THE 60 MINUTES REPORTER TELLS CATHERINE MCCORMACK WHY SHE FEELS SO LUCKY TO HAVE GROWN UP ON A FARM IN WAUCHOPE IN NORTHERN NSW.
“I WOULD LOVE one day to move back to the country, I would love it,” says award-winning 60 Minutes reporter Allison Langdon, who spent her childhood on a hobby farm in Wauchope on the mid-north coast of NSW. “But I’m married to a city bloke and although he likes the idea of it, I know when push came to shove, I couldn’t get him to the bush.” Allison and her husband, journalist Michael Willesee Jnr, live in Sydney’s eastern suburbs with their eight-month-old son, Mack, and both are proud supporters of R U OK?, the suicide prevention charity founded in 2009 by advertising executive and friend, the late Gavin Larkin. The charity encourages conversation around mental health and suicide. This year, R U OK? Day falls on Thursday 14 September. “We’ve got a massive issue here and it touches people across the board,” says the 38-year-old over coffffee at her favourite café in Bronte. “It hits everyone, all walks of life. Personally I’ve been touched by it — I don’t think there’s any person who could say they don’t know of someone who has a mental health issue or has taken their own life or attempted it. It’s something we need to talk about.” Since her fifirst job as a producer on Channel Nine’s Nightline, aged 21, Allison — who was determined to become a journalist from the age of 12 — has built an impressive career around tackling important issues, both here and abroad. After a number of years working in newsrooms including for National Nine News and the Today show, and releasing her fifirst book in 2007 about the murder of newborn Tegan Lane, Allison landed her dream job with 60 Minutes in 2011, aged 31. “I always wanted 60,” says the reporter, who left Wauchope and an earlier interest in ballet behind to study journalism at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, NSW. “When I fifirst got [the job], and I was quite young, and another journo asked me, ‘What’s next?’ I remember looking at him and thinking, what do you mean what’s next? This is all I’ve wanted as a journalist!” Before having Mack, Allison often spent half the year on the road, chasing stories as far afifield as Somalia (where civil war was raging), Patagonia (where she trekked across glaciers) and Antarctica, which she visited last year to dive with leopard seals and “highlight the issues of climate change occurring down there”. Now she plans to stay a little closer to home. “I’m not doing less work,” she says, “it’s where I’m doing it that’s changed. Mike and I have talked about it a lot. I don’t want all of that to stop, and obviously it depends on how Mack handles it, but we’ve got this idea that, if it just becomes very normal — in a lot of marriages, Daddy goes away for work but in ours, Mummy’s the one who is going. I would love for him to grow up seeing that his mum works hard and has an interesting job and is doing good things. I want to be that kind of role model.” And while a move back to Wauchope isn’t on the cards, regular visits up to her childhood home, where her parents still live today, are an exciting prospect. “I want Mack to get up there and get grotty and run around and scrape his knees,” says Allison. “All those good things.” For more information on R U OK? Day, visit ruok.org.au. If you or somebody you know needs help, telephone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au
I WAS BORN in Wollongong on the NSW south coast, but grew up in Wauchope, just inland from Port Macquarie. I was seven when we moved; Dad always wanted a little hobby farm, so we moved to 10 hectares and had horses, chooks, cows and sheep. It was such a beautiful lifestyle and a beautiful childhood — simple and fun. I have an older brother, Heath, 41, and a younger sister, Kristen, 35, and on school holidays Mum would send us outside and say, ‘I don’t want to see you in the house today!’ As long as we were together and told to ‘look after your little sister’, we had that freedom to disappear. We’d come in at lunchtime to eat, then disappear again and come back when the sun went down. At the back of our place was forestry land, so we’d go out and build cubby houses and when we were a bit older, ride motorbikes or our horses. It was great fun, although you probably don’t appreciate that as much until you’re an adult and don’t have it anymore. When you’re young it’s, ‘Why do we live so far out of town? We’re not close enough >
FRO OM LEFT Allison and her brother, Heath,thHeaH ridingidi a hhorse att ththeiri grandfather’sdf th ’ farmfar in Glen Innes, NSW; happy at preschool;pre Allison and Heath meeting a kakangaroo at Kingfifisher Park in PortPor Macquarie.