“All those things we used to whinge about, you look back now and think, gosh we were so lucky…”

Country Style - - MY COUNTRY CHILDHOOD -

to our friends.’ We’d get the bus into town to go to school and it was prob­a­bly 40 min­utes drive, but it felt like for­ever. All those things we used to whinge about, you look back now and think, gosh, we were so lucky to grow up with that space and free­dom. It was re­ally lovely. I al­ways wanted to be a jour­nal­ist, from the age of 12. No one else in my fam­ily is in the me­dia, but I grew up watch­ing 60 Min­utes and I al­ways loved read­ing the news­pa­pers and was al­ways in­ter­ested in what was go­ing on in the world. I wouldn’t say I was in­tense as a child but I was al­ways, al­ways driven — like, if I didn’t come fi­first in a school test, I would come home and I’d be be­side my­self. In high school it got to a point where it wasn’t very healthy. Mum said the other day that, while I was do­ing my HSC, I’d come home from bal­let at 8.30–9pm at night, have din­ner then set my alarm and get up at mid­night or 1am and work un­til I went to school that day. I was a night­mare to live with. Our house was a solid brick, four-bed­room home with white car­pet and a swim­ming pool. I think it was built in the early 1980s. I hated my bed­room. I had a real is­sue with it be­cause when I was about nine, I found a red bel­lied black snake be­hind my door. I re­mem­ber it was like a hor­ror fi­film. There was this an­gry snake curled up and hiss­ing and I was scream­ing ‘Dad!’ and ev­ery­one came run­ning in. Back then you’d kill snakes, so Dad came in and ‘fixed’ it — which left blood stains on the car­pet. For months af­ter­wards I would sit up in the mid­dle of the night and yell, ‘Dad! I can hear a snake!’ and my par­ents would have to come in and turn on all the lights and look un­der the bed and through the cup­boards. I was ab­so­lutely trau­ma­tised and it trig­gered an in­som­nia in me that I’ve had right through. My par­ents are still up there, still in the same house, and my brother is liv­ing back in Wauchope now with his wife and four kids. I can’t wait for Mack to get a bit older and to take him up there and have him rid­ing horses and on the trac­tor and feed­ing the chooks — all those things you aren’t ex­posed to liv­ing in the city. We’ve got a beau­ti­ful life­style here right near the beach in Bronte, but I do worry about bring­ing Mack up in the east­ern sub­urbs. I don’t want him to ever feel that sense of en­ti­tle­ment; that things will be handed to him. He’s got to learn that you’ve got to work hard for every­thing you can get. I was so glad when I fi­fi­nally got into this in­dus­try and it was every­thing I’d hoped it would be. I had so many great men­tors in my early years, I was so lucky, and I know it now. I know that if some­one’s keen and re­ally wants to learn, I’ll give them all the time in the world be­cause I had the bene­fi­fit of that and it made such a dif­fer­ence. WAUCHOPE Lo­cated on the south­ern banks of the Hast­ings River, this town of around 11,000 is 20 kilo­me­tres in­land from Port Mac­quarie on the NSW mid-north coast. Per­haps best known for its her­itage theme vil­lage, Tim­ber­town, which cel­e­brates the area’s early im­por­tance in the tim­ber in­dus­try, Wauchope is also close to na­tional parks that are part of the World Her­itage-listed Gond­wana Rain­forests of Aus­tralia. The tra­di­tional cus­to­di­ans of the re­gion are the Bir­pai peo­ple, with European set­tle­ment dat­ing from the late 1820s. To­day, re­tail, ed­u­ca­tion and tourism are key in­dus­tries, with monthly farm­ers’ mar­kets pro­vid­ing a show­case for lo­cal pro­duce and the an­nual Wauchope Show a high­light in the re­gion. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit pmhc.nsw.gov.au

FROM LEFT Allison and her si­b­lings take their bikes for a spin on the bal­cony of their home in Woonona, Wol­lon­gong; as a stu­dent at Wauchope Pri­mary School; Allison shows offff her gym­nas­tics tro­phy, aged fi­five.

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