t had a chance. Most can’t read or write when they come here.

They don’t know any other way than what they’re used to. And this is what we do here - we show them that there is another way.

I see their struggles. I see their happiness. I see their connection to the animals and I think ‘yes, I’ve got them’. And that bond means that I’ve tugged at their heart.

I see that this place gives them a reason to live. That the farm where I went gave me a reason to live, and that I know they are going to be all right because we are showing them lots of good things in life.

It’s not all bad. They don’t have to repeat the cycle. It’s about breaking the cycle. Lots of us just say ‘this is the way it is’, and the next generation there’s sexual abuse and violence and the next generation after that.

We can stop that. We talk to the kids about it frequently. We tell them: “You have choices. Every day of your life. A choice to stop it and go in the other direction or continue on the road you are going down.”

And that’s what we really want to project - that there are other ways of doing things.

What The Good Life Farm means to me

What it means for me is that my life has purpose. I had an extremely hard childhood and spent a lot of my time wishing I was dead.

Then I started at the riding school on the holiday farm and that changed everything.
Seeing the young people here I know I have a purpose, that I was meant to stay here and do what I’m doing. We’re making a difference and changing lives.