We farewelled Liz McAloon, executive officer of Highways and Byways, formerly the John Wallis Foundation, with a small gathering on Monday 28 February. From one day a week and a very small number of small grants through the then John Wallis Foundation, Liz has grown the organisation over her eight years and four months, to what it is now — Highways and Byways, Healing the Land, Healing Ourselves, Together. We asked some questions of Liz, and share her following reflections:
How has your role grown and changed over the years?
With the full support of the Board along the way I have grown the position from one day a week to a full time Executive Officer role, plus a two-day-a-week grants officer position. I established an annual small grants program in 2014 which has grown every year since – some years funding as many as 50+ grants in the one year. We have also established two locally led programs of community support and leadership: one in Roma, Queensland and one in St Helens, Tasmania. The program in Roma, Seeds of Connection, focusses on Indigenous leadership, healing and community support, and the program in St Helens, Restoring Nature and Communities, focuses on environmental eco-restoration. We have also held numerous public events over the years – fundraising events, memorial lectures, bush-walks and book launches across the country.
What were some of the highlights?
Learning about and getting to know each and every one of the MSS – Learning about who they are and their life stories and mission. Working collaboratively to translate that mission into today’s complex world in practical ways. Meeting inspirational people, especially travelling around rural Australia with Sr Carol Zinn and Sr Gail Worcelo. Traveling with Stancea and Bernadette across the plains of South Australia, and Queensland with Mary Cleary and meeting grant recipients along the way. Establishing both “Seeds of Connection” in Roma and “Restoring Nature and Communities” in St. Helens. Specifically working with Megan Brown and Jen Coggan and with Todd to build locally led programs tuned in to local needs. In St. Helens it has been wonderful to engage with Todd Dudley and the North East Bioregional Network to continue the important eco-restoration going on in that part of Tasmania – restoring decommissioned pine plantation to native forest.
What were some of the challenges?
Sometimes it has felt like eight years of cutting my cloth to fit all the parts of the job into each week! I was keen to keep growing all programs, and also daunted by how much work we were generating. Small organisations can grow quickly as decisions can be made without too many hurdles. But it is not easy to keep up all aspects – fulfilling government and corporate requirements, and the necessary accountability required in any charitable organisation etc
What kept you inspired in the difficult times? Having a deep enduring respect for the Missionary Sisters of Service, enjoying working collaboratively with a strong board of management, including fabulous Committee work. And working in areas of huge interest to me personally – social justice, indigenous empowerment and truth telling, environmental healing, women’s leadership.
What are you most proud of from your time there?
The growth in the organisation in all its aspects – supporting so many small isolated communities in programs led locally, encouraging leadership in others.
What are you going to miss?
All the fun stuff – travels across the country, shared meals of fun and laughter, seeing ones plans come to reality.
What are you most grateful for?
Long lasting friendships, hopefully!! Collaborations – working collectively. An opportunity to show leadership and be supported. A time to nurture my talents, and be myself in a field I care deeply about.
Below we share some of our favourite photos with Liz over those eight years.