MY COUNTRY TOWN

HEALESVILLE, VICTORIA

Having lived in the Eastern suburbs all of my life my partner and I thought it was the perfect place to buy a house. We did just that and bought a modest home close to schools and shops in Heathmont and renovated to our hearts content, with the dream of one day buying land and building.

That dream came earlier than we had anticipated when late one Thursday night after both working a long day, chatting outside on our deck we heard the next door neighbour’s toilet flush. We looked at one another and headed to our computer and began looking for land online. What we found was a house on six acres that we knew needed work but we loved instantly. So in the car we went at 9.30pm at night and drove to Healesville. As we passed Coldstream and then proceeded to a 100km zone we feared that it was just too far away but we went anyway. Driving through the main street of Healesville we instantly fell in love with the Paris lights that lit up the street ever so beautifully.

The property appeared to be on a quiet street just behind the RACV Country Club and Golf Course, so we booked in to see the house the Saturday morning. The house was ten years old and needed some renovating but we loved it even though it was very different to what either of us were used to. A timber and brick house, tank water and wood heating quietly freaked me out!

We looked, loved it and we bought it! We made an offer on the Sunday, they accepted it on the Monday and we sold our Heathmont house on the following Monday. And away we were. 

There was everything we could want in our beautiful town. From specialty shops, some of the best cafés with the best coffee! Many restaurants and good old pub meals, Health Services, a short drive to Eildon, play groups, day care centres, family day care, kindergartens, primary schools, a high school and so much more. 

That year of 2002 we moved to Healesville, I finished my Graduate Diploma in Perioperative Nursing, we got married and held our wedding reception at our new house! Crazy was what everyone thought but we didn’t care, we were happy and just loved it. Commuting to work was our biggest adjustment but we quickly grew to love driving past mountains, cows, sheep and hot air balloons. The next four years were a bit of a blur working hard and long hours as we realised that we had bitten off more that we could chew financially. A big mortgage, six acres of land and wanting to renovate all at once meant we had to work hard and not give up.

In 2006 after a few years of frustration we were finally blessed with our first child, a little girl whom we named Megan Christina. Her arrival changed our world immediately and we knew that our hard work and move to the country was the best decision we had ever made. Megan’s arrival also connected me and my husband Peter with other Healesville families through a local Mother’s group whom we remain close friends with today. 

Healesville offered so many other opportunities to us. Our local friendship base continued to grow through play group, child care, kinder and school. As we welcomed our second child in 2007, a boy, Blake Donald, we stepped in to the world of playgroup. With four play groups to choose from in the area, we found the one that suited us and were welcomed with open arms.

When our last child, Logan Peter was born in 2009, we began the world of 3/4year old kinder for Megan. With three kinder centres to choose from in the area run by KinderLink Inc, my children have all had the most wonderful early childhood learning experience, developing so many skills whilst also preparing them for school.

With Megan and Blake now at St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School in Healesville and Logan to start next year, we are one happy family that are all so very grateful for what we have. We have guinea pigs, sheep, dogs and chickens and cannot imagine living anywhere else in the world. We love it and so do the kids. Waking up to mountain views every morning is just wonderful.

Healesville is a town that I am so proud to be a part of. The people I have met over the years and the friendships I have made have ensured we have never looked back. There are so many hard working volunteers here too, who selflessly contribute in so many ways,  making sure our town becomes an even better place to live. It is comforting to know as a community we look out for each other and our children and understand that, like anywhere, there are always issues but we are all working together to ensure the best future for us all.

 

Article by Sue Schelfhout
Perennial Kitchens
www.perennialkitchens.com.au

 

The Kitchen Design Centre
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BALLARAT, VICTORIA

Until I moved to the regional Victorian town of Ballarat six years ago, I was very much a gypsy and moved around a lot. I grew up inner city Melbourne except for a few years spent in the now famous spa town of Daylesford back when it was a poor potato growing community and two years living in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India.

As an adult, I moved around a fair bit. I lived in Canberra when I was studying at university. I spent two years working as an aid worker in Thailand. I was transferred to Sydney from Melbourne with a consulting firm I worked with. And I spent two years living on the mid-north coast of NSW.

Then I moved to Ballarat in 2008. Back then, I was a single parent with a two year old daughter. The real estate prices in Melbourne had sky-rocketed and I wanted a more affordable lifestyle and I enjoyed living in a country setting. So I looked within a 200 km radius of Melbourne. 

There was Bendigo, Geelong and Ballarat. I wanted a town that had a cinema, shops and university. That was my criteria. I also wanted to be able to visit my mother in inner western Melbourne easily.

I ended up choosing Ballarat. It is so close to Melbourne. I can visit my mother easily and go to Melbourne for any special events as well as shows and exhibitions. In fact, it takes many of my friends that live in the far northern edge of Melbourne longer to get to the city that it does me.

When I first moved to Ballarat in the middle of winter, I did wonder if I had made a huge mistake. If you know Ballarat, you may have noticed that there is often a big black cloud that hovers over the town and the winters can sometimes feel like they go on forever with the grey skies, bitter wind, and freezing temperatures. But I haven’t let the winter blues beat me yet (good heating helps).

Shortly after moving to Ballarat, I met and fell in love with my now husband, Nick Shady. We’ve been married four years and have a three year old son. Nick and I met on RSVP (where else was a single parent that doesn’t go out meet a man). 

Nick grew up in Skipton and we have a grain farm about 75kms west of Ballarat. Nick and I decided to create our family home in Ballarat as we enjoyed the amenities that it offers. My daughter goes to the Ballarat Steiner School, which she wouldn’t do if we lived out at the farm. My father lives with us in a unit we build attached to our house and doesn’t drive so we needed access to public transport. And Nick and I love eating out and going to the movies, so once a week when we aren’t sowing or harvesting crops, we go out for a lovely meal and a film.

Ballarat is one of those places that has lots of choice for those with a culinary bent like us. There’s a dumpling house, multiple Thai restaurants, our favourite Indian restaurant that serves one of the best Butter Chicken dishes according to Nick, along with a favourite restaurant of ours called Chat for Tea which is run by our friend Steve and his family that serves amazing vegetarian food that even committed carnivores love.

One of the worst things about Ballarat is that there’s always something going on and it can be hard to choose what to do! One of the highlights of the year is the annual Begonia Festival that is held over the long weekend in March. If you don’t know what a Begonia is, don’t worry, neither did I until I went to the Begonia Festival. 

Begonias are beautiful perennial plants with gorgeous flowers in an amazing array of colours (there’s about 1,400 different species). I’ve got more of a brown thumb than a green one (that’s why I don’t live at the farm near our crops), but I do love Begonias. Aside from celebrating the beauty of the begonia species, the Festival offers a range of activities for the whole family. My children get so excited by the Begonia Festival because there’s a parade that my daughter’s school marches in and there are lots of free kids’ activities. 

The festival is held across the road from Lake Wendouree. The Lake is a real focal point for Ballarat and where many of the events are held. We go to the Lake all the time. It’s so beautiful now that it has water in it again. When I first moved to Ballarat it was a weedy dust bowl. Now it is full of birdlife. We often see Swans and their signets, along with mother ducks and their cute ducklings, wandering around the foreshore and even crossing the road on occasions. We often ride our bikes around the lake, though I recommend on a windy day that you have the wind behind you as it’s a tough ride with the wind pushing you backwards (though it is a better workout with the wind resistance).

One of the things we enjoy most as a family is visiting Sovereign Hill. My daughter and I used to volunteer at Sovereign Hill when we first moved to Ballarat. We learnt a lot about the gold rush history of Ballarat and got to dress up in period clothing form the 1800s and talk to visitors using old fashioned words.

We have an annual family pass so we go frequently to Sovereign Hill. We have a good supply of candles at home that the children dipped in coloured wax at the Candle Shop. We’ve seen how lollies are made in the old fashioned way and tasted more than a few. And of course, we love panning for gold, though we haven’t made our fortune yet. We especially like the pantomimes in the old Victoria Theatre. We laugh ourselves silly watching the antics on stage and calling out as you do in a pantomime. Nick and I have taken visitors to the sound and light show, Blood on the Sovereign Cross, and I learnt a lot about the Eureka Stockade.

I could probably wax lyrical until the cows come home about how great it is to live in Ballarat, but I won’t. What I will say is that moving to Ballarat changed my life. Aside from meeting my husband and having another child, I also found my place in the world. Ballarat was the first place in my whole life that has really felt like home.

 

ABOUT BALLARAT

Ballarat is located about 105 kilometres west of Melbourne. It takes about 1.20 minutes to drive to Ballarat from the Melbourne CBD. It’s one of the largest regional centres in Victoria and has a population of over 100,000.

If you are planning a visit to Ballarat, have a look at some of the websites to help you work out what you’re going to do when you visit.

What's on in Ballarat: www.visitballarat.com.au
Begonia Festival: www.ballaratbegoniafestival.com
Sovereign Hill: www.sovereignhill.com.au
Kryal Castle: www.kryalcastle.com.au
Art Gallery of Ballarat: www.artgalleryofballarat.com.au
Ballarat Apron Festival: www.ballaratapronfestival.org
Victorian Dance Festival: www.victoriandancefestival.com
Ballarat Heritage Weekend: www.ballaratheritageweekend.com
Cycling Events in Ballarat: www.visitballarat.com.au/things-to-do/cycle-ballarat/cycling-events-in-ballarat.aspx

 

Article by Ayesha Hilton
www.ayeshahilton.com
www.facebook.com/ayesha.hilton
www.twitter.com/Ayesha_Hilton

 

Ayesha Hilton is an author, speaker and business strategist. She helps people grow their business and their profile by becoming a published author. She is the co-author, with her husband Nick Shady, of the book Who Gets the Farm: a practical guide to farm succession planning. She is also the author of FAST Book Writing: write your book in 30 days or less and founder of the FAST Book Writing Bootcamp. Ayesha is a co-author in a number of anthology books. Ayesha lives in Ballarat with her husband Nick Shady, two children, and her father (known as Grandpa). 


MOLONG, NEW SOUTH WALES

It took us twenty five years to finally leave Sydney behind. Pa had grown up there waterside, but his lifelong aim was to settle his family in the Central West. There were many stops along the way, Galston, Cranebrook, and the lower Blue Mountains, but by the late 1980s we had arrived. Our destination?  Molong, a town of 1,200, nestled in the once prosperous gold fields of the Cabonne Shire, a town with wide streets, gentle hills, surrounded by some of the finest agricultural land in Australia, land which would soon become famous for its winemaking.  

We considered Orange. I had grown up there, but as a friend of ours from the town said, "Anyone can live here in Orange, but Molong's a real country town."

At first we settled in a Edwardian homestead on the outskirts. We loved it. It needed work and love in equal measure, and we provided it. We grew lucerne, and had sheep, all the while becoming more and more aware of what a jewel the town and its people were. Main Street, lined with buildings dating back to the gold rush, worked on us like a magnet. In the 1870s, Molong had a population twenty times bigger than today. Over thirty thousand people, mostly immigrants from Europe and China, teemed the streets and surrounding hills then, all of them hoping to strike it rich. Main Street's majestic buildings, which include three banks and is named Bank Street in honour of this fact, are a legacy of that time, and redolent in history. We found ourselves enjoying the time we spent on main street, and thinking "if only" more and more often. 

"If only one of these buildings were for sale," I remember Pa saying.

"If only the old Express building was for sale," I added. "We could open the restaurant that everyone is always telling us we should."

The old express building was a marvellous constellation of possibilities. As its name suggested, it had been the home or the town's newspaper, The Molong Express, for fifty years. But it's history stretched long before that 40 Bank Street had been built by Molong's first mayor, William Tanner, and served as a general store from the 1870s until just after World War I when it briefly headquartered a stock and station agent. The 1920s were a blur of enterprising types making a go of everything from ironmongery to hospitality to journalism. Misses Finch and Packham ran their Glasgow Refreshment Rooms there for a time followed by a boarding house upstairs until the Molong Express arrived with its printing presses. But when the Molong Express packed up and moved on, Bank Street remained off the market for close to a decade --in plain sight, but out of reach. 

Then one happy day, 40 Bank Street became ours. All of it. From the balcony with its balustrade and hipped skillion roof, its views of the rise In the middle distance where you can watch the trains run from Sydney to Broken Hill, to the stone cellar that spans the length and width of the building where we held an engagement party for our daughter, to the store front space that became our restaurant "Upstairs Downstairs" (opened on the birthday of Pa's mother), to the high-ceilinged second floor that we converted into a loft-style apartment when we gave up the homestead. All told it's been ours for twenty five years, making us the second longest occupiers, and we couldn't imagine another life.

It was here that Pa and the local milkman, Don Turrise, planted a vineyard, turning the long backyard into an enclosed oasis, and pressing a vintage of nearly undrinkable red they dubbed the Don Pedro Estate. We never sold a drop, but we drank it all. After years of wonderful times and countless meals, we finally turned the page on the restaurant, but we still live upstairs. Pa does his woodworking on the ground floor in a space much too big for it, happily keeping his eye on the characters passing by.

We might be leaving 40 Bank Street for smaller quarters soon, but we won't be leaving Molong. When you've found your place in the country, there's no going back.

 

Article by Janine Thomas

 

Janine "Neenee" Thomas lives with her husband Peter "Pa" in Molong, where they have been for 28 years. Recently, they decided to put their much-loved 40 Bank Street on the market. Photos of the country and house can be seen on Neenee's Instagram page here: www.instagram.com/neencountry. If you want to learn more about Molong and Cabonne Shire generally, Janine is always happy to help and can reached on neenandpa@hotmail.com


TENTERFIELD, NEW SOUTH WALES

I never planned to move to the country. I was a city girl born and bred. I had grown up enjoying the bright lights of the Gold Coast as a teenager and in my twenties lived in London for five years. Perhaps I had dreams of living by the seaside but never would I have imagined that I would find my home in a very small country town. I had just turned 40, my marriage was over and I was the single mother of 4-year-old twins. I was working as a pastry chef in a busy Gold Coast café and the kids and I lived in a tiny pocket sized 2-bedroom apartment in Paradise Point. My rent was exorbitant but I was in walking distance to the Broadwater where the kids were content to play every day. I felt like I was lost in a rut, in a life that I was not meant to be living, but I could never articulate what I was feeling. I just knew that there had to be more something, of some description for me somewhere. Though I could never quite put my finger on it. 

Two uncles had purchased an old historic home in Tenterfield and my aunt was managing it. A chance phone call revealed that they desperately needed help for a 30-person dinner as they did not seem to have a chef. As I was not doing anything else that weekend and the kids were with their dad, the obvious thing to do was to offer my help and go for a drive to a town I had never even heard of. Little did I know that that decision was to change the course of my life. From the moment I arrived in Tenterfield it was as if I had arrived somewhere that appeared to be enchanted. I had been driving for four hours from the Gold Coast, had crossed Cunningham’s Gap and the closer I got to Tenterfield the greener the landscape appeared. As I approached Tenterfield on the New England Highway a mist rolled in and as I drove down that road with its canopy of magnificent trees and saw the lights twinkling in the distance through the mist I felt like I was coming home.

On the Saturday night after a long day and night of working in the kitchen and dining room I can remember falling asleep, listening to a sound of silence that I had not heard in a very long time, thinking to myself, ‘I think the kids and I could live here.’ Six weeks later I had packed up my little pocket sized 2-bedroom apartment, broken my lease, enrolled the kids in day care in Tenterfield and packed the three of us in my little car ready to move to the country. Part of me thought that perhaps we would stay only three months. However, 8 months after moving to Tenterfield I bought my very own little country cottage.

We had initially lived in the Historic home which was fantastic for us but after 6 months or so I had realised that my hours were not very realistic for a single mum with two active 4 year olds. So, the job may have not worked out, but Tenterfield had captured my heart and at that moment I could not imagine leaving. My little cottage had a huge garden complete with an incredibly beautiful rose tree out the front and a lemon tree that never stopped giving out the back. We had fruit trees including a fig tree and a great bit old shed that become our chook house. Before long Kevin - the mad koolie dog had joined our home and it did not long for him to father Rosie the koolie / collie cross who become the fifth addition to our little family.

There is a beauty to life in the country that appears so simple but it is endlessly layered with colour, sound and an appreciation of life that I adore. I live in a land of four seasons, where winter is marked by shorter days, frosts that can take your breath away and a roaring kitchen fire that becomes the heart of my home. Spring is time to open the curtains, to be surrounded by pink, white and yellow and to lie in the grass soaking up the sun and listening to the bees that herald the arrival of the warmer weather. Summer is the time of green, of long days, of sitting outside on the deck and being lost in a star filled sky that would appear to stretch on forever. Autumn colours the land in golds, burnished copper, reds and oranges. Leaves crackle underfoot and it is time to check the woodpile. 

I possibly had given up on love but in Tenterfield I found it again. It was a love of four seasons, of starry nights and roads that wound their way to beautiful places under endless green canopies. It was not the love I had imagined but in Tenterfield I fell in love with a place I called home. 

 

Article by Lara Flanagan
My Notes from New England
www.mynotesfromnewengland.com
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Tenterfield, New South Wales

Do you know my Tenterfield?

It is a place that can catch at your heart and rip at your soul. It is a place that lingers in your mind forever. It is the place where you go to when you click the heels of your magic red shoes together and utter those powerful words, “There is no place like home, there is no place like home, there is no place like home.”

Sometimes in the very early morning, when it is so quiet that you can hear nothing but the sound of your own breath, your mind empties as you ponder such things as ‘how many colours can possibly belong in a tree?’ and ‘how cold does it have to be for tears to freeze on your cheeks?”

Do you know my Tenterfield?

It is a land of beautiful roads. There are roads that lead to enchantment. There are roads of mystical beauty. Roads that march with Captain Time and tell you, with the colours of their leaves, exactly what month of the year it is. There are roads that have green canopies that cover the sky. Roads the stretch endlessly into the horizon. Roads that are lined with graceful poplar trees. Roads that stand as sentinels to ageing railway bridges. Roads that transform from bitumen into dirt, then gravel, then dirt, then bitumen again. There are roads that lead to to a mountain and roads that lead to a rock. So many roads leading to so many places.

Do you know my Tenterfield?

Some say it is a place of old building and granite rocks. I say it is a place of a thousand stories and rocky slopes that can transform the world into something different depending on the time, the season, the wind, the rain and the sun. It is a place that can evoke Miranda disappearing into the rocks never to be seen again, or Cathie meeting Heathcliffe on the moors in the cold and the mist.

It is a place of romance. Old-fashioned romance that evokes mystery, excitement and the ability to be remote from everyday life.

Do you know my Tenterfield?

It is a place where time is marked by the changing seasons. Four distinct seasons with four different worlds with their own temperament, smells, energy and emotion.

Autumn is marked by golden carpets that hide the sky. By a million leaves that fall, and in time, just beg to be thrown in great big crackly handfuls. By burnished colours that appear in glorious trees, that sometimes are simply too beautiful to believe. Autumn is marked by colour. By an endless, beautiful exquisite range of colour.

Winter is marked by the frosts. By cold that can take your breath away. It is a time that is marked by the threat of snow that rarely falls. By winds that howl and cut through your skin as if wanting to steal your soul. Winter is beautiful with crystal blue alpine skies that stretch forever into the horizon.

Spring is marked by delicacy. By flowers and movement and the promise of change. Bees buzz louder and birds chirp more sweetly. Pinks, whites and blues, so fragile that they can disappear with a strong gust of wind. Spring is always about something new.

Summer is marked by golden mornings. By days that appear to be blissfully long. Early mornings awake with golden rays that trickle through the trees and the grass and warm the earth. Days are hot, but nights are cool, devoid of humidity. Summers are lazy and languid. Golden glorious days.

Do you know my Tenterfield?

 

Article by Lara Flanagan
My Notes from New England
www.mynotesfromnewengland.com
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BYRON BAY, NEW SOUTH WALES

On the main road into Byron Bay there’s a sign that says: “Cheer up, Slow Down, Chill Out”. And every time I drive past, my heart skips a beat. I feel like I’ve loved this place for so long, it’s part of my DNA. 

I wasn’t born here and I wasn’t raised here, but this was, in some respects, my back yard when I was growing up. I come from the Gold Coast, in South East Queensland. During my early childhood years, we had family holidays at our great Aunty Ruby’s beach shack in Brunswick Heads – the home of some of my fondest memories... Christmases and Easters spent in a noisy overcrowded house full of friends and cousins. I loved buying chocolate milk (sold in glass bottles) and fresh bread from the bakery on the corner. I learned to ride my bike at Bruns. I learned to swim and fish there too. 

As we grew into teenagers, earned our driver’s licenses and became old enough to stray from home without adult supervision, we migrated from Brunswick Heads over to neighbouring Byron Bay and spent the weekends, camping, surfing, lazing around in the sun and foraging around the weekend markets. We were totally in awe of the hippies with their waist-long dreadlocks who’d walk the streets barefoot, carrying babies in slings, playing ukuleles, and singing songs. 

In those years the Main Street of Byron Bay consisted of little more than a caravan park, a Kebab takeaway, a few pubs, a fondue restaurant and a couple of shops. I was completely captivated. In all the years I’ve been away, and despite all the great places I’ve lived – Brisbane, Auckland, Wellington, Belgium, Sydney – Byron has never strayed far from my thoughts. 

Now, coming back to make it my family home, the place I’m raising my children, it’s certainly different. Sadly, there are fewer hippies and more mobile phones. There are hotels and motels and B&Bs on every corner too. Flat whites and chai lattes are served alongside whatever-you-want organic, vegetarian, vegan or gluten free, and you’ll enjoy quite possibly the best Pad Thai you’ll ever eat. But a lot of it is quite expensive. Especially the houses. The good thing is that despite all of this commercial maturity Byron Bay is still a small country town with a big heart.

Byron’s reputation for great surfing beaches and a laid back lifestyle have long made it a sought after destination. And, in all honesty, it is this steady stream of tourists each year that has afforded Byron Bay the kind of infrastructure you’d find in big cities. You can do anything here. That said, there are very few chain store retailers, hotels or restaurants. Instead, Byron is home to a cluster of clever, creative, independent entrepreneurs and this adds to its charm. It can be 5-star, world class, sometimes pretentious. But it’s got street cred and a solid ethical undercurrent too, as well as a ‘peace, love and happiness’ culture that’s become world famous. 

People talk about the ‘soul’ of Byron Bay, and there is something special here... Long stretches of sandy coastline, clear water populated with whales and dolphins, nestled against a back drop of lush green rolling hills and rainforest make this not only a beautiful place to live, but a tranquil place to live. 

The Arakwal people, the traditional custodians of the land, called Byron Bay the place of plenty. For them it was a meeting place and a place of celebration and this original spirit of connectedness and festivity is evident today: People come from all over the globe to experience Byron Bay, and the place is alive with buskers who play music and dance and perform all day long. A steady stream of festivals mark off the months of the calendar. But rather than suffer under the strain of its transient population, Byron seems to thrive – guests and locals alike share a strong collective desire to protect and enhance the natural beauty of this area.  

The visitors bring a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Byron is a melting pot of status, culture, race, creed and colour. And, to be honest, it is one of the reasons I’m raising my children here. Every day we meet people from all walks of life. And if you have the time to listen, they each have a story to tell.

Life moves at slower pace and as a consequence we’re living life differently – enjoying simpler pleasures and spending more time together. 

We can ride our bicycles everywhere. 

We can go to the beach and see beautiful sand art drawn by a man who is on a mission to infuse the world with love through his drawings. And what’s not to love about that? 

We visit The Farm – a place created solely to teach children where food comes from. And this is the perfect setting for such a venture. The produce around here is fresh and bountiful. The avocados are unbelievably delicious. 

We can drive for 10 minutes and be in the middle of the countryside... in a small one-pub town or just in the middle of nowhere on a twisty pot-holed road with a spectacular view of the coastline. Or we can find a secluded spot by the river for a picnic and an afternoon nap. 

There’s a lot of inventive people around here too, and this feels like a hub – a hive – of innovative activity in areas like food preparation, design, clothing, art, music, entertainment. Things that are ‘hand made’ and ‘locally grown’ are held in high regard, and regular markets provide avenues for cottage industries to meet and make new customers.  

On the whole, people here are passionate about what they do. And this personal drive is evident in all areas of their lives. Individuality is encouraged and so is standing up for what you believe in. Tolerance is paramount. The community rallies in support of the sick, the poor, and the disadvantaged, and to combat anything undesirable. This is a place where people want to get to know you... not what you do, but who you are. And perhaps this is why I love Byron Bay the most – because these are the standards and the values that I want to infuse in my children. 

Is there anything that could make life better? Yeah, maybe. This is Kombi country and we’re forever in awe of these funky vans that dot the horizon and promise fun and freedom on the open road. Right now we’ve got our eye on a nice light blue one and we hope to make her part of the family... But that’s another adventure. 

 

Article by Sonia Hickey

 

Sonia started her working life as a cadet in a radio newsroom. In her mid-20s when she travelled overseas and her thick Aussie accent made on-air radio jobs hard to come by, she trained in magazine journalism. Her work history also includes senior roles in Marketing, Public Relations and Communications both here and overseas. Sonia gave up the ‘Monday to Friday 9-5’ regime to raise her children and has since returned to her journalism roots. These days she freelances for a wide range of clients, including small businesses as well as ASX listed companies. Sonia confesses to being a ‘word nerd‘ who’s happiest when she’s at the keyboard. Her skills include writing, editing and proofreading material such as web copy, blogs, brochures, articles, profile pieces, business reports, annual reports, internal communications, media statements, speeches, and just about anything else that requires words on paper. And she’ll never miss a deadline! If you need a writer, say ‘hello’ to Sonia on 0410 017 622


DAYBORO, QUEENSLAND

My Country town is Dayboro, a little town about an hour north of Brisbane CBD. 

Dayboro, known as “The town of Yesteryear”, is nestled in a valley surrounded by trees, green fields and mountains as far as the eye can see. 

Dayboro dwellers benefit from our small and very welcoming community. As a group we include lots of tree changers who commute into Brisbane to work as well as also lots of people who have lived here all their lives.

We have a pub, IGA, bakery, a few cafes, restaurants, an art gallery, vintage shops and a servo. Weekends see lots of visitors around, meandering along the main street, or stopping in for bite to eat on a country drive. 

When we first moved here we were surprised how much there is to do in such a small community. On the first Sunday of every month there is a market which offers local artworks, plants, honey, clothing, antiques and collectables as well as the usual jumble and produce. There are monthly movies in Dayboro Hall, Friday night dinners at the bowls or footy clubs plus our annual huge events of Dayboro Day and the Dayboro Show.

We have plenty to keep us occupied during the week too. With a swimming complex, playgroup, three parks, showgrounds and sports fields, Dayboro is a town where it is impossible not to bump into at least three people you know every time you hit the IGA. 

It is the perfect place for kids to grow up and learn about the world outside ipads, TV and shopping malls. We’re 20 minutes from the nearest chain store but only five minutes from a gorgeous creek. On hot days we go swimming and exploring and on cold days we hunker down by the firepit and look up at the stars. Our kids can play outside from dawn till dusk and we can grow our own fruit and veggies. 

We are fortunate to live on acreage with two cows (strictly lawn mowers), two dogs, a fish and a soon to arrive kitten. Our neighbours have ducks and chickens, some have horses and all you can hear most days are the noises of birds and children playing. All in all we’ve found an idyllic place to raise our family and grow old together.

More about Dayboro:
Dayboro Information: www.dayborodistrict.com.au
The Dayboro Grapevine (local magazine): www.dayborograpevine.com.au
Dayboro Show: www.dayboroshowsociety.com
Dayboro Day: www.dayborodistrict.com.au/index.php?page=dayboroday.php

 

Michelle McKenna
www.mckennamarketing.com.au – coming soon!

 

Michelle is an ex-journalist who moved to Brisbane from London in 2002. Now living in Dayboro with her husband and two children she has moved into PR and marketing, working freelance for a range of small businesses. Working from home suits her lifestyle as she is available to be a full-time Mum, take care of the animals and volunteer with Equine Action Queensland. EAQ is becoming a passion as she works together with them to educate and promote horse welfare and husbandry. www.eaq.org.au.


IMBIL, QUEENSLAND

My time in the country began at the age of 14; a huge transition for a girl who went to private school and lived in the city. My grandparents would live with us and my family began a small farm. My grandfather had spent my early years doing wildlife rescue and having regular spots on a television show about Australian wildlife. Naturally, once we moved to our farm, my whole world was opened up to other things. Possums in my pockets, raising my own animals, sneaking animals into my bedroom, a basket on the front of my red postie bike so my animals could ride. My life was changed forever.

Almost 17, I left home for the big smoke for huge career to be a hairdresser. Within 2 years I was sick from chemicals and had to move home to be taken care of. Respite in the country and tlc from my family and I was ready to finish my hairdressing.

As the years went on I fell in love and had children. I found myself married to a farmer in a country town I only ever knew about because it was the coldest town in Queensland. I raised my then small children there and they had the freedom of farm life most could only dream of. On school holidays they would go to their Nanny in the beautiful Mary Valley, Queensland.

As life goes, you don’t always get what you expect and time changes circumstances. I moved to where my mum lived, the Mary Valley, just a little further north-west of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. On 200 acres of pristine land with rolling hills that looked like bowling greens, the sunsets looked more beautiful than ever and the air was clear.

With children comes tuckshop duty and our little school didn’t have one. Of course, I rallied parents to help and make it happen. Small communities are challenged by the simplest of things. I wanted things to be turned around and they were.

Again, being a gypsy, we moved back to the city and spent time there until recently.

12 years on, my town, the pristine place where I have so many wonderful memories, is rebuilding. It is rebuilding from a government decision to buy 13,000 hectares of properties proposing to build a dam and flood the whole area. 

A decision that would take out many other little towns.

A decision that would decimate endangered species of flora and fauna.

A decision that would destroy the livelihood of so many local farmers and families. 

A decision that people power helped block. 

The determination and authenticity of country folk should never be overlooked or underestimated. The community spirit I see every day is incredible. The friendships I have formed since being back at home is wonderful. There are numerous projects that are in place to try and rebuild cottage industry and revitalise sustainable farming in the area once again.

There has been a huge injection of tree changers to the area. Organics, gourmet produce, farmer’s markets and adventure getaways are all thriving and utilise the incredible river system, streams that run throughout the ever green district as a drawcard to invite a healthy tourist trade back to the locale. It is a holiday town for campers, people who love B&B’s, people who fish and water-ski, motor-cross, farm-stay and horse riding. There is no end to what this pristine paradise of a town can achieve. 

With some large investors keen to preserve the future of this area and no plans to destroy the beauty, I am proud to live and have a business here. There will come a day where I am proud to say we helped make a difference on the tourist trail.  My family didn’t sell out to the government. And I will be so proud making my relish for the annual Tomato Festival. 

Sometimes the nicest things in life is getting right back to basics; my life and my business is about that. About ethics, no exploitation, sustainability and living a chemical-free, organic life where possible. Something else about me, I have pet cows, dogs, birds, cats and a donkey. It is true, you can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl. I am happiest in my boots, even if I am wearing a hat and floral frock.

 

Article by Kat Goldsmith
L'essentiel
www.lessentielaustralia.com.au
www.facebook.com/pages/Lessentiel/569840296447194


Emerald, Queensland

Hello from The Emerald City – a town situated in Central Queensland, smack bang in the middle of the Queensland Gem and Coal fields.

Tis been said that once you have drank from the Nogoa River, which runs through the centre of town, you will always return – and I too am a repeat dweller of this beautiful space.

I returned to the town in 2010, just 6 days prior to the last “Big Flood”.

As my family celebrated Boxing Day amidst the wrapping paper and left-over turkey, I noticed the neighbour moving out his furniture. We hadn’t yet had the opportunity to connect the internet, phone or TV, so we will blissfully unaware of the warnings that had been announced.

Once notified, of the imminent danger, the kids and I raised as much furniture as we could lift, and we drove away to the relative safety of our old house in Dysart, 179 kilometres away. We had minimal furniture left in this place, so we slept on the floor in sleeping bags, and sat for the next 72 hours glued to Weatherzone Online, getting updates via the Forum Chat Rooms.

As it turned out, our house flooded. Our whole street flooded. Actually, almost half the town flooded.

We saw photos online of the devastation and listened to the ABC for hourly updates. When the locals being interviewed cried, I cried. I heard people that I had bonded with via the forum tell their stories of loss and failed attempts to save their homes and their animals.

Being so far away and unable to assist was difficult.

On Jan 2 2011, we packed a lunch bag and made our way back to our new home.

Wading through water waist deep, my heart sinking at every step, we made our way gingerly back to the place we now called home. The water was still inside.

There were redclaw in my laundry tub, small fish in the lounge, which was now filled with water. The toilets had backed up, the washing machine, and Kwila table and chairs had been washed out the new hole in the back fence. Our new spa, said to weigh 2 tonne when completely full, was ripped from the electrical wiring and now sat forlornly in the middle of the back yard. The boxes that were too heavy for us to lift upstairs were gone. Precious boxes full of kids toys, kindy paintings, their first lock of hair washed away to goodness knows where.

There were shopping carts stuck up trees, a hot water service jammed into the front of my house, 44 gallon drums of unknown chemicals spilled through the lower level of our home. Debris from miles away, piled high in my yard and inside my home.

I was rocked to the core.

Here we were, moving towns, trying to find a new life for myself and the 5 kids – and this happens just days later.

We joined the 2500 other people at the local PCYC centre, lining up for hours to see Government Agencies and ask for assistance. To say it was heartbreaking was an understatement. Everyone had lost so much, it was incredible to comprehend.

The next day, a stranger appeared with a BBQ, another with a carton of water, and another with a big bag of leftover xmas lollies for the kids.

This was how the people of Emerald handled the Big Flood. With compassion, with caring and with a magnitude of generosity that I had never witnessed before. People who had lost everything, were helping clean the cutlery and linen of the people who were not insured.

Blackhawk helicopters flew overhead, as the Army appeared to assist - and for just one moment, the kids were distracted enough to see this as an adventure, as a new start.

Looking back I see that this introduction to The Emerald City was wonderful. It showed me that the people I was now surrounded by, cared. They pulled together and became a united community.

And just as we saw 10 days later when Brisbane flooded, the whole of the state united. We cried together at the loss of life, we cleaned together and we overcame adversity, together.

This is why I love living in a country such as ours.

In times of strife, we pull together. We stand strong and we face the battles head on.

I made firm friends via that Online Forum that I am closely connected to, still to this day. We meet and we laugh, and we marvel at how well everything all bounced back. We met over a tragedy, yet we bonded through celebrations for graduations, birthdays and business targets now being reached.

As hard as it was to see the situation as a blessing, in time I came to realise that the water somehow cleansed me. Washed away the attachments to the past, and gave us internal strength to build upon within a new life.

Obviously I couldn’t see that at the time, but as Steve Jobs says “you can’t join the dots looking forwards, you can only have faith that the next dot will appear in the right place”. The flood of Emerald joined many dots for me. It introduced me to a compassionate community, it allowed me to cement friendships and it was where I met my husband.

It is the people that make a place special, and I have been lucky enough to meet some incredible characters since my arrival. I had found my “place”.

The house I now reside in has a 12 foot hedge that surrounds it. To me, it represents tranquillity, serenity. I often pine for time behind the hedge when I am away. I recently got married in that very backyard, transformed into a twinkling wonderland by some very talented Emerald locals.

Emerald is my home. It’s where my heart and family live. It is a town where we embrace strangers and care about their wellbeing.

I am blessed that my dots have joined up so incredibly beautifully, in the shape of an Emerald.

 

Article by Jaki Quenault
www.facebook.com/jakimaq
www.twitter.com/iamjakimac

 

I am Jaki Quenault, I am an Author, a Blogger, a Transformational Speaker. I am a Life and Business Mentor and I am known as A Courage Igniter. I lead women of all ages to step and into their own level of personal brilliance, to live a life of courage and to take advantage of opportunity… how to manifest and magnetise a fabulous life.


WINTON, QUEENSLAND

In 1889 Banjo Paterson wrote Clancy Of The Overflow. Two lines in the poem stuck with me after reading them in primary school.

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,

And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I saw the sunlit plains extended as a teenager travelling by bus to my first job in Mount Isa. The vision splendid was just like Banjo described. From 1980 I wrote and photographed western Queensland, the country that inspired Banjo to write Clancy Of The Overflow and his earlier classic, Waltzing Matilda.

Over the years I totally fell in love with the vastness and emptiness of this special place and got to know the people and places of the Queensland bush. I loved them all but Winton was the one place I really felt connected to. 

Winton is easy to find, it is about 1500 kilometers northwest of Brisbane. Let me put that into perspective, if you are driving, hop in your car in Brisbane and head directly west for a day, find somewhere to sleep, when you get up the next day turn right and head directly north for another day and you have arrived.980 people live in this real bush town which is the centre of the Winton Shire. About 600 people are spread thinly over the remaining 53,935 square kilometers of the shire.

During my many visits to Winton over the years I noticed that no matter where I was in the town I could look left or right and see the bush. Nowhere in Winton was too far from the edge of town. This was a very attractive quality for me because just like Banjo I knew the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

One of my long-term jobs as a freelance photographer was doing most of Slim Dusty's photography for the last 20 years of Slim's life. Slim and his wife Joy knew where you could get a good coffee in very town in Australia and while traveling with Slim I discovered the good coffee (and food) at the Coolibah cafe at the Waltzing Matilda Centre. As far as I know the Waltzing Matilda Centre is the only museum anywhere dedicated to honouring a song. The museum is a mixture of the new, high tech and lots of good old stuff that together tell the story of Waltzing Matilda and the communities rich history.

Banjo Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda at Dagworth Station. First public performance of the song took place at Winton's north Gregory Hotel on 6th April 1895. The town now celebrates the day with the Vision Splendid Dinner. QANTAS was conceived in Cloncurry, born in Winton and grew up in Longreach. It was registered as a company in Winton in 1920 and the first QANTAS board meeting was held here in 1921.

Winton's fame was built on the back of the legend of Matilda but in 1962 a local grazier discovered a fossilized footprint on Cork Station about an hour west of Winton. Before long they had uncovered 3,300 footprints that make up the biggest dinosaur stampede in the world. Legend has it that Steven Spielberg sent researchers to view Winton's dinosaur stampede before he filmed Jurassic Park in the early 1990s. Winton cattleman David Elliott discovered a 20 to 30 ton sauropod near Winton in 1999. This inspired David to build Australian Age of Dinosaurs on a jump up near town. This museum has quickly earned the reputation as a national centre for dinosaur research. 

I've worked in the Winton area many times over the years. Mostly visiting on photography assignments; either photographing the people or the landscape or conducting photography workshops. At one of my workshops I got to meet Winton local and photo legend Peter Knowles. He was one of the first people to photograph the channel country in colour and published several books from the late 1960s onwards. One of his early books, Whirlwind Country, inspired me to photograph this country. I became friends with Peter in Winton and have kept in touch with since he moved to southeast Queensland. Peter is in his late 80s and has embraced digital technology and still travels extensively and photographs the Australian landscape. Peter inspired many local photographers and I am constantly amazed at how many gifted photographers live in such a small town.

Eventually I got frustrated coming to Winton, working hard for a couple of days and then leaving. Mid 2014 I was in Winton for the Vision Splendid Film Festival and it crossed my mind to come and stay in Winton for a couple of months, do some photography and concentrate on writing a novel. I arranged a bed with a local friend and had planned to spend the winter of 2015 in my favourite bush town. 

They say it's never too late to change. In late 2014 I decided to apply for a proper job. The Winton Shire Council advertised for a Tourism and Events Manager. I was 63 and had worked for myself since 1980 but a couple of days before applications closed I decided to give it a go. Thankfully one of children gave me a hand to cobble together the application and to my surprise I got the job. I packed my library and stuff into two shipping containers in Toowoomba and headed west.

Driving into Winton I felt as though I had arrived home. I've been here six months now and still can't put my finger on exactly what I love about this place. I love the people, love the spirit of the people; they are rough and tumble lot, educated and artistic types too, all of them remarkably optimistic and resilient. Takes more than a four-year drought to cause a long face in this town. I heard Mayor Butch Lenton being interviewed by the ABC recently. They asked Butch about the drought and he said, "It's not as if we haven't been in this situation before".

My plans to write that novel have morphed into plans to compile a substantial photo journal; a collection of words and pictures about this remarkable Australian bush town.  
Winton has carved itself a solid place in the Australian film industry. The Nick Cave movie The Proposition was filmed here. Ivan Senn produced Mystery Road here and is currently filming Goldstone west of Winton. Producer Bill Leimbach plans to shot much of his film Banjo in the area. 

Winton has inspired generations of locals and visitors and continues to do so. It got me to give up my comfortable life in Toowoomba and shift here. I have no doubts I made the right decision. The landscape delights me every time I look at it. Every nook and cranny is a constant surprise and every night I step outside and enjoy the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

 

Article by John Elliott
www.elliottcountry.com
www.facebook.com/johnelliottcountry

 

John Elliott is a writer/photographer who has spent his life documenting the Australian bush and Australian music. He has published 14 books and his show 1000 Mile Stare was shown at the National Portrait Gallery. After 35 years as a freelance producer he has recently taken up a full-time job with the Winton Shire Council.


PINGARING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Screaming out Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison’ at the top of our lungs while riding in the back of the ute as we went to shift sheep is as vivid today as it was all those years ago. Not that anyone could hear my cousins and I as the wind rushing past us swept away our voices. The pink and grey galahs could always out-screech us. My childhood was seriously the best ever. I spent nearly every weekend on my uncle’s farm with my cousins, riding motorbikes, catching yabbies, watching movies, building cubbies in the bush, eating raw cake and being farm kids. When I wasn’t at the farm I was at home, in our five-house town of Pingaring, driving around in cars and a buggy that my dad had built practising revers spins and donuts. 

I was born and raised in Pingaring, my grandfather brought a farm here years ago and my dad moved into town with his parents who took over the General Store and mechanic’s shop. My dad’s parents moved on but he stayed for mum and started his own business as a contractor for farmers. As a girl I can remember playing in old rail wagons filled with super while mum and dad emptied them before dad went and spread it out on paddocks for farmers. We had the freedom to roam around the bush, creating games and cubbies and it was a safe, secure childhood. We knew everyone in our town, like a big family, we all looked out for each other.

I never had a desire to leave my tiny town, even after being away at boarding school for four years. Why should I have to leave the place I love? So I stayed. I was racing speedway at that time with my dad and life was still fabulous. I had plenty of work, I was happy doing anything from driving tractors, rousabouting, crutching cradle, secretary work, teachers aid….you name it, I feel like I did it all. I never had the desire to leave home. Pingaring had everything I loved about country living.

It’s what inspired me to start writing in the first place. The overwhelming passion I have for this lifestyle and the amazing surrounding. But it’s not just the tall gumtree’s that fill the summer air with eucalyptus, nor how the Albany Doctor (ocean winds) blow in on a hot afternoon making you smile with relief, nor is it the sunset and sunrises that hold you captivated with awe with such displays of colour from golds to pinks, or the massive sky that has so many shades of blue and clouds that take so many forms, it’s not only the smells like that first opening rain for seeding or the freshly ripped earth because all these are special, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also the characters of my town. It’s the people that make this place home. Some quirky, some a little strange, some bossy, some loud, some with a laugh you can pick from a mile away, these folks have big hearts and we all love our community. It’s a great big support network. 

Some of the best moments are when the town gets together for a few drinks and a chat by a bonfire on a cold winter’s night, or sitting under the gumtree during a summer heatwave after a long day of harvest. It’s a combination of the people, the land and my childhood that has made Pingaring ‘it’ for me. Considering it inspired me enough to write a book and now I have my seventh book out this year, I almost feel like I have my town, Mother Nature, the people and my family to thank for it. If you’re ever in WA, and in the Wheatbelt, feel free to stop by for a chat under the gumtree. 

 

Article by Fiona Palmer
www.fionapalmer.com
www.facebook.com/FionaPalmerRuralAuthor
www.twitter.com/fiona_palmer