Olivia Stuart had her pick of general practitioner (GP) jobs when she moved to Victoria in 2008.
‘I applied for 10 jobs and was offered them all – and that was just in one part of the state,’ she laughed.
‘I could have had my pick of jobs anywhere in regional Victoria. There’s a shortage here of GPs and other health professionals.’
The Scottish-born doctor and her Australian-born husband, Andrew, moved to Victoria with their three young sons in 2008 after 13 years in Edinburgh, Scotland.
They have settled near Andrew’s family in the picturesque rural city of Wangaratta in the north of the state.
The move has transformed Olivia’s working and family life. She left her private practice career behind in the UK and now works in community health.
‘It’s given me a great quality of life that you don’t get in private practice,’ she said. ‘I enjoy my work, I’m very well paid and our family life is much better.’
With its tree-lined avenues, historic buildings and riverside parklands, Wangaratta offers all the services you’d expect in a rural city with the warm welcome of a traditional country town. There are 17,000 people in the township which services a much wider rich agricultural area that supports a world-class gourmet wine and food industry.
The great climate and stunning scenery make the region one of Victoria’s most popular for outdoor activities including four-wheel driving, cycling, bushwalking and fishing.
Like all of Victoria’s regional cities, Wangaratta is well-connected to Melbourne, which is just over two hours down the highway or three hours by train. There’s a thriving cultural precinct and Wangaratta is the home of Australian jazz, hosting an annual three-day festival which attracts well-known international acts.
‘If you enjoy historic quaint townships then you’ll love this part of Victoria,’ Olivia said. ‘Every town is pretty and the countryside between them is just lovely.’
Olivia works at the Ovens and King Community Health Service in Wangaratta which has a bulk-billing medical clinic. A multi-disciplinary team delivers a broad range of primary health services.
‘Clinically the work is the same as everywhere but I work standard business hours in community health,’ Olivia said.
‘I’m home for dinner in the evenings and I’m around all weekend. I get family leave, study leave and other professional development opportunities.’
Olivia works full-time supported by a part-time GP and the centre plans to expand.
Like all the state’s regional communities, Wangaratta’s population is growing which means opportunities for migrants with particular professional and trade skills. Some employers provide a relocation allowance and the Victorian Government offers a range of support services to help migrants settle.
The working life of Olivia’s husband has also changed dramatically. A former senior company director, Andrew has taken on the role of ‘stay-at-home Dad’ for now.
‘He just loves it, particularly while the children are still young,’ Olivia said. ‘We’re both at home in the evenings to share the parenting and it’s working out great.’
It didn’t take long for their three boys aged eight, five and three to settle into Australian life.
There’s swimming in summer when the average maximum temperature is 30ºC and in winter the average high is 12ºC which means outdoors play all year ‘round.
‘The lifestyle here is very sports and outdoors-based and there’s lots for them to do,’ Olivia said.
One of the best things about Victoria for Olivia is its natural beauty.
‘The scenery and natural environment here is just fantastic,’ she said. ‘We recently took a summer trip over the Great Alpine Road and the mountains were breathtaking.’
While she is not a skier and is yet to visit the region’s ski-fields in winter, Olivia is a keen birdwatcher. She’s found a whole new natural world to explore in Victoria.
She often finds herself enjoying idyllic family moments that make her sure the move was worth it.
‘Some days I am sitting on the banks of the stream with my binoculars while the children paddle about in the water,’ she said.
‘It’s a lovely lifestyle we’ve got here that everyone in the family enjoys.’