The Book is Here!

The MIPIK book features 25 local stories which celebrate the skill, tenacity, courage and bloody good yarns of our Coffs Coast community.  All profits from the sale of this book go to CanDo Cancer Trust which provides assistance to local cancer sufferers and their families.  Local stories helping local people!

 

Local Stories helping Local People

Life can dish up unexpected challenges and sometimes we need a bit of help to meet those challenges.  The CanDo Cancer Trust provides financial support to patients and families attending the North Coast Cancer Institute.  It's a way for our community to lend a helping hand to friends and neighbours facing tough times.

We are delighted that our local stories will be helping local people.  You can lend your support by buying a book or attending the live show.

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Sheree Lyons

“Sheree Lyons is just a beautiful person”, says Carolyn Guichard when I ask her who the most interesting person she knows in Coffs is.  “As a human being Sheree is exceptional.”  Carolyn explains that Sheree is generous, giving and sensitive despite facing personal hardships.  I’m off to Fridays Creek to find out what makes this beautiful person tick.

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A Beautiful Human Being

“What I remember from my childhood is violence”, says Sheree Lyons in response to my first question.  This is not the start I had expected when I knocked on the door of this idyllic family home in Friday’s Creek, to be greeted by Sheree and 6 year old Majella, cute as a button and home from school with a sore throat.  This image of domestic tranquillity doesn’t fit with the foreshadowing of domestic violence.  But once we have Majella tucked behind the computer in the study, Sheree’s story starts to spill out and it becomes clear that it is this contrast between the demons of her past and the striving for serenity in her present that makes Sheree such an exceptional and beautiful person.

“Now that I’m older I can understand the pressures he was under and the mental illness he had,” says Sheree of her father’s violent nature.  But there was no understanding of mental illness in 1970s Queensland.  Born in the tiny Queensland farming community of Laidley, Sheree was the fifth of seven children.  Her father Frank was a farmer, but when pesticides caused him to become ill he sold the farm, moved the family into town and took on factory and farm hand work.  “Our family was well regarded in the community, always involved with sport and church,” Sheree explains.  But behind closed doors her father’s rage and violence bubbled over, generally directed at Sheree’s mother Lola, but often spilling over to the children.

Horribly, the violence finally spilled over into suicide.  When Sheree was in grade eleven Frank took his own life.  “It’s just sad that he didn’t see any other way out, didn’t talk to anyone,” she says.  Yet for 16 year old Sheree, sadness was overshadowed by awareness that the violence was over.  “I’m not proud of it,” she recalls, “but the day I was told it was a huge relief.”

Relief was followed by escape.  Just over a year later Sheree moved to Lismore to study business at Southern Cross University.  “Ever since I was 12 or 13, when I was really conscious of what was going on at home, I thought I must do well at school and get out of here,” Sheree explains.  She felt safe and happy at SCU where she met Andrew, whom she was to marry 10 years later.  She got her degree and moved to Sydney with Andrew to establish a career in marketing.

What followed was a period of light, when Sheree felt she had put her demons behind her.  Her marketing career progressed rapidly in Sydney.  She worked with big brands including Goldmark and ING before moving to her dream job marketing fine wines with Vintage Cellars.  In 2002 she and Andrew opted for a sea change and moved to Coffs.  They bought a beautiful property in the hills of Friday Creek and received a government grant to rehabilitate their sprawling landscape.  Sheree lectured at SCU and consulted to local businesses.  Life was good.

Starting a family should only have made life better, but for Sheree it brought the demons back.  When her first child was born Sheree suffered psychologically.  The doctors agreed that I needed to face my childhood if I was going to be the mother I wanted to be,” Sheree explains. 

One hears so often that the scars of family violence lead to dysfunction in the next generation.  What of Sheree’s little family up here in the hills of Friday’s Creek?  Is there something bubbling here that the rest of the community cannot see, as there was all those years ago in her father’s home in Laidley?

The answer is definitively no – no violence, no misdirected rage.   Despite her brutal childhood, Sheree is a gentle soul.  With psychologists’ help and the love and support of Andrew, Sheree confronted her past. 

But parenting has been difficult.  Any parent will tell you that childhood tantrums are difficult to manage, but when you have Sheree’s history it’s doubly hard.  In the last eighteen months Sheree has had to deal with some challenging behavioural issues.  “I read all the books and I tried everything,” Sheree says of her quest to deal with escalating and intense outbursts.  I don’t want to end up like my Dad.  But you can only be pushed so far.” 

Nearing the edge, Sheree finally sat down with a local councillor and she says his fresh approach has really helped.  “I now know that I have to remove myself from the area when their acting up is upsetting me.”  A change in approach has been helped by a change in diet.  The family has recently adopted the Fed Up dietary management program that helps parents to understand the effects of foods on children’s behaviour, learning ability and health.  It seems to be working.  Sheree says she went through some rough spots to get to where she is, but her childhood taught her that emotional problems need to be addressed, not allowed to fester. 

Sheree takes me on a tour of the property that she and Andrew are still rehabilitating.  As we walk through the girl’s fairy garden out the front she tells me that she is now close to her mother and most of her siblings.  She is enjoying work on fundraising projects for the school and the local community, and has just started doing promotional work for Cr8 art gallery.  But her children are her greatest joy.  “We dance and sing and go for walks in the bush,” she smiles.  I wonder how that lonely, fearful child from rural Queensland has managed to grow up to create a home filled with so much love.  What I have learned from Sheree is that nothing is preordained.  Violence does not always beget violence; the child does not always become the parent; an ugly past can create a beautiful human being.

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Sheree tells me that Merrilyn Fitzgerald is the most interesting person she knows on the Coffs coast.  She’s a vet, an equine specialist, a teacher, a mother and, according to Sheree, a “real pocket rocket”.  I’m advised to probe her for stories of semen capture and picking up semen coming in from Germany in the middle of the night.  Good!  There’s nothing like a bit of sex and semen to make this blog really take off.

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