Gundagai Teaching transfer: Their best move yet
Rebekah Douglas had little say in where she would be placed when she finished her Masters in Teaching. In fact, her and her partner’s tree change decision was made for them – and they couldn’t be happier.
“Teaching in a country town, in comparison to metropolitan schools, is unique. As a teacher in small country community, you are much more than your job. You are a role model in the community, you develop relationships with students and their families in the school setting but also in the broader community,” said Rebekah.
James and Rebekah, who recently welcomed their first child, moved from North Wollongong to Gundagai in November 2019. They packed their belongings and their cat, Kai, and moved to the town without knowing a single person. The couple grew up on the South Coast but had always loved country New South Wales and spent a lot of time travelling the countryside.
“Whenever we got a chance between work and university study, we would go camping, bushwalking and exploring through the National Parks. Moving to the country was always something we knew we wanted to do together. I have always viewed the change as an adventure to tick off my bucket list.”
For Rebekah, the benefits have been highly visible in the classroom where she feels more fulfilled.
“What stands out to me the most about teaching in Gundagai in comparison to the city is the benefit of having fewer students in the classroom. Rather than 30 students each lesson, I have 15. This significantly benefits the student’s education, as well as building a positive rapport and fostering the diverse needs of students pedagogically. I feel more fulfilled teaching in the country as I can have a greater positive influence,” she reflected.
The move didn’t come without some raised eyebrows from friends and family though, with many questions about isolation, boredom, and support networks.
“My preconceived ideas were your classic stereotypical notions, and these were reinforced by my extended family and friends when James and I told them we were making the move out West. Questions such as, ‘what is there even to do out there?’, ‘You don’t know anyone, how will you make friends?’, ‘When are you moving back to the Coast?’ etc. I did think I would need to purchase a pair of RM Williams boots and jeans to fit in and start drinking Great Northern while watching the tumbleweed roll by. However, none of these preconceived ideas was true!”
The first Christmas after moving to the region, they faced a huge challenge. Fierce bushfires ravaged the surrounding areas which meant the pair couldn’t return to their families for the holiday. It was at this time though that the town rallied, and they saw the true essence of country spirit in action. They were welcomed into homes for Christmas celebrations and supported as though they were immediate family. “Because of these events we felt the love and support of the Gundagai community!” said Rebekah.
And the blessings continued with the financial benefits of a Country Change flowing over to their mortgage.
“When we first moved to town, we rented a bouse that was 150 years old. We loved the place and is character; however, Gundagai provided a unique opportunity. Purchasing a house and paying a mortgage is cheaper than paying rent weekly. Due to this factor, we were able to purchase our first home much, much quicker than we had ever imagined with only a small mortgage. We could never have done this on the coast. Our house is a beautiful cottage on an acre of land… When we tell our friends about our house and the significant difference of house prices in country NSW, they are genuinely shocked. The media is always reporting on the housing crisis and how our generation will struggle to ever buy a home but have they ever looked at country NSW?”
As for things to do? Well, they are closer than ever to nature and spend their weekends exploring and adventuring in their giant Riverina backyard!
“Being so close to Kosciusko National Park we often spend our weekends camping on the water’s edge of Blowering Dam, bush walking, or taking long country drives. We also often spend time with our neighbours. When we moved into our new house our neighbours all came around and introduced themselves and we have all been friends ever since. This factor alone is unique to country communities when in the city your neighbours don’t want to know you. Here in Gundagai my neighbours drop off scones and come around for a cuppa just to check-in!”
So, as you can probably imagine from this duo’s experience, their advice is pretty simple and to the point…
“Do it! If you have a job that allows you to move to the country, like teaching, do it. You might just discover yourself in country NSW!”