Peter and Emma Morris were seeking a more secure future when they left their Zimbabwe home in 2004.
The couple and their three children stayed in their native country for as long as possible, but when the government made it illegal for the family to operate its farming business it was time to find a new home.
Peter travelled to Australia in 2003 to meet with potential agricultural employers seeking skilled people with occupations in demand.
‘We stayed in touch and after a year I was offered a job to manage a potato seed business in the state of South Australia,’ he said.
The Morris family arrived in Australia in 2004 to start their new lives in Mt Gambier in South Australia, located halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne.
After Peter had worked for two years in Mt Gambier the family qualified for permanent residency in 2006.
Keen on mountains and snow sports, they took a winter holiday to the nearest alpine region in Victoria to celebrate. On their way home down from the mountains, they passed through the picturesque hamlet of Harrietville.
‘We saw a beautiful old weatherboard house for sale and fell in love with it,’ Peter said. ‘We called the agent’s number on the board, managed to get an inspection even though it was early on a weekend and we bought it. It was a pure impulse purchase.’
The family has found the small community and outdoors lifestyle it was seeking in Harrietville.
Located just over 300 km from Melbourne in the state’s north east, the historic town has a permanent population of just 280 people although this swells considerably during peak tourism times.
Harrietville is the last stop before the ski-fields and attracts visitors to the region all year ‘round. It hosts a three-day bluegrass music festival in Spring and the region is a tourism drawcard with its alpine peaks and stunning valleys, world-class gourmet food and wine and great choice of outdoor activities.
Harrietville has all the essential services the Morris family needs, with the larger town of Bright just 25 km away and the major centre of Wangaratta with a population of 17,000 is around one hour’s drive away.
The family has quickly become part of Harrietville’s tight-knit community.
‘There’s a mix of interesting people here, from gold miners to professionals who travel to Melbourne when they need to,’ Peter said.
The family still loves the historic 1800s renovated weatherboard house that caught their attention and spurred the move to Victoria.
‘We have a river running past and there’s a huge waterhole which is great for swimming plus there’s a park next door,’ Peter said.
The children attend a government school and enjoy a similar outdoor lifestyle to Zimbabwe. They love snow skiing, bike riding and exploring the region’s many attractions.
Peter and Emma, a chef with international experience, took whatever work was offered in their first months in Harrietville while they planned for the longer-term.
‘We were just enjoying life and had no intention of starting a business but we saw an opportunity on our property for a café and ice-cream shop,’ Peter said.
Before long the Morris family was back in business. As permanent residents, Peter and Emma qualified for the Australian Government’s New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) which provides training, support and business advice to eligible job seekers as they start a business.
‘The business permits arrived on the same day we became Australian citizens in a community ceremony in 2006,’ Peter said. ‘Things couldn’t have worked out better.’
‘Morries’ opened for business in November 2007 to great success. It now employs Peter and Emma full-time and they also have casual staff.
‘Any business takes hard work but everything has been easier than expected,’ Peter said. ‘We have received a lot of support and encouragement from the community and the business keeps on growing.’
While the Morris family love the mountains and enjoy their business, one of the best things about their new life is the community they’ve found.
‘Our children are now aged 15, 10 and 8 and if we can’t see them we know they’re OK,’ Peter said. ‘People look out for them here and everyone supports each other.’
While the family will always miss Zimbabwe their new life in Victoria couldn’t be better.
‘Victoria has every opportunity to make what you want of your life,’ Peter said. ‘It’s all there for the taking.’