Alison Liddy

Breaking the Cycle | Alison Liddy

After the school bell rang on the last day of term at Coen Primary School, Alison Liddy would rush out the gates as her Uncle pulled up in a Landcruiser full of family. Together they would drive the 70 kilometres east to Port Stewart, stocked up with fuel, food and supplies. Port Stewart is Alison’s Country; home of the Lama Lama Clan. Here, Alison and her family would live off the land by the Stewart River until the school semester returned. By day, they would fish at the mouth of the river. By night, the family yarned by the campfire as the kerosene lamps cast a warm light over the tents in which they slept. An orchestra of insects, rustling tree leaves and the hum of generators filled the night soundscape.

Long gone are the tents she slept in as a child. Now, when Alison returns to Port Stewart, she stays in a house powered by solar. “Living there now, you’ve got electricity in the house, and you can watch TV. Before, we used to be on the generator and we didn’t have anything like that, except radios and yarning,” Alison says.

When you sit and talk with Alison, it’s clear that she is a kind, generous woman with strong connections to her family and Country. “Family is very important to me. I enjoy having the nieces, nephews and grannies pass through my house,” she says.

     A big thing for the young ones is to know where they come from. Know their clan, and the history of their land

Alison is in her 12th year working with the Lama Lama Rangers, an organisation restoring the land that was home to the Liddy ancestors for thousands of years. She works at the Coen office and lives in town with her sister, nephews and nieces. When she’s not working, she’s enjoying family time at home or out fishing. “A big thing for the young ones is to know where they come from. Know their clan, and the history of their land,” she said.

Alison’s nieces and nephews are her kids to her. They range in age, from primary up to high school. When asked if she has a full house Alison responds, “Yeah. The kids that go to Coen CYAAA school, come the weekend time, they want to chill out at home with me. Even when my sister isn’t home, I’ve always got kids to care for,” she said with a chuckle.

Cooking is a shared responsibility in Alison’s house, and she always keeps her fridge stocked with food for the family to share. Alison uses Mayi Market in conjunction with her regular grocery shop to keep her and her family fed with fresh and fruit, vegetables and meat. “Mayi Market has been a help to Coen community. Just one Mayi Market box of food, if you’re one person, can last you up to a month,” she says.

Alison prioritises the education of the next generation. “The big thing is to go to school every day,” she says. When educational costs, such as new uniforms, school fees and stationery arise, she can access the kids’ Student Education Trust (SET) accounts to pay for them. Alison sets aside $75 every fortnight to go into the three accounts, which are dedicated to paying for the costs of schooling.

Alison says SET is a major help to kids and parents in communities. “With SET now, the kids have it easy…some of the families that had kids going away to high schools, they were just on Centrelink. Now, it’s pretty easy with SET,” she says.

As a child, during school term in Coen, Alison grew in a tin house, which is now listed as a historical building, with her six brothers and sisters. The house was under the name of Alison’s Uncle, who was paying it off through a bank loan.

When Alison’s Uncle passed, the family was left with a mortgage. If the family wanted to keep the house, they had to meet the repayments for the home loan.

Alison Liddy O-Hub Coen

The siblings of the Liddy and Bassani families came together to help pay it off but soon ran into problems meeting the mortgage repayments. So, the family decided to open a Homelands account, an Opportunity Product from the local O-Hub that helps families take shared financial responsibility of the costs of home ownership. “Prior to Homelands, we used to do it by ourselves, through our own bank accounts,” she said. “You know, we had good times and we had bad times. We had to catch up with payments. So we sat down with the staff at the O-Hub and set up Homelands, which made everything easier. That just eased our hardship,” she said.

After three years of shared financial contributions to their Homelands account, the Liddy and Bassani families have a comfortable amount of savings in their shared account. Not only can they meet mortgage repayments, they also have the financial backing to complete maintenance and make upgrades on the property. The Liddy’s and Bassani’s are currently considering building a new fence.

    The next generation can feel proud that their aunts and uncles paid the mortgage off for them

Alison hopes that the next generations feel a sense of pride in what the family have accomplished. “When we die, they will have a property here in Coen. If they have hardship, at least they will have their own house to live in. They will be the next generation to take over the property, she said. “They can feel proud that their aunts and uncles paid the mortgage off for them. The burden is not on them if something were to happen to us.”

Alison looks forward to many more weekends with her family knowing that she is leading the way for the generations to come. Now when the school bell rings, it’s Alison driving up to the school gates, picking up the kids and heading out to Port Stewart so the next generation grow up knowing their roots.


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