TWO hours east of Perth lies a small town of around 600 people.  

Named Quairading, the town is on the land of the Ballardong Noongar people and sits within what is known as the Wheatbelt of Western Australia.  


Coming from the Noongar word Kwirading, which means the home of the bush kangaroo, Quairading is the town in which Kysaiah Pickett’s family resides. 

It may be small in size but Quairading holds a large space in the heart of the Melbourne forward, who has fond memories of growing up around family and friends, surrounded by love and community.  

“I grew up there, all my family live there, my mom's side of the family, my mom, my nanna,” Kysaiah said.  

“I learned how to play footy there actually, and basically did all my primary schooling there before I moved over to Adelaide.  

“That's probably where most of my favourite memories are.  

“I had a lot of friends, a lot of my family members were going to school with me.  

It’s probably one of the most important places for me to come back to.

“To see my family, my mum, my nanna, my little sisters, that's why I love it.” 

Kysaiah has spent many hours in and around Quairading with friends and family over the years, from pre-seasons running along the road to the Toapin Weir to campfires at his Nanna’s. 

But no visit has been quite as special as his most recent in May.  

Having welcomed his first-born baby Belleny with partner Ardu in April, the three made the long 3,000km trip to the Western Australian town to introduce their new baby girl to the family. 

“Going back home is always pretty special for myself, it’s my relaxing place,” Kysaiah said.  

But this time it was extra special just because I got to bring my little baby Belleny back home with me.

“Belleny being in my life - it brings a purpose in a whole different way.  

“I get to watch her grow, and I get to teach her my values.”  

 Having created a family of his own in Melbourne, Kysaiah was eager to share this family with the one he grew up in.  

While the trip was set to be a heartwarming time for him and Ardu, he also chose to generously share it with four other important people within his life - Simon Goodwin (Senior Coach), Shane McAdam (AFL player), Clayton Oliver (AFL player), and Matt Whelan (Indigenous Projects Officer). 

The group began their journey on a Thursday, flying the four hours to Perth, four days prior to Melbourne’s game against West Coast. 

On the Friday, they jumped in three cars to begin the two-hour ride to Quairading. 

After a few hours in the car, roadworks making the journey a bit longer than expected, the group arrived in town to a flurry of overjoyed family.  

“Just being back home with [Belleny] and seeing my family meet her, it was very special, very warming,” Kysaiah said.  

From aunties to cousins, Belleny was introduced to countless delighted family members, including Nanna Christine, one of the most influential people in Kysaiah’s life.  

Seeing the people that helped raise him, meeting the family he has created for himself in Melbourne, it was a moment that the 23-year-old would remember for years to come.    

In what was an intimate and memorable time for Kysaiah and his family, Simon was overwhelmed with gratitude to be invited in on the special experience.  

“To see how proud Kozzy is to go back to his community, but the joy to see him taking little Belleny,” Goodwin said.  

He wants to engage her back into the community as well, back to her family and the first time that they got a chance to see her, it was really incredible to watch.

“All the different family members coming over and sharing the joy of their first chance to see Belleny.” 
Kysaiah showed the group around the pockets of town that held the most meaning to him, visiting his “favourite” school where he spent four years learning alongside his cousins.   

After a couple hours of reconnecting, it was time for them to travel the 8kms out of town to visit the Toapin Weir – a place with plenty of special memories for Kysaiah, his family and the Quairading community.  

The Weir is a swimming place for those within the community to gather, feel safe, enjoy each other’s company.  

“We’d come out here to swim a lot of the time, heaps of barbecues, I’ve walked out a few times, rode out here, I ran out here the last couple of pre-seasons,” Kysaiah said.  

“[I have] heaps of memories here.  

“It’s a special place for me, so bringing the boys, taking them swimming, walking up the top, it was definitely bringing back a lot of memories.”  

To get to the water, visitors have to walk up a short but steep hill, one that Kysaiah’s Nanna hadn’t been able to manage in recent years.  

However, Clayton didn’t see that as an issue, ready to piggy-back her up the hill to be amongst the group, much to delight of Nanna and those watching along in laughter.  

Once at the water’s edge, thanks to Clayton, Nanna spoke fondly of the swimming spot and her memories of it over the years. 

“When he was a little boy, they used to come up with all the other big kids, we’d sit there in the sun while they were swimming,” she said.  

“This was the main swimming place for everybody in the community.”

Simon joined Nanna in sitting by the water, holding Belleny and taking in the surroundings of the Weir, with Kysaiah, Clayton and Shane joining the local kids backflipping into the water.   

He reflected on being welcomed with open arms into what was such a powerful place for the Quairading community.    

“You could just see how much that place meant to the whole community and Kozzy’s family especially,” Simon said.  

That was their place where they could go and enjoy themselves and be together as one.

“That's what it’s all about. It's about that belonging piece, having places to be together and feel safe.”  

Next on the group’s itinerary for the day was visiting a place that was particularly important to Kysaiah’s Nanna and Pop.   
A small area 14kms outside town is Yoting, where his grandparents lived just 50 odd years ago.   

“To my family, Yoting is a special place because my nanna, my pop and basically his whole family grew up out there,” Kysaiah said.  

It was here that the group was privileged to hear from Nanna and the many stories she held close to her heart.  

Nanna, the custodian of family tales from years gone by, shared the memories of living in Yoting and what it was like living as an Aboriginal person in Australia at that time. 

“We used to live by candle. We’d go to town, do our groceries, and come back,” she said.   

“You’d have to be out of town by 6pm.”  

Unable to live in town due to laws within WA at the time, Nanna and Pop would walk the 14km along the train track into town to grab groceries, with the aim to leave Quairading by 6pm, to escape the risk of being arrested due to restrictions.  

“For my Nanna to tell the stories she did and the way she told them, they really touched me because it's pretty freaky to actually think that the world used to be like that,” Kysaiah said.  

“So, I'm pretty lucky that everything has changed now, but I guess I'm grateful as well.”  

Throughout the entirety of the day spent in Quairading, it was clear the impact Nanna had on the community as a whole, but in particular on Kysaiah and his family.   

She helped raise him into the person he is today, and is his guiding light through life. 

“She's taught me basically everything I know and moulded me into the person I am today,” Kysaiah said.  

I'm pretty proud that I still get to spend a lot of time with her, and just being with her makes me very happy.

“I love spending time with her.” 

Simon was touched to get the opportunity to listen and learn off such an influential person in so many people’s lives.  

“Nan's a really special person in the family, and that was evident really quickly - how important Nanna is to Kozzy’s family,” Simon said.    

“The pride that she has for her family and the pride that she has in the community. 

“The environment, the belonging that she's created and been a part of creating.   

“You could see that at Yoting, you could see that at the Weir, she was the person that a lot of people relied on, and she was the one that brought everyone together as one.” 

The group finished the day at the Quairading Junior Football Club sharing stories and eating the traditional food prepared and cooked by friends and family.  

As everyone sat together, it was as clear as ever that Kysaiah’s connection to his family was incredibly strong. 

There was an overwhelming sense of pride visible on the 23-year-old’s face, sharing his Melbourne family with those in Quairading and having the opportunity to come together as one.

“My family, they're very connected,” he said.  

“Everyone loves getting around each other, they love being in each other's company.” 

Family and the importance of this safe environment with loved ones is a takeaway that Simon resonated with most from the journey.  

He emphasised his appreciation on being involved in the special day and the lessons he’ll walk away with for the future.  

“I learned a lot about the importance of family, the importance of having a place where you belong, the importance of safety in your environment, and the importance of sharing with one another,” Simon said.  

“They're all lessons from one day of being involved in their community and family and things that hopefully I can take in to my family.” 

 The group’s journey to Quairading was captured in the below 20-minute documentary.