Finding a Home in Griffith: Where Opportunity and Community Flourish

Blog Post
December 19, 2023
March 5, 2024

Discover Colleen Hayden's journey to Griffith, where her family found a welcoming community,

a home in local sports and more time with loved ones.

For Colleen Hayden, a seasoned NSW Police detective who has dedicated 19 years to serving in the Blue Mountains community, the move to Griffith in the NSW Riverina region wasn't just a career decision – it was a family one.

In fact, Colleen's relocation to the Griffith Police Station as a Detective Sergeant was a leap forward into the next chapter of her life. As she says, she was just looking for ‘a job for about 12 months,’ when the opportunity in Griffith presented itself. She and her husband, along with their three children, saw this as an opportunity to ‘experience something different to city life.’ Colleen also spent some time researching Griffith, one of the major regional towns in the Riverina region of New South Wales, only to find that ‘for a country town it had all the amenities that would help my family settle in and make friends, i.e., good schools, sports clubs and somewhat affordable housing.’For both Colleen and her husband, it was also about returning to their country roots. She says, ‘Both my husband and I grew up in the country and felt that this would be exciting for our children to experience living in a regional area.’

SUPPLIED IMAGE: Annual family Christmas shopping day and lunch

Finding a home in Griffith

On 3 December 2022, Colleen, her husband and their three children made the move to Griffith. While ‘the first few months were tough for everyone as we adjusted into the move and unfamiliar surroundings,’ Colleen says. ‘But as we moved through the year and became more engaged, it became easier. We’ve just finished our first year and look forward to the new year.’

The sporting connection to the community

For Colleen and her family, the move to Griffith was more than a physical transition –  it was a social integration facilitated by sports. In fact, activity is at the centre of this sports-loving family's social life. Colleen says, ‘We mainly network through sport as the whole family is involved in some sport or another.’Colleen’s husband and son are both avid soccer players, and they soon found a sports home at the Griffith & District Football Association. Meanwhile, Colleen and her daughters have found their niche at Griffith’s PCYC (Police Citizens Youth Clubs). Here they can continue to practice gymnastics, their shared passion while building a community around them. Their involvement in sports has not just been for leisure—it's a cornerstone of their family life. ‘This has been wonderful for our family, and I have seen the growth in my children,’ Colleen remarks.And it has helped them really start to feel that Griffith is home. Colleen says. ‘I have been engaged with my communities for years, so I have just adjusted that to my current location; being part of local sports and helping out where I can. I’ve also found that when speaking with other new people to the area (friends I’ve made through sport), they have found a similar experience – being part of the community helps us to anchor the family and settle easier. This can be a hard thing to do in metro areas.’Her husband's ease in finding a job in the new town further smoothed their transition, making it clear they were making the right decision in choosing Griffith.Griffith's welcoming and hospitable residents have made all the difference for Colleen and her family, too. ‘The community has been very welcoming,’ Colleen says. ‘And the schools we have the children enrolled in have been great, and I am happy with how they have settled in.’

IMAGE: Griffith Regional Sports Centre - Andrew McLean Photography

The allure of Griffith

Of course, it’s pretty easy to see why Colleen and her family would choose Griffith. In many ways, it’s the perfect blend of country charm and city-like facilities. It has been described as ‘one of Australia’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan regional centres’ due to its large range of facilities and unique attractions, such as agricultural tours and yoga among the vineyards. With sporting venues, a cinema, a play centre and café and a swimming pool, it also offers pretty much everything a young, growing family might like. And located in the heart of the Riverina, it also has all the country vibes Colleen’s family were looking for.

Work-life reimagined

Griffith wasn’t just a great choice for community. It was also a great choice for work-life balance. While Colleen's work as a Detective Sergeant naturally involves long hours, Colleen has found that her role in the Griffith Police Department gives her more time for her family, particularly her husband. Her husband does as well.She says, ‘We have found that we have been able to enjoy the occasional lunch together midweek and are currently taste-testing pizzas up Banna Ave. This is something that I have not been able to do with him previously.’

The challenge of change

Of course, whenever there is change, there can also be challenges, and Colleen’s move to Griffith was no exception. Colleen candidly discusses the initial hurdles of relocating. ‘The first few months were tough. I guess the biggest challenge that I have found is… if you have to travel to Wagga… this a four-hour turnaround.’ Colleen believes that the $250 million redevelopment of the Griffith Base Hospital will soon lead to vast improvements in the area of healthcare and having to travel to Wagga as frequently. Regarding overall adjustment, things are progressing smoothly. Colleen says, ‘We’ve all adjusted and are looking forward to the next few years and experiencing things around the district.’

IMAGE: Griffith Easter Party - Vintage Festival - Visit Griffith 2023

Your journey to Griffith awaits

Griffith and the broader Riverina area have so much to do and see. And Colleen’s family has embraced much of it. She says, ‘We’ve just adjusted our former routine to the new area. Instead of bushwalks through the national park, we walk around the local area where we live. Instead of doing yoga at home, I headed out to the “sip and stretch” at Yarran Wines with friends.Nearly every month, there is some form of festival or thing to do. So we try to get out to those. We’re also trying to sample as many of the local vineyards as we can.’Some of the other incredible things on offer in Griffith include Griffith Pioneer Park Museum, Hermit's Cave and Lake Wyangan and the surrounding wetlands, particularly if you enjoy getting out of doors. If you prefer cultural activities, why not check out the Griffith Regional Art Gallery or get ready to attend next year’s Spring Fest, one of the area’s best events of the year? Of course, the Riverina is well known as an incredible wine and food-producing region, and there are so many fantastic vineyards and food experiences to explore as well. And you might just find your own country change in the process!

If you're inspired by the possibility of intertwining career growth with a fulfilling family life, Griffith might just be your next home. For more insight and advice on making your own country change, visit the Country Change Town Page. If you have any other questions, please contact us today so we can help guide your country change.

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