For Bob and Jane Viner, and their four children, moving to Victoria was the change of life they were looking for, and seven years later they can’t imagine living anywhere else. So much so, they became proud citizens of Australia in 2011.
Bob and Jane first thought about coming to Australia after watching a TV program on people who had taken the plunge and moved to another country.
‘We wanted a new lease of life, something different,’ recalled Bob. ‘We were living in Hampshire in England and I was travelling to London every day for work – two hours travel each way. Now I travel about 20 minutes and there’s no traffic. It’s amazing.’
Bob and Jane attended a seminar in London where the migration programs of several countries were explained, but the lifestyle, weather and work opportunities in Australia seemed the most appealing. On the advice of their migration agent, they applied for a skilled migration visa to Victoria due to Bob’s carpentry experience and the shortage of skilled tradespeople in the state.
‘Neither of us had ever been to Australia – all we knew was what we saw on TV,’ said Bob.
The Viners have 17 year-old twins Stephen and Samantha, Marc who is 12, and Jon Paul who is 10.
After making their decision, Jane started research online about where to live. ‘We didn’t want to live in a big city. We chose Geelong because it’s near the coast, its up and coming, and there seemed like a lot of work opportunities for Bob.’ Jane also found a lot of helpful information on a chat site called ‘BritVics’, which is operated by British expats who live in Victoria.
The Viners arrived in Victoria in November 2005. Their first intention was to settle about 20 minutes outside Geelong in the seaside town of Torquay but they soon realised it was a holiday destination and very busy in summer. ‘Also once the children were old enough for high school they would have had to catch a bus back to Geelong,’ said Bob.
The Viners have 12 year-old twins Stephen and Samantha, Marc who is six, and Jon Paul who is five.
Instead Bob and Jane decided on Highton, a suburb of Geelong about four kilometres from the city centre on the Barwon River. ‘It has everything we want – supermarkets, clothes shops, parks, swimming pools, and the beach just down the road,’ said Jane.
‘And if we need anything we can’t get here we just drive down the road 10 minutes to Geelong and they’ll have it, or we can jump on a train and go up to Melbourne.’
When the family first arrived Bob said his wife was determined he should have a decent holiday before starting work.
‘Once we found the house and bought a car we had three months off. We really got to know the local area. We went out to different places every day – the Great Ocean Road, Werribee Zoo, on the ferry to the other side of Port Phillip Bay.’
When the children started school in February, Bob opened up the classified section of the local paper and began looking for work. ‘It was incredible. I saw an ad for ‘carpenters required’, phoned up the guy and went down for an interview. At the end of the interview he said, ‘ok you can start tomorrow’ and that was it.’
When that project finished seven months later, a colleague recommended Bob for a major housing renovation not far from Torquay in Bells Beach, and since then work has been easy to find.
Jane has also found employment. Once her qualifications from the UK were ‘ticked and approved,’ she commenced a casual role in day care.
‘The education here is definitely better,’ said Jane. ‘Marc’s reading has come on so much since he’s been here. The teachers are so positive. I’ve got four much more confident children.’
Jane is also pleased with the opportunities available in the area as the children grow older. ‘The choices are there. If they don’t want to move further afield they don’t have to. If they want a university, there’s one here, if they want a job, there’s plenty of choice.’
When Jane’s parents visited in early 2007 they noticed a big difference in the family. ‘Even when they first saw us at the airport they said, you’re changed people,’ said Bob.
The couple also believes they’ve been lucky in terms of making new friends. ‘After we moved in our neighbours on both sides came in and introduced themselves. They kept an eye on us when it was our first Christmas, and invited us over,’ said Jane.
Sometimes Jane said she still wished her family were a little bit closer, where she could jump on a train or a plane and be there within a couple of hours. ‘I’d definitely advise people to do their research before coming. But we haven’t looked back.’
Bob agreed. ‘It’s been so easy. There’s no way I’d turn around and go back. I should have done it years ago.’