The shared tragedy that helped Kelly make lifelong friends

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Kelly Randall was two years old when her father died from injuries sustained during the Vietnam War.

Her mother was only in her early 20s, and had not long migrated from Papua New Guinea, when her older husband died and she was left a widow and single mother.

Legacy beneficiary Kelly Randall says Remembrance Day is a significant event for her.Credit: Wolter Peeters

Randall, 23, has no memories of her father, but she recalls her mother working hard as a cleaner, often taking weekend shifts, and showing up to events for fathers at school.

“I remember going to a sleepover at my best friend’s house and I could see what was missing in my own life because I could see what my best friend’s father was doing for her,” Randall said.

Kelly Randall with her mother.

“It was quite sad, but obviously I had my mum there to do those things. Even if it was labelled as a Father’s Day thing, she would just come anyway.”

When Randall started school, not long after moving from Adelaide to Brisbane, she started receiving support from Legacy.

The charity, which is best known for supporting 40,000 widows and widowers of veterans, also helps 580 children.

Sydney Legacy president Ian Thompson expects the demand from young families to double in the next decade.

“We are seeing a decrease in our older widows who are sadly passing away,” Thompson said. “However, younger families are coming through to Legacy Clubs as a result of Australia’s longest war, 20-plus years, in Afghanistan.”

The first Randall knew of the support was when her mother announced they were going on a holiday, and they had an activity-packed weekend away with other Legacy families.

Legacy holidays were a big part of Randall’s childhood, and she found it easy to bond with other children who had lost their parents.

“They had gone through the same thing and they sort of knew what you’re going through and what it’s like to only have one parent,” she said.

“We just automatically clicked and it was 10 times easier to make friends. I still talk to them now.”

The charity also paid for schooling expenses, such as uniforms and textbooks and extracurricular activities, from primary to university.

Legacy holidays were a big part of Kelly Randall’s childhood, and she found it easy to bond with other children who had lost their parents.

Randall, who now lives in Sydney, recently completed a bachelor of science majoring in biology. She is working as an intern at Legacy, and is hoping to find a job as a field ecologist.

When she lived in Brisbane, she always spent Remembrance Day with her mother, and joined in marches with the other Legacy children. This year, she will have to settle for a phone call home instead.

Her mother, 45, is still a cleaner. Having saved a portion of her wages and pension for years, she managed to buy a home in Brisbane without a mortgage in 2016 and is saving for her retirement.

“It was a huge feat,” Randall said. “She did it when I was 16 and I didn’t really realise the significance of that at the time.”

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