Alisha McNamara: Because of her, we can

About Alisha McNamara

I was born in Goondiwindi and grew up in Brisbane from the age of three. I was raised by my Aboriginal Mother, who I think was born in the Brisbane region. Culture is very important to me, and growing up, I learnt a few Aboriginal words, and learned about my dreaming and my tribe, the Bigambul people.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

I’ve always loved NAIDOC week – it brings a lot of Indigenous people and the community together. During NAIDOC week, you just feel very family orientated and are connecting with your culture.

Did any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women inspire you growing up?

Definitely my Nan inspired me, and my Mum. They both had very hard lives growing up, but their strength through adversity has inspired me to keep on going through life.

I was also very proud of myself to be able to share my story to young people at a local High School. From the age of 13, I was actually homeless on the streets in Brisbane. I saw a lot of domestic and family violence and drug use during this time. When I was 17, I was able to get off the streets and off the drugs and began full-time University and started working part-time.

Why did you share your story with those High School students?

Telling my story was hard. But if it makes a difference … not to a million people, but to even just one, then that’s enough for me. When I tell my story to these kids, even if it’s not same as other people’s stories, at least they can find something in my story that they can relate to and take back with them. It makes me feel happy to be able to share my story and let people know that, even though you think it’s the end of the world, you keep going because there’s better things out there.

Even if I’m struggling, I want to be able to help people. Because I know that when I didn’t have support, someone come to me with help and that meant the world to me.

Now when I see people experiencing homelessness on the street, I’ll go and buy them food and take it to them. I don’t do this to just make myself feel good. I do it to let them know that there are people out there who care, and that they’re not alone.

Right now I’m in Mackay studying Certificate III in Aged Care, and thoroughly enjoying it.

I love to be working with older people and hear their stores and be able to comfort them and make them happy. In my culture I was always taught that you’ve got to respect your elders, whether they’re white or black.

What message do you have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women this NAIDOC Week?

Remember who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you’re going. Remember that in your blood you’re got strength and to be proud of yourself and your culture.

Originally published as part of QShelter’s campaign showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have contributed to the housing and homelessness sector and their local communities. View the full series here.