When Neil Chadwick arrived in Sydney in 2004 he was following an Australian girl he’d met on Canada’s ski slopes.
On a working holiday after his university studies in the United Kingdom, Neil had no plans to visit Victoria when things suddenly changed.
‘It was the classic story of following the girl and everything falling apart a day after arriving,’ Neil said.
With everything gone wrong, Neil called an Australian friend he’d made in Canada who had since returned to Victoria’s capital, Melbourne. His friend invited him to stay while he planned what to do next.
Neil held a working holiday visa, which allows people from more than 20 countries aged 18–30 years to spend time travelling and working in Australia. If they spend three months working in certain industries in specified rural areas they can extend their visa by 12 months.
Neil’s fortunes looked up when he arrived in Melbourne. His friend lived in Richmond, one of the closest suburbs to the city centre. Richmond is popular with young people and just a short stroll to the city or the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Neil’s friend offered him free accommodation until he settled. He even found him temporary work with a firm that removes contaminated and dangerous materials like asbestos. It allowed Neil to build on his Bachelor of Science degree and he discovered he enjoyed the work.
When the company offered Neil a full-time job and to sponsor him as a skilled migrant he jumped at the chance.
Within a year Neil was offered an even better job with a leading global ground engineering and environmental services company that continued his visa sponsorship. While friends face long commutes in the UK, Neil takes a short stroll or tram ride to the company’s Melbourne office.
‘It all turned out pretty well,’ Neil said. ‘I might have lost the girl but I gained some great friends, a really good job and my permanent residency.’
When Neil first rang his Mum in the UK to announce he planned to stay in Melbourne, she hung up the phone. However, a few visits to Victoria later and she’s satisfied Neil is with good people who genuinely care about him.
‘Australians are easy-going and good fun,’ Neil said. ’People have helped me here in ways you would never expect.’
Neil lived rent-free for two years with his friend and is now an honorary member of his extended family. He was even a groomsman when his friend’s brother got married.
‘My Melbourne friend invited me to his parents’ home for dinner on my first Wednesday here and six years later I’m still there for dinner every Wednesday,’ he said.
Neil has many friends in Melbourne but keeps in regular touch with his UK mates and their friendships remain strong when he visits.
Neil loves his new life in Melbourne, which is consistently rated as one of the world’s most liveable cities by The Economist magazine. The climate and outdoor lifestyle were the main drawcards for Neil to stay.
He still lives in Richmond but on weekends he often heads to Victoria’s diverse regional areas to indulge in his love of outdoor adventure sports.
Victoria has a temperate climate with distinct seasons so Neil enjoys mountain bike riding all year round and snow sports in winter.
‘I’ve also got into wakeboarding here which I’d always wanted to try,’ Neil said.
Daytrips to Victoria’s spectacular surf coast, its alpine and river areas are easy from Melbourne, with major rural centres well-connected by road and public transport.
Neil became an Australian citizen on Australia Day in January 2009. And he found a new Australian girlfriend that has since become his wife!
A wedding was held on the Great Ocean Road with over a hundred guests including 11 family members from the UK.
‘Everyone was amazed at how beautiful it was down there’ Neil said.
While Neil’s parents would rather he lived a little closer, they keep in touch by phone and over the internet using Skype and only a plane flight separates them.
‘I feel like I belong so I’m here to stay’ Neil said. ‘Melbourne has everything a global city should have but it’s the people who make the difference here.
‘They’re open and relaxed and I’ve found people very generous and keen to help. It’s made things really easy for me.’