Liam Dean can’t wait to get started
Growing up in Bidyadanga, a remote community, 2 hours south of Broome, has been an adventure for 17 year-old Liam Dean. Mud crabbing, fishing and keeping bees have kept Liam busy when he’s not at school.
Liam’s life is surrounded by strong women; his sisters, nieces, mother and aunties. In fact, at home, 20kms outside of Bidyadanga, Liam is the only man living amongst a posy of women, sometimes more than ten at a time.
“I don’t mind it, I just have to ignore them most of the time,” he says cheekily. Whilst he admits this, when he gets out of the car and interacts with his sisters and their babies, straight away you see this is not the case. He is a mature, caring, responsible young man who has a natural rapport with women.
His grandfather bought the small block of land and the house where Liam and his family live, just before he passed. The block sits on Fraser Downs an old cattle station. The station is now owned by the Traditional Owners, now owned by the Karrajarri people.
When you travel along the 20km red pindan track from the remote community of Bidyadanga to Liam’s family block, it’s obvious why he loves living out here. Nestled amongst three large mango trees is a small house, with several homemade extensions. Three women greet Liam, two with young babies as he gets out of the vehicle. Liam is teased by the women, who are his sisters and immediately relieves one of them of her baby.
“I love living here. My grandfather bought it. I don’t know all the details but the paperwork is all there.” One day I will buy my own bloke closer to the coast.” Liam already has aspirations for his future. First of all, he knows he must finish high school.
Liam left home for several years for schooling. For years 9 and 10 he was in Darwin with his brother and prior to that, he was at Broome Senior High School.
He chose to come back to Bidyadanga to finish school and be close to his family. “You know it’s strange but it was really remote going to school in Darwin. There were lots of boys there but the kids all stuck together, the WA mob, the NT mob, the Queenslanders…” he reveals.
Since returning home to finish his final schooling years at La Grange Community School Liam has had some family problems. In Bidyadanga, his school attendance was slipping and his future aspirations fell to the wayside. It wasn’t until his elder brother Ben committed suicide that Liam decided to turn this around.
Liam talks freely and passionately about his brother and their close relationship. “He was really smart, perhaps too smart for here. He got straight As for everything; you wouldn’t think it by looking at him. He was athletic and sporty, not like me. I look like the nerdy one with my freckles and I get C’s.”
Having to grow up quickly and look after his family, Liam decided at that point, he didn't want to go down the same pathway as his brother. After his brother’s suicide, Liam took control of his life. He saw his own potential and acted on it. With the help of his schoolteacher Mrs. Wright, he sought out an apprenticeship with a local Broome employer, Brolga Developments and Construction.
Liam has always wanted to build his own place and have the skills to fix things around the house for his sisters and mother. Through the school he arranged a carpentry apprenticeship, based on two days a week. With Brolga and their commitment to ensuring he has the right mentoring and on-the-job training, Liam will be a carpenter in 3 years. During this time, he will have the opportunity to work with other Indigenous apprentices delivering Government contracts for remote housing throughout the Kimberley.
Liam is impatient to start, “I just want to get started now,” he says. For the past year he has pursued the apprenticeship, Liam has been gaining valuable work experience. Whilst the system has failed him in recording his hours, Liam has not given up and is now officially on the pay roll.
Having support from his employer is important. Andy Grieg, Liam’s manager and mentor at Brolga says, “I’m sure Liam’s future is now in his own hands. After having been given as much love and encouragement from home as is well evident, as his employer the contractual obligation is to train Liam to be the best carpenter he can possibly be and our moral obligation is to provide the opportunity for a sustainable career and interaction with another culture in a non-threatening environment. We welcome Liam and the opportunity to be a good example.”
Liam will graduate year twelve in October this year. He already has the security of a real job.
To find out more about the skills and training required for an apprenticeship in carpentry, contact your local Tafe.