COMMENT

'New' locals share a real need for connection | Mindful Margaret River

It was 2010, in the middle of a Margaret River winter that I recall sitting on the playmat with my toddler.

It was 7am, still dark outside yet, we had already been awake for 2 hours.

I was pregnant with my second child and my then husband was a FIFO worker.

His roster entailed a cycle of five weeks away followed by five weeks at home and it was the second week he'd been gone.

I remember, during this time, craving adult human contact whilst counting the minutes until the grocery store opened so I could leave the house to fill this need.

It was on a whim, only months before, that we made the move to Margaret River.

I had no family support, no local connections, no friends and during this period, a trip to the grocery store would be the social highlight of my day.

So, how did I find myself here?

My isolation started when I migrated from Canada three years prior.

I lived in Melbourne, followed by Perth, and whilst I enjoyed both cities and the career opportunities they offered, neither felt like 'home'.

Interestingly, it was once I became a mother that the importance of finding a 'home' became more apparent.

Yet, I found myself at home with a young child in a community with no connections, family or support.

I had found neither my people nor my place.

I had a part time husband, and I knew we needed to do something different.

So, we moved to Margaret River after we agreed there was something about it that 'just felt right'.

Now, let's return back to that early morning of isolation...

As soon as the sun broke through the winter morning darkness, my two-year-old and I journeyed off to the local park.

I laugh now about the many times I would venture out to 'pick up friends' but in all sincerity, that is exactly what I had to do to make connections and meet like minded people.

Being at home with children can be extremely isolating, especially if you are new to an area without family supports.

And what I began to accept is that I'd never replace the friendships I had in Canada, however, I yearned to be enriched with new connections and so I needed to be proactive in seeking them out within our community.

I opened the local paper, and subsequently my eyes, to what was happening in my community.

I joined the Intergenerational Playgroup at the Uniting Church and the Margaret River Playgroup at the Community Centre.

We went to toddler rhyme time at the library and attended free community events.

During our trips to the park, I'd continue to engage with parents of small children that I recognised as regulars who, similar to me, were home alone most of the time.

Through saying hello and starting a conversation, I eventually built up a network of people I could catch up with and call in on.

This contributed to me feeling that I was part of the community in addition to connecting with others going through similar experiences.

Although I felt like a real outsider to start with, I quickly realised most people I met had also chosen to move to Margaret River for similar reasons.

Erin Statz has lived in Margaret River for eleven years and has called Australia home for 17 years.

Erin Statz has lived in Margaret River for eleven years and has called Australia home for 17 years.

The amazing environment, the casual carefree lifestyle, the arts community, the self-starters, the fresh starters, the surfers, the outdoorsy and the people that just fell in love with the vibe of the place.

So, who are the people that choose to settle in Margaret River?

We are a diverse group consisting of young people, families, retirees, tree/sea changers, job seekers, singles and more.

And although we vary in demographics, us 'new' people share a common theme that we are all looking for a level of connection and support or are joining community clubs and groups for the first time.

For myself now in 2021, sharing casual conversations with strangers on lonely winter mornings has led to the development of long-lasting friendships and support which remains constant for me today.

I am mindful of my courage in taking the initial leap to move to a town that 'just felt right' and opening myself up to meeting new people.

I realise too well, that sometimes knowing where to find your people is the biggest hurdle.

So, if you don't know where to start, my suggestion is to look locally for a club, volunteer group or community event.

Margaret River is an amazing community and if you access the Rotary Directory under Clubs & Other Community Groups, you will find a variety on offer.

This may head you in the right direction to locate others looking for similar connections and you never know, in time someone may ask "why did you join that particular community group?", and your answer may be 'it just felt right'.

Erin Statz has lived in Margaret River for eleven years and has called Australia home for 17 years. She lives in Margaret River with her partner Brieux and children Ashah, Zephyr and Violette. Erin is currently working with Mindful Margaret River as the Project Implementation Officer.

Mindful Margaret River is an alliance of mental wellbeing professionals, government agencies, community members and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River to promote health and wellbeing in the Shire.