Living in the “outback” (it’s really not as outback as one can go, but to city dwellers, this is definitely a smaller outback town) has been both exciting and a challenge. I think it was a challenge we were up for, well and truly. Since living here, we’ve encountered snakes, kayaked rivers, weathered a pandemic, experienced I don’t know how many black outs during major storm events, been flooded into our town, and had a baby by the side of the road. We’ve proved that we can do a smaller place. We’ve even thrived here.
But since becoming a mum, I have a newfound appreciation for exactly how hard travelling with children is, and I don’t want to be four hours away from an international airport anymore. Flying back to New Zealand to introduce my girls to the family still seems prohibitive even though the borders are now open. And that’s a signal to me that maybe this isn’t right for us long term. Neither do I want to be somewhere where the healthcare is such that people do wind up giving birth by the side of the road. I would prefer to live somewhere where the chemist is open longer hours, especially on the weekend (which always seems to be when kids have health emergencies), and I would prefer to live somewhere where there are more options of subsidised Daycare for my daughters. Also, I don’t want to be a long way from a university if my girls decide they want to study when they get older. One thing that has been hard – and now I’m the one doing it – has been making friends in my age group only to watch them move away after a couple of years. This makes settling into a church hard, and it makes feeling settled very difficult, unless your family has been embedded in the fabric of Chinchilla for a couple of decades. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a very friendly little town. But it can be hard to feel at home in, with a lot of the younger population being transient.
Things that have been amazing about Chinchilla have been the weather. I know some people don’t like blisteringly hot followed by a two and half month winter blitz with frosts – but it’s actually very liveable, because winter temperatures rise to twenty quite often during the day and in summer, there’s always the local Weir for water recreation. The friendliness of the local people is a huge asset to the town, and the local events, when they’re not cancelled by a pandemic, are a treat. The wildlife out here is varied and exciting. The skies are huge and awe inspiring. And you can’t beat the affordability of buying your own home in Chinchilla. That’s been fantastic. We’ve been able to live in what’s felt like a palace compared to our Christchurch home, just because it’s been so cheap to buy here. The yearly sunshine hours are the same as Perth’s – 3400 annually. Compare that to Melton, where we’re going, which is 2600. And Melbourne city proper gets 2200. You can see why they build solar farms out here. Chinchilla also has most of the shops that you need. They’re not always open when you need them, but they are there, and there are a couple of banks as well and a fantastic library and local cinema too. The Parklands out here are beautiful and the Weir is fantastic, especially since its revamp. So there are lots of great things about Chinchilla too.
This is why I have mixed feelings. I know I was born in Christchurch, but I had no emotional connection to the place whatsoever. When we left, I was delighted. I missed the lovely people we had gotten to know, and I miss them still. But I found Christchurch, for me personally, morbidly depressing. That’s not to say it is – it can be a very beautiful city. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.
It’s different with Chinchilla. I’ve actually really enjoyed Chinchilla, and I think before we had the kids, the drive to the coast for holidays and flights was a lot more manageable, and we didn’t think much of it. Now when we have to stop every two hours and then potentially board a plane for a four-hour flight and finally trudge our way through an hour or more of customs in New Zealand, it just seems a lot more difficult than it would need to be. Again, I didn’t mind the healthcare and lack of the bigger or more available amenities as much before having kids. Having had kids has made my life so much busier and more hectic. It means that where I can make life easier so that I can just enjoy the kids, I will.
We’re still going to be in Australia, which is great, because I love this country and I would be crying buckets of tears if we left. But we are going further south, and I’m going to miss that beautiful, consistent heat that we get up here in Queensland. That said, I’ve lived in Victoria as a child, and I did adore it back then. It was where I first fell in love with Australia. So perhaps this is a chance just to fall in love with Victoria all over again. Michael has a job teaching economics, which is something he hasn’t taught since New Zealand, and he’s looking forward to that. In the meantime, I have some students waiting for me in Melton, and some who are continuing remotely. So things are looking promising for our family down there, and I suppose – being on Melbourne’s doorstep – I will get to experience the best of what Victoria has to offer. So much excitement, but also bewilderment with all the preparations to be made. I'm going to miss all our friends very, very much. In the meantime, I've written a small book with some of our experiences in it from small town Australia. You can check it out here.