When a tree change unlocks new opportunities

Blog Post
May 30, 2023
March 5, 2024

John moved with his family from a capital city to a regional centre – and found his dream job along the way

When John Sidgwick and his wife made the decision to move their young family from North Melbourne to northeast Victoria, he never imagined that the tree change would be the first step to landing his dream job.But that’s just what happened.And today, he proudly fills the role of Director of Regional Activation with Wagga Wagga City Council, working alongside the community to support the long-term growth of the regional centre.

Leaving Melbourne behind

The initial decision to leave Melbourne came in 2012 when John and his family felt the need for more space. While they loved the city, raising three young boys in a two-bedroom house had its drawbacks.John grew up in the north of Scotland, while his wife was from a rural farming background in Jerilderie. And the couple wanted their children to enjoy the same carefree, outdoorsy lifestyle. With family living in Yarrawonga, they felt drawn to the Albury Wodonga region. John took up a great position with Wodonga Council, while his wife found a role with the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre.

10 Best Street - credit: Visit Wagga Wagga

Wagga Wagga calling

But Wodonga wasn’t meant to be their ultimate regional destination. When John heard about the opportunity with Wagga Wagga City Council, he jumped at the chance to move to the area.“Wagga is an exciting and growing regional city that has lots to offer. There is a lot of change happening around the city and it has a really positive vibe,” he says.Having only moved to Wagga Wagga eight months ago, John already feels like part of the community. John says they have been presented with a range of experiences that would have been more difficult if they were in a larger city. From outdoor sports to the local food and wine scene (like the Wagga Wagga Food and Wine Festival!) – the Sidgwicks love it all.

Better work-life balance

Another great benefit to working in a regional capital, rather than a large city with longer commute times, is the better work-life balance that comes with it. John and his wife are busy raising three sons, and having enough leisure time to connect as a family is crucial.John is fortunate enough to typically fit in a run or a cycle before his day of work, and still finish with plenty of time to enjoy his family or catch up with friends and colleagues at the end of the day. The Sidgwick family love spending time outdoors together, sinking their teeth into activities such as mountain biking, walking, skiing and camping.

Oura Beach Reserve - credit: Chloe Smith

The joy of giving back

As a passionate tree changer, John now devotes his working days to supporting local businesses and making a real difference to his community via projects such as the region’s Housing Strategy and City Centre Masterplan. He also works to protect the council’s recreational assets including the Pomingalarna Reserve cycling complex and Riverside Precinct, and a number of the council’s businesses such as the Livestock Marketing Centre and Gregadoo Waste Management Centre.It’s rare to find such a tight-knit community in a city, but John loves that you can bump into friendly faces almost anywhere you go in Wagga Wagga – and new residents are welcomed with open arms.“One of the things that I love about working in the regions is that you work much more closely with your community,” explains John. “You meet them at the kids’ sporting events at the weekend, when you are out walking the dogs or grabbing a coffee. I think this connection brings home how important the work we do is and how much of a positive impact this work can have when we work well with our community.”

Birramal Conservation Area, Wiradjuri Trail, Wagga Wagga

Life in the regional centre

When you think of moving to the country, you might imagine a quiet town with few residents and little entertainment – but this couldn’t be further from the truth for Wagga Wagga.Ideally placed as the midpoint between Sydney and Melbourne, Wagga Wagga is a rapidly growing hub with a thriving, diverse economy. And as the regional capital of southern NSW, the city’s 70,000-plus residents enjoy all the benefits of living in an innovative, thriving city – great services and facilities, educational and work opportunities – while still enjoying a strong sense of community and an outdoor, healthy lifestyle.The council is working hard to support the predicted long-term growth of the region by ensuring adequate housing choices for the future, access to a diverse and skilled workforce, new precincts and projects supporting jobs, productivity and efficiency, and fantastic lifestyle benefits such as great shopping, recreational facilities, cultural events and entertainment.You will never be starved of things to do in Wagga Wagga – from art shows, like the Winter Exhibition at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, to theatre productions like the Roald Dahl adaptation of the Twits, to the Saturday markets, there are so many events happening in Wagga Wagga. Plus, you can always find a parking spot!

Picnic and events in Wagga Wagga

Advice for others considering a tree change

  • “Just give it a go!” says John. He says tree changers can rest safe in the knowledge that there are great work opportunities, fantastic educational facilities and a wide range of services available in the area.
  • “Living in a regional area, you have to be prepared to get out and amongst it to meet people,” he advises. “Sport is such a large part of our local community, whether it’s basketball, netball, AFL or cricket – you make so many friends while standing on the sideline of a pitch, clutching a coffee in the cold or sitting under a gazebo in the heat.”
  • Learn more about the area here and here, connect with the council here, and gain some visual inspiration on Instagram and Facebook. You can also search the following hashtags: #waggawagga #visitwagga #cityofwaggawagga #wiradjuricountry

If you’re dreaming of life in vibrant Wagga Wagga, visit the Country Change Town Page or contact us to help guide your Country Change!

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