Sam Burns said his heart seemed to stop beating the moment his mother called to tell him the news.

Key points:

  • Sam Burns and his partner Maddie are raising his sister’s four children after her death in April 2020
  • The family has received plenty of community support and an online fundraiser has also been set up to help
  • Mr Burns says it is challenging, but taking the kids on was the easiest decision he’s ever made

His older sister Corrina, a victim of domestic violence, had taken her own life in her South Australian home.

Her two oldest children made the discovery some hours later after she failed to pick them up from school.

Mr Burns had spoken to his sister days before her death and reassured her that they would see each other again soon.

Coronavirus restrictions put a halt on their plan to get together for Easter.

It was the last time he spoke to Corrina.

Picking up the pieces

The aftermath of Corrina’s death shook the entire Burns family.

Mr Burns travelled from Ballarat, in western Victoria, to his sister’s resting place to identify the body and help get her affairs in order.

She had taken her young children interstate in an attempt to break a cycle of domestic violence and upheaval that plagued their lives.

Sam Burns’s world was turned upside down following the death of his sister Corrina.(Supplied: Facebook)

He was far from home when he saw his four nieces and nephews for the first time since tragedy struck.

“It was quite harrowing,” Mr Burns said.

Corrina Burns tried to escape her situation by moving interstate.(GoFundMe)

After the children were left orphaned, Mr Burns and his partner Maddie decided to take them in and provide a loving, stable home.

“For us, we had to try, because we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t,” he said.

“There were a lot of people that had their doubts, and that discouraged us from doing this.

“People say that it’s a really hard decision.

Mr Burns says despite all he’s been through, he feels lucky to be raising his sister’s children.(Facebook: Sam Burns)

Easy decision, hard reality

The family had to jump through a number of hoops to get together, but now, settled in regional Victoria, they have embarked on a new journey.

All four children have moved to western Victoria and are part of the Burns family.

That family extends beyond blood.

The Hepburn Burrus Football-Netball Club, where Maddie played netball, set up an online fundraising page to help the young couple with the sudden costs of the larger family unit.

“I’m just amazed by this young couple,” club president Jason Dooley said.

“For them to just ante up and take on four children, as a young couple themselves that don’t have any children, is just so admirable and astounding.”

Mr Dooley said he wanted to raise money to help the family with any unexpected costs they face.

“There’s not one thing that’s going to be easy,” he said.

Sam Burns says his “beautiful” nieces and nephews have changed his life forever.(Facebook: Sam Burns)

A message amidst the heartbreak

After the devastating loss of his sister, Mr Burns wants to spread a message of hope.

Before her death, Corrina helped set up a domestic violence support group in her community.

Mr Burns wants to ensure that support is there for victims of violence.

Corrina is never far from her children’s minds — her daughter still sings to her at night.

“I recall having a conversation with my oldest nephew when we were over in South Australia to sort out all of her affairs,” Mr Burns said.

“He said to me, ‘Mum always said if anything happened to her that you would look after us’.

“All the negativity that has led to this — it’s a very rewarding and fulfilling thing to do, despite the challenges.”