I was born in Darwin, but grew up on our own farm inland from Ulladulla. It was 500 acres of beautiful country surrounded by state forest. We had no phone, electricity or town water supply but it was a great way to grow up and fostered my love of mountains, untouched forests and rivers.
I've lived in Sydney, Canberra, worked as a dressmaker for 20 years, before heading overseas to explore, and work as a cook for very wealthy UK families on and off for 8 years.
I bought my first house in Queenstown 15 years ago, mainly because it was so cheap and I just wanted to live in Tasmania - I didn't really care where at the time. But Queenstown has a way of getting under your skin. Don't get me wrong, there have been times when it was the last place on earth I wanted to be. It can be a tough place to live, especially if you run a business, and it has certainly toughened me up. But if you leave town for a couple of weeks, the minute you see Mt Owen in the distance on your drive back, you just have this wonderful feeling of being home. And I have made some truly great friends here and seized as many opportunities along the way as I could to help build my businesses and Queenstown's profile.
11 years ago my sister Lee, who lives in Canberra, and I, bought a property which I have turned into Mt Lyell Anchorage Accommodation. My aim was to have the best accommodation I could, to entice people to want to stay in Queenstown longer. It has been a long, hard slog with many problems along the way but I feel I have done my bit to change the perception of Queenstown. When we first opened Queenstown was mostly considered just a place to sleep on the way between Hobart and Cradle Mountain but these days we are seen as a destination to spend 2-3 days or more.
4 years ago I teamed up with Anthony Coulson to help run his tour business, Queenstown Heritage Tours. He used to run underground mine tours but mine management decided, because of risk management procedures, to cancel the mine tour. This was catastrophic for us, losing 80% of our income overnight at a time when we had just agreed to purchase The Paragon Theatre, an iconic Queenstown building in need of lots of work. So we thought hard about our future and decided to go ahead anyway. In July 2017 Anthony and I formed a new company, purchased the theatre and rebranded our tour company as RoamWild Tasmania. Since then we have been working on new experiences and tours with RoamWild, and we also run The Paragon Theatre as a cinema/restaurant, and base for our tour business.
The Paragon Theatre, which is really a labour of love, had to be shut last winter to renovate the commercial kitchen and fix the main theatre floor which was on the verge of collapse. The theatre has now reopened and during the warmer months we are showing old cinema classics, serving dinner as well as our own home made choc tops.
I am also on the board of one of the coolest festivals in Australia, The Unconformity. We started back in 2010 with the very much smaller Queenstown Heritage & Arts Festival and are now growing into a fully fledged arts organisation with an enviable reputation throughout the arts and festivals communities. The Unconformity is also changing the perception of Queenstown as a rough mining town into a progressive arts community, drawing artists from around the world to immerse themselves in our spectacular environment, history and culture.
And finally, I am a founding and current committee member of our local tourism association, Destination West Coast. We are working hard to promote the west coast as a great destination for visitors to Tasmania.
So all in all I am pretty busy most of the time but thrive on the opportunities and potential of this place. There have been some pretty massive hurdles along the way but we just pick ourselves up and keep on moving and changing and creating new adventures and opportunities.
Photos By Rebecca Thomson
This project was assisted by Bellendena Small Grants