IT’S ironic that Aaron Pedersen’s latest acting role is in the new series of A Place to Call Home, which hit TV screens last week.
For the last 20 years that’s what he’s been trying to create for his younger brother Vinnie, who has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability.
Aaron’s been his brother’s full-time carer since 1997, when his grandmother, who looked after Vinnie in Alice Springs, died.
At that point Aaron was 27 and had just landed his first major acting role in Wildside, but with care services limited, he had no choice but to take Vinnie onto the set of prime-time shows like Water Rats.
“The job of being a carer is insurmountable; you don’t get a manual when you start,” Aaron says.
“But I looked at it from the point of view of guiding my brother and giving him a place in the world.
“He’s entitled to have a full life and a life that has some meaning to him.
“The great thing is, I look at my career and the things I’ve ended up with, and the sacrifices I’ve made, and I’ve ended up with great rewards.”
The strong bond between the brothers was fostered during a torrid childhood in Alice Springs, where they were in and out of foster care, and when they were at home, alcohol and violence was rife, and their mother didn’t feed or cloth them.
Pedersen eventually moved away from Alice Springs and landed a job as a journalist with the ABC in Melbourne.
The brothers’ journey was captured in the moving 2006 documentary My Brother Vinnie, directed by Steven McGregor.
“The title carer for me, really came later. Initially I was just being his older brother,” says Aaron.
“I’ve taught him a lot of things actually: I’ve taught him how to tie his shoelaces, how to dress himself, how to brush his teeth. All the basics.
“And I taught him how to kick a footy—and to rap dance!”
Aaron says that people often ask him how he manages to juggle being an in-demand actor and a full-time carer.
“I don’t question it at all,” he says.
“Vinnie gives me the biggest laugh and the biggest smile. He can hug me about five times in two minutes. That’s how he feels about me.
“I can only ask so much from Vinnie and he can only ask so much from me.
“If I’m getting frustrated then I’m asking too much of him. He cares and loves me as much I love him. it’s an equal share.
“People who aren’t a carer don’t understand—everybody’s got to care for someone at some point.”