When we first arrived in Yarram, my wife and I were both young… Young compared to our present ages that is! I was 61 at the time and Jacqui was 57, so we felt we had plenty of working life left in us, and we looked round for something useful we could do in the little town where we had decided to make our home. It wasn’t difficult!
First, we knew there was a hospital in the town so we went there and asked if any help was needed there, in a non-medical sort of way. (I didn’t quite feel up to doing brain surgery at this early stage!) They said they would love to have us come in a couple of days a week to chat to some of the resident clients living in the nursing home section, and we jumped at the chance.
We were asked to come in at about 2pm and people were selected for us to talk to. We especially spoke with those in the home who rarely had visitors of their own, either through distance from relatives, or because there just were no visitors anyway. This seemed like a very good idea and a way for us to get to know other people who came in visiting as well, all very useful.
Unfortunately, 2pm turned out to be a not-very-good idea. The clients we were to chat to had been given a good lunch about an hour earlier and by the time we arrived, at our allotted time, our ‘friends’ were fast asleep, happily digesting what they had recently eaten — and they got very annoyed when they were woken up. Needless to say, this was a ‘job’ that didn’t last very long, due mainly to bad planning on the part of the home staff, who were much too busy to fit us in at a more useful time!
Over the next few months though, we did get involved in much of the life of the town — me in Lions, the Country Fire Authority, on the board of management of the hospital and the local Country Club, while Jacqui joined the Country Women’s Association and became engaged in various other committees and societies operating around the place. It was all good fun and a great way to get to know people and make friends.
Then my big moment arrived, right out of the blue! It came near the time for local council elections. I was at some meeting or other, writing a news story on what was going on (yes, I almost forgot, I had become a freelance writer for the local paper), when during an after-meeting chat, I happened to mention that it must be quite interesting to be on council and get involved in the political life of the town. I thought no more of it at the time, but a couple of weeks later a group of town leaders came to my front door and asked me if I’d be prepared to stand in the election as the representative for Yarram! I was momentarily stunned, after all, we’d only lived in the town for a little over three years, and I thought most people would think of me as a pushy newcomer if I did this. Yet, the visitors were insistent and in the end I gave in, as much as anything because I never like to dodge a challenge, and this did sound interesting!
So it came to pass that a few months later having, much to my surprise, won the election, I found myself in the council chamber in Sale, being sworn in as a councillor. This actually proved to be one of the best things I did, because it meant I gained an intimate knowledge of one of the largest shires in Victoria, seeing areas we would have been unlikely to go to otherwise, and I also got to meet a great many more people too, most of them very friendly and helpful, apart from a very few, who we called ‘professional councillor haters’. Very long hours were involved in this job — 7am until 9pm four or five days a week, for three years, but I never regretted a moment of it!
If you move to a new town, I thoroughly recommend plunging in and taking part in what is going on there, especially if it’s a small town, like the one we found!