When Peter and Judy Maine gave up their corporate lifestyles in Melbourne and headed for the small Central Victorian town of Heathcote, it was with the intention of creating a quiet, stress-free lifestyle for themselves.
They’ve achieved that but along the way they’ve found themselves immersed in local community life to a far deeper level than they expected, and they’re thriving because of it.
“We’ve been able to give back to a community in a meaningful way, which is something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Peter.
After working in tourism, travel and communications for thirty-five years, Peter could see the potential of the Heathcote region from the outset and he was keen to be a part of promoting that. And together with Judy’s thirty years of experience in the Melbourne’s corporate advertising and marketing arena, they’ve been able to make a valuable contribution to their new home town. Judy now runs the popular Heathcote on Show event and Peter has played a key role in a number of marketing initiatives around the town.
“Volunteer burn-out in small rural towns is a very real phenomenon,” he says.
“You have many people in the community who have been working hard for years without real success and they’re ‘over it.’ They feel that they’ve done their bit. So to have a bit of fresh blood in the place – people who can bring an established skill set and a different attitude, someone who can support locals to do the things that they’re good at, is sometimes all it needs to take things to the next level. That’s what I’m passionate about.”
For Judy, a sense of disengagement from her Melbourne job was the trigger for change and she’s never had a single regret.
“At some point in your life you need a change. There’s a lot of pressure in the corporate world and when you’re working from 7am to 9pm, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that matter.”
So four years ago, after a lot of careful planning, they left Melbourne and arrived in Heathcote, population 3,000. They had been visiting friends in the area for two years and they’d been impressed with the region and the town. They liked the feel of the place.
They had also spotted a retail outlet in the main street long before they even arrived in town and they’d begun speculating about what they might do with ‘a building like that.’ Then, two years on, through a chain of fortunate events, they were able to secure the building.
“We spent three months renovating it after we got here and we opened our business soon after. I don’t think I knew what was ahead at the beginning. I just knew I wanted to do something to provide us with a stress-free lifestyle - something that would fill a gap in the local retail community.
“We did a lot of research into what might be needed and for me, it was about ‘High Street style without High Street prices,’ says Judy.
Their business was a success from the outset and it’s kept growing – just like their community involvement.
“I think we greatly under-estimated a number of things in relation to moving here, chiefly the contribution we could make to the wider community,” says Peter.
“We’ve really enjoyed working with other community volunteers to create a focussed promotion of the Heathcote region. It’s been about taking something that was okay and all working together to take it to the next level.
“Heathcote is an increasingly popular wine region – there are over 70 vineyards here now – and promoting that further afield has been very satisfying.”
In the process, they say they’ve established some amazing friendships, that their social life has increased five-fold and that if they ever think about their dramatic move, it's generally with “a huge sigh of relief.”
“There are some spectacular examples of the changing profiles of small town Australia and for me, here in Heathcote, the last four years have been a clear demonstration of that phenomenon at work. It’s been very satisfying and that satisfaction comes from the people in the town – that’s what it’s all about for us,” says Peter - www.rutherfordandmaine.com.au