Regional Rural Finance Brokers are publishing a new series of articles featuring families that have made a “tree change”. In the series, we ask them what life in regional Australia is like. The first interview is with Katie Parker, social worker, postpartum doula and parent educator, who now calls Warragul and Gippsland home.
What motivated you to move to Warragul from Melbourne?
We had been travelling as a family the year before our move (in 2018) with our young kids aged 1 and 3 at the time (we moved between various regional towns depending on where my partner secured locum work). I loved the lifestyle of the smaller towns, the people were really friendly and I loved how close to everything we were. We made friends easily at local playgroups and other kids activities.
During our year of travel, a job opportunity came up for my partner in Gippsland, and so we made the big decision to move there instead of back to Melbourne – which was our original plan. It was great to have a taste of country town living first to confirm this was a lifestyle we enjoyed. We didn’t know Gippsland at all before we moved, so we have enjoyed getting to know different parts of it over the last 4.5 years. It is really beautiful here.
Was the cost of property a factor for you when moving to Warragul? What is the difference compared to Melbourne?
When we first moved to Gippsland, we were in Mirboo North. Our rent was half what we’d been paying in Melbourne. We then sold our small three-bedroom house (with a VERY small backyard) in Melbourne, and bought a 5 bedroom house on 1.8 acres in Warragul with a tiny bit of money leftover! We were so lucky to sell in Melbourne and buy in the country at just the right time.
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How was adapting to life in Warragul?
When we first moved to the Gippsland region – to Mirboo North – it didn’t take me long at all to adapt to life here. I joined the local playgroup (and joined the committee in the first week we lived there!) and immediately had a new group of friends. My kids turned 2 and 4 shortly after moving there. I organised a clothes swap at my house that was really well attended and was how I met more people (I invited the playgroup parents and asked them to invite their friends). The local community was lovely and welcoming and I settled in quickly, starting up weekly yoga classes, roller skating and joined a local tennis comp for the first time in 20 years.
It was slightly harder to join these things when we moved to Warragul in 2020 as we went into lockdown soon after moving, but I still felt welcomed by the community and quickly adapted to life there. I love having our local cafes that we go to where the staff knows us and the kids.
What are the main attractions of Warragul that you like to tell visitors about?
Wineries, bushwalks, local cafes, Gumbuya World, beautiful beaches (a bit of a drive from here), the Warragul farmers market.
What are work opportunities like in Warragul?
If I was still a hospital social worker (which I was for 13 years prior to moving to Gippsland), I am confident I wouldn’t have had a problem finding work as the local hospitals are often desperate for staff. However, soon after moving to the Gipsland region, I started my own business: Katie Parker – Perinatal & Parenting Services, where I provide perinatal counselling, parenting workshops, mothers’ groups, in-home postpartum support, women’s circles and I also run local meetups and retreats for mums in business (through my roles of social worker, postpartum doula, parenting educator and mentor for mums in business). Business was slow to start with as we’d only just moved here and I didn’t have any pre-existing networks, but my business quickly grew and now I’m run off my feet.
Can you describe your lifestyle in Warragul?
Work-life balance is much better as I don’t have to commute to work. Although that’s also because I started my own business mainly working from home! But if I worked at Warragul Hospital it would be a three-minute drive to work as opposed to a 45-minute drive when we were living in Melbourne.
My partner’s job here isn’t as stressful as his job was in Melbourne so he gets to spend more time with the family. In Melbourne my partner didn’t have time for leisure activities as he was working/commuting so much, but here he has joined and now runs a local book club and has met some great friends through that.
I interact a lot with the local community, I have much more time for leisure activities (it also helps to be at that stage of parenting where our kids are older and both at school as of this year). The kids love their weekend sports (Miniroos and Auskick) and this has also been a great way to interact with the local community. I have also got quite involved with the community through running local pregnancy and new mama meet-ups and mums in business meet-ups (they’re free, we just meet at cafes).
If you have children, what are the benefits and challenges of living in Warragul compared to a big city?
In Warragul where we are now, there are several school options. What I love about living here is that most of my kids’ school friends all live really close. It’s been easy to form friendships with other school parents and we help each other out when we need it with school pick-ups, babysitting swaps etc. (particularly those of us who don’t have family support here).
What can you say to people considering the ‘big move’?
It’s not for everyone, but I love it! I love being surrounded by nature, it’s so good for the soul!