Twin girls Kara and Jenna may be 24 years old, but due to their intellectual disabilities, their parents Sue and David Hillier still have to care for them as if they’re small children.
At home with the Hilliers.
As Jenna sits quietly on the couch and rocks her head back and forth, a loud ruckus is coming from her sister’s bedroom.
Kara is stirring.
Suddenly, she begins yelling, thrusting her head from side to side and punching herself in the chest.
She’s in the middle of rearranging her furniture, one of her obsessive nightly routines, and if she’s unable to do it by herself, she gets frustrated.
Kara’s bedroom is filled with magazines – all from the ’80s or ’90s.
She won’t read anything past the year 2000 except for The Australian, which she buys once a week from the local newsagent.
They’re all neatly stored in meticulous order.
She has a super memory, so she knows if one is missing.
“If I’ve taken one, she’ll say ‘Claudia Schiffer 1992 Cleo’,” Sue says.
“All hell will break loose.”
“Fly with Qantas to Brisbane, $99. Fly with Qantas to Brisbane, $99,” Kara mumbles as she rearranges the magazines and newspapers she has pulled off her shelves.
Sue and David are private people, so welcoming a photographer into their home to capture their family’s day is a big deal.
But after many years of hiding their lives away from people, the couple say they want to share the reality of caring for adults with disabilities.
Sue was 16 weeks pregnant when she found out she was having twins.
A few years earlier the nurse had fallen in love with David, a truck driver, who she met when he was one of her patients.
Kara and Jenna are non-identical twins who were both born with an intellectual disability and autism.
There were no signs that either of them had a disability until they were about two years old.
Sue and David started to pick up on signs that their social and verbal development had stunted.
Last time they were tested a few years back, they had the mental capacity of about a six-year-old.
The Hillier family moved to Hamilton in south-west Victoria from Melbourne when the girls were teenagers because it was more inclusive for people with disabilities, and safer.