CAREER opportunities led Laura Poole and Clancy Bennett to Horsham but friends, the community and the Dimboola Football Netball Club have kept the couple in the Wimmera.
Laura moved to Horsham in 2008 to start her journalism career at the Wimmera Mail-Times, who offered her a position after she completed a work placement at the newspaper.
A year later, her partner Clancy followed her to the Wimmera, accepting a graduate teaching position at Dimboola Memorial Secondary College.
Clancy said that while Laura was the initial attraction for him moving to the Wimmera, the opportunity of an ongoing contract at Dimboola was also a key factor.
And a $4000 sign-up bonus from the State Government because Dimboola Memorial Secondary College was classed as a remote school only sweetened the deal.
Clancy soon settled into Wimmera life, joining the Dimboola Football Club.
“The community is the biggest thing for me,’’ he said.
“It’s different to the city, I feel there’s people I can call on that will help when we need something.’’
Laura’s career has progressed while in Horsham, now working for ABC Radio as a Rural Reporter.
And Clancy said he believed he had more career opportunities because he was working at a smaller school that was supportive of younger teachers progressing to leadership positions.
“There have been more opportunities for me to pursue leadership positions and teach VCE, which would not necessarily be available at a bigger, urban school,’’ he said.
Clancy is now the year eight co-ordinator at Dimboola Memorial Secondary College.
Dimboola has become quite a big part of Laura and Clancy’s lives, particularly their involvement with the town’s football and netball club.
“It’s where most of our spare time goes and we choose to because we enjoy it,’’ Clancy said.
The club has also given Clancy the chance to not just play a high level of country footy, but coach junior teams and be an assistant coach for the seniors.
“The club has made us feel at home,’’ Laura said.
“People accepted us straight away. I think people are happy to take you on board if you are willing to contribute,’’ Clancy added.
But Clancy said there was a diversity of people and interests in the Wimmera, like many regional areas.
“There isn’t just one type of people who live in the country,’’ he said.
“We have friends of all sorts of backgrounds and ages,’’ Laura said.
The Wimmera offer the couple a lifestyle they enjoy.
“I think you have more time to do the things you want to do and I find I’m happier in the country than when I lived in the city,’’ Clancy said.
“I was reluctant to come here because I didn’t know anything about the Wimmera but I think it was a good decision.’’
Laura said the Wimmera plains were a stark contrast to where the couple had grown up in Gippsland.
“We have a love-hate relationship with the landscape, it has taken a while to appreciate it,’’ she said.
“It’s a bit different to the hills and beaches in Gippsland.
“But it’s been nice to set up our lives separately in an area that isn’t where we grew up. You do it on your own.”
Distance from family and friends in Gippsland will always be a factor in how long the couple stay in the Wimmera.
But being located half way between Melbourne and Adelaide actually had its benefits last year when Laura lived in Adelaide during the week to present the South Australian Country Hour.
She travelled back to their Horsham home most weekends, gaining a new appreciation for the home her and Clancy have set up.
“We have been able to buy our own house because of affordable house prices, have a vegie garden and our dog Arji,’’ she said.
Clancy said their friends in Melbourne were paying twice as much to buy a house, smaller than theirs.
Clancy said he loved the easy lifestyle in the Wimmera.
“When I go to the city and drive in the traffic, I think that would drive me mental to do that every day,’’ he said.