How to make a Country Change, work
With a population of just over eleven-thousand*, you might be tempted to think of this place as ‘just another country town’ to pass through on your way to somewhere else. But Leeton has plenty of reasons for you to stick around.
Wayne and Mia Bond liked this Riverina township so much they stayed. And as owners of the Leeton Heritage Motor Inn and Charley’s Bar and Grill, they invite you to stay too.
The couple met two and a half decades ago while working at a Salvation Army hostel.
“She said hello…”, Wayne said, “We went out… and the rest is history, so they say.” Their strong commitment to community kept them both working in Sydney for the Salvos, where they spent 10-12 more years in service.
The couple then moved to Toowoomba, Queensland, which is where they first started in the Motel business. They worked in several places in south-east Qld (Ipswich, Brisbane, Redcliffe) before the opportunity to run the Leeton Heritage Motor Inn came up. Ready for a new challenge, they took a drive to Leeton to get a feel for the place.
Their first thoughts were, “This looks like a great motel, a great business and a great town.” And it turns out that Leeton is all of those things and more. People are genuinely friendly and welcoming. “We really like the country lifestyle. You have clean country air, so you can get out and you can go for a walk without smog. There are sports clubs, gyms, restaurants, hotels and bars, an RSL club, and shops, little novelty sort of shops that you wouldn’t find in most places with gifts and clothes and those sort of things.”
Although running the Leeton Heritage Motor Inn requires the same amount of effort and hours as the Bond’s were accustomed to, life seems to go at a more relaxed pace. “It’s more peaceful, you get to know people better,” affirms Wayne. “For a work environment, and for families as well, it’s just a great community to live and grow in.”
Known as the food bowl of Australia, Leeton supports a great deal of agricultural business. Here you will find rice, cotton, citrus, grapes, walnuts, meat and more, but farming is certainly not the only sector that thrives in this Riverina town. It takes a lot of different trades to keep so many varied agri-businesses prosperous. Where there are trades, there are families, and where there are families, there are educational institutions, childcare centres, supermarkets and sporting facilities, community groups and health services. Wayne has noticed, “There’s a lot here that’s great for school-aged children.”
The cost of living in Leeton is definitely cheaper than you’ll find in the city too, and the town provides the opportunity for people to get into the housing market at a reasonable price. Overall, this means lower levels of financial pressure and the chance for a better work-life balance. Something the Bond’s have taken advantage of, recently purchasing their own home in their new town.
In his role as President of Leeton Business Chamber, Wayne is actively involved in collaborations with the Leeton Shire Council and other business initiatives. The Business Enterprise Centre (BEC) and the Chamber run information sessions and workshops to keep local businesses relevant in the modern age. And after a number of years without them, the town is again hosting annual business awards. An excellent showcase for local businesses.
Wayne tells us that the Council is keen to develop tourism in the area and has been very proactive in creating and evolving different events, which is fantastic for the town and sense of community. No doubt, this will mean the region can look forward to even more employment and lifestyle opportunities into the future.
Wayne’s main piece of advice for anyone thinking of a making a Country Change is to go and visit the town. “I think you need to just go and experience it. Check out a country town and try the coffee in the cafes and just talk to people… they’re just friendly, and they like to say, ‘G’day.’ If you want to chat, they’re happy to chat. But until you actually experience [a town] and give it a go, then it’s hard to really know whether it’s going to be for you or not.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about Leeton, or any of the other great places to stay in the Riverina, contact us for more information.
*Leeton – Population 11,168 (as of 2016 census).