The Coffs Coast is an absolutely beautiful area, with the perfect mix of coastline and hinterland. The region also offers a fantastic lifestyle for people from all walks of life, which is probably why so many people move here from the city. To find out what makes the Coffs Coast such an appealing home, FOCUS chats with sea changer Trish Collie, who has moved her family from Sydney to Sawtell.
How long have you lived on the Coffs Coast, and where did you move from?
We moved about a year ago from Sydney, where I had been working as a General Practitioner in the Inner West of Sydney.
What prompted the move?
During my General Practice training, I had spent six months in Grafton (my parents had recently moved there from Brisbane) and was really made to feel welcome by the local General Practitioners in both Grafton and Coffs Harbour. Their generosity and help left me with fond memories of my time at the Coffs Coast and probably planted the seed about returning to the area.
I was starting to get sick of the long work hours in Sydney, combined with spending hours in the car driving to different locations (which were really only a few kilometres apart)! While I was eight months pregnant with our second child, and we were on our regular holiday to Coffs Harbour, I noticed and applied for a job at the Base Hospital, with no expectations that I would be successful. Next thing, we were on our way to Coffs!
What was the transition like for you and your family?
In hindsight, it was an absolutely crazy time, and I’m not sure how we survived. Not long after the initial interview at Coffs Harbour, we had our second baby. Within the next few months we had managed to finally finish our renovations and sell our house at auction.
The removalists came the next day, and we were on our way to Coffs with our girls the day after.
After some weeks of searching, we finally settled in our new home, only to find ourselves across the road from the apartments where we had spent many holidays!
What do you enjoy about living the Coffs Coast lifestyle?
I love going to sleep with the sound of the ocean, being able to walk along our local beach with the girls whenever we want (and not having to drive), the good friends I have already made in such a short time and being able to spend more time with my family.
What do you think are some of the benefits of country and regional living, as opposed to life in the big smoke?
One of the greatest benefits of our move was the more affordable cost of living – housing in particular. The escalating price of real estate in Sydney was making it almost impossible to upsize, without moving further away from work and schools.
Although I’ve cut my travel time down from an hour in Sydney to fifteen minutes in Coffs, my colleagues still ask whether I’m considering a move closer to work!
Do you think that there are quality employment and educational opportunities available here?
One of the main barriers I thought we would face moving to Coffs was access to good child care and schooling for our girls. We were pleasantly surprised at being able to find really good child care reasonably easily, and there seem to be plenty of options for quality public and private schooling, without having to travel out of the area.
I can’t answer for other vocations; however, there are many employment opportunities within health care and related fields, and it is promising to see many young health professionals and their families moving to the area, for both study and work.
Tell us about your job here.
I am lucky to have the freedom to work in a few different areas of medicine in Coffs Harbour. My main role is working as a General Practitioner (GP) at Toormina and Sawtell Medical Centre. I was fortunate to move to the Toormina Medical Centre at the time they were expanding their practice to Sawtell, and am able to spend half my time at each location. They are wonderful GPs, and similar to the group that I worked with in Sydney.
Both the staff and patients have made me feel very comfortable and welcome, which always makes it easy heading to work in the morning.
One day a week I work at the Women’s Health Centre with another group of dedicated GPs, nurses and staff. I am able to focus predominantly on women’s and mental health – both particular interests of mine.
I also still work one day a fortnight in the Emergency Department after leaving the hospital full time, which reminds me to keep up my acute medical skills and the importance of keeping in touch with the staff at the hospital.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
My two girls keep us busy most of the time. My 4-year-old loves her ballet and swimming classes and is now keen for horse riding lessons, after a pony ride for her fourth birthday. Our 16-month-old spends her Saturdays at swimming class and enjoys her time at the beach, and they both love the many parks around Coffs Harbour.
What would you say to someone considering a move from Sydney to the Coffs Coast?
I think that if you have the opportunity to move to Coffs Coast, particularly if you have a family, it is not a move that you will ever regret. We love being able to visit friends and family in Sydney and Brisbane and enjoy what the cities have to offer; however we always love coming back to relax at our home by the ocean.