Daniel and Luke Paulino, known for their YiaYia Next Door Instagram, are ambassadors for the Carlton Respects initiative. Ahead of tomorrow's fourth annual AFLW Carlton Respects game, the brothers tell their story and speak of their involvement with the initiative, why it's so important and responding what you're dealt in life. 

WE’RE two boys who have been through domestic violence. To cut a long story short, we lost our mum at the hands of our father in 2013.

It was something where we lost both of our parents in the one night. It wasn’t just losing Mum — it was losing our dad too. That’s a whole other thing to digest on top of all of it.

Through all the adversity and grief, we found ourselves running an Instagram page where we have 75,000 followers and it’s based on our lovely neighbour, known as YiaYia Next Door. She was grieving through the whole process with us, as she also lost a lifelong friend in it all. She looked after us by giving us food over the fence and checking in on us: it’s a friendship that goes both ways.

We’re using our platform to show how having a sense of community around you and connecting with your neighbours helped us get through life’s challenges.

Given our story really resonated with the Carlton Football Club and its program, we’re so proud to be part of the Carlton Respects initiative.

Straight away, we felt like we were welcomed as part of the family. We really wanted to help drive the message of connection with the Carlton Football Club, to promote gender equality and preventing family or domestic violence.

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It’s so important, given in this day and age, domestic violence is far too common. We really want to make an impact on our platforms, as men, to get the message across to the younger generation. They learn from a young age about what’s wrong and what’s right.

Growing up, we idolised athletes. We were big on footy and basketball. We believe that if the men’s and women’s players can come together and show the initiative to set the example of what it takes to be a male or a female in this day and age, that can drive home with the kids.

The reality is some of these kids may not have a solid male or female role model in their life. We used to look up to our dad when we were younger. Some of the things we didn’t agree with, but at the end of the day, he was our father so we turned a blind eye and thought we had to look up to him.

Our partnership with the Carlton Football Club started two years ago, and it all started off with speaking to the playing groups: both the men’s and women’s teams. Our story hit a lot of them in the heart. There was a lot of emotion in the air and it was one of those things that was really raw.

We wanted to connect with them. Even though they may not have gone through the same thing we have, we’re all human beings and we’re all living our lives trying to get through each day. If we’re driving the message with the players, they’re people you naturally idolise growing up. If we can get them to set the stage and standard of what to do and what not to do, that can spread the message even further.

We know that question gets asked so often: why can’t sport just stick to sport? Why do sporting clubs feel the need to get involved with these issues?

It’s something we hear all of the time. People get taken down or scrutinised because they should ‘stay in their lane’.

We’re the real people going through it, we have to live with it: it affects us more than anyone. Why can’t we set an example and take the lead on it?

Why can’t we be in the lane? We’re not hurting anyone by doing it.

Carlton is taking pride in this, leading the fight against this and standing for the cause. It’s not just a ‘Carlton Respects game’ or a ‘Carlton Respects round’ for them: all-year round, the Club promotes it and has the Carlton Respects program to go with is.

It’s something that obviously sits very closely to our hearts, and we can see first-hand that the Club is extremely serious about it. Covid might have stuffed it up last year, but the program itself - in terms of going out to schools and having chats - is what we’re looking forward to the most.

At the end of the day, Luke was 20 and Daniel was 22 when Mum passed away. We were lost.

There are kids out there who are going through things too, so we can show them that there’s light at the tunnel. Even if you’re having bad days, there are always good days to come.

We do the best we can because we’re human beings. We want to reach out and we want to show there’s a lot of kindness in the world, we’re trying to give back as much as we can.

We get a lot of inboxes on our platforms of people reaching out, telling us their stories and experiences. We’re just two young men trying to go along each day. We try to be there by their side, whether that’s steering them in the direction of calling 1800 RESPECTS or to other programs such as Our Watch.

We still have our battles each and every day. We still miss Mum. It doesn’t feel like it’s real.

But if you have the mentality that you can’t come out the other side, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you have people like us and Simone O’Brien, who have stories of triumph in battling through tough time where you can’t even possibly thing of how you’re going to get through it, that right there shows that it can be done.

It’s hard being positive at times. But we get that from our mum: she was a very positive person and very selfless. We always joke now that if she saw us moping around, she’d probably tell us to stop being a sook and cheer up a little bit.

She wanted us to be happy, so we’re trying to continue that legacy.

Everyone has their own story, whether it’s good or bad. It’s always good to listen to that story: if people don’t tell their story, then people won’t learn.

One thing we often hear is people saying ‘I don’t know how you’ve gotten through what you’ve gone through’. It doesn’t matter how big or small what you’re dealing with is, just because we went through something horrific. It’s about how you push through it.

You’ve got to really look at yourself and deal with the cards you’ve been dealt. Think about where you can go to next: what do you need around you? What are the things that I need to change to set myself up? What are the thing I enjoy doing every day that’s going to put me in a position to win the day?

We’re looking forward to tomorrow night. Whether you’re going to the game or watching it at home with your family, represent the game and promote the game as much and as well as you can: whether that’s wearing orange, coming to the game or just having a chat with someone.

Showcase your passion.

Someone who’s still got all the merch is YiaYia. She’s got the YiaYia Carlton guernsey which she ended up giving to her grandson: she’s proud to pass that on, as all the oldies are.

She’s got the scarves which she wears when it’s cold and the hats she wears in the garden when it’s hot. I think the Club may have converted some new Carlton supporters in the making.

She feels like a superstar.