Sam Liddle has turned his life around after years of drug abuse. He has been named North Coast Apprentice of the Year.
Sam Liddle has turned his life around after years of drug abuse. He has been named North Coast Apprentice of the Year. Patrick Woods

From drug addict to Apprentice of the Year

A CONTESTANT who told judges the first thing he had ever finished had been a year of drug rehabilitation has been named the North Coast Harry Hauenschild Apprentice of the Year.

Sam Liddle is now a finalist in the Queensland awards in September.

It marks an amazing transformation from the deeply-troubled 20-year-old who was sent seven years ago from Auckland by his parents to undertake a year with Teen Challenge in Toowoomba.

"I came over from New Zealand addicted to everything and anything," he said.

"I was one of the lost boys ... the unlikely ones.

"I started with marijuana but then was into ecstacy, acid, then meth and ice."

It was an addiction fed since he was 13 by stealing from his parents and then ultimately dealing in a peer group now missing four mates who died through their addictions and even more languishing in jail.

Sam recognised he faced a similar fate unless he turned his life around, but admits that it wasn't until he was three months into the $20,000 rehabilitation course his parents paid for before he honestly felt there was more to life than what he had been doing.

"I remember making a conscious decision at that point to make the most of what is a short life," he said.

Sam Liddle turned his life around after years of drug abuse, dealing with addiction through Teen Challenge then securing an apprenticeship with Coast firm Gateway Constructions, a not-for-profit builder set up to help young men like him. He has been named North Coast Apprentice of the Year but what hes about to do next is at another level. Sam and wife Hannah with children, Isabella, 2, and Jesse, 9 months, will relocate their young family to PNG to help remote tribes.
Sam Liddle with wife Hannah and children Isabella, 2, and Jesse, 9 months, will relocate their young family to PNG to help remote tribes in the West Sepik. Patrick Woods

He has been married since 2016 to Hannah with two children Isabella, 2, and Jesse, 10 months.

His family moved onto a Beerwah property recently where they will act as house parents for young men sent two at a time from Teen Challenge in Toowoomba to experience an environment where they will have the freedom to make choices and mistakes on their path to hopefully drug-free futures.

He and Hannah's roles are as mentors, there to guide the young men and to help them deal with slip ups along the way.

Sam's own path to redemption has been aided by Gateway Constructions Pty Ltd in Caloundra, a not-for-profit builder which provides an extension to the work done by Teen Challenge.

Along with building apprenticeships, Gateway also delivers ongoing support and encouragement to the young people it employs to stay true to the fundamentals of their Teen Challenge program.

Sam spent a year on the Teen Challenge program and then was into another year helping other young guys like him when he was approached by Gateway Constructions director Graham Labinsky to do an apprenticeship.

It's a level of outreach with which he was familiar, having grown up inside a home where his father would bring home street gang members in an attempt to turn their lives around.

"We had a Tongan blood gang head living with us," he recalled.

"The way my life went I carried a lot of guilt and shame which was dulled by drugs to the point I didn't care about anything. I would rob from the family business, would destroy anything and everything to get drugs. We would argue and fight but there was not one time when they didn't love me.

"The final straw was a couple of ODs. It got to me that there was more to life than this. It's crap."

Now having completed a building apprenticeship as well as the drug rehab program and married since 2016, the young family is about to embark on another life-changing journey that will take them into one of the most remote parts of Papua New Guinea.

It's a country his parents had taken him for two years when he was young and where his grand father Kay Liddle and grandmother Gwen had engaged for 58 years in missionary work for the Christian Brethren Church.

Sam and Hannah have already visited Green River District in West Sepik Province with their children, have been offered a piece of land by the area's tribes and will build a home ahead of working in impoverished communities where babies born with disabilities are still disposed of in the river.