Meet Anthea Macpherson from Walcha. She and her husband Malcom are vital community members running two local businesses and raising a young family.
Tell us about your family …
Mal and I met in Tamworth. I grew up on a property at Somerton, and Mal was raised in Tamworth, where his parents, Colin and Margaret Macpherson, started Macpherson’s Coaches.
Following school, Mal moved to Queensland to complete his mechanical apprenticeship at Intertour Express. In 1990 he moved to Walcha to maintain the fleet, which his father purchased in 1987.
I moved to Walcha following the completion of my university degree at UNE. We now have two children: Amber is 6, and Darcy is 3.
How long have you worked at the Telecottage?
I started work at the Telecottage in March 2000. The business has an interesting history, which many people aren’t familiar with.
The Telecottage is a non profit co-operative. It is comprised of a board of eight voluntary directors, myself as manager, and three other staff. It was the first Telecottage opened in Australia on 4 July 1992 and is a concept that has been very successful in Europe and Scandinavia.
What services are provided at the Telecottage?
The Telecottage provides a broad range of technological services that members of the community otherwise would not have access to. These include: weekly community newspaper, The Apsley Advocate; Centrelink Agency; a broad range of graphic design and full colour printing services; computer and internet access; secretarial services including photocopying, faxing, laminating, binding; hire of NLIS cattle readers, RTA etags, GPS and digital cameras.
Thanks to the support from the Walcha community, we are completely self sufficient and no longer rely on grant funding.
Describe a typical day at work?
One of the benefits of working at the Telecottage is the broad range of tasks we undertake, and no two days are ever the same.
Monday I dedicate to putting together the weekly newspaper. This involves contacting people regarding possible articles, going to functions to take photos and gather information and putting it all together. I work predominantly on the editorial, and two other staff members look after the sport, advertising and classified sections. Tuesday morning is spent making final changes to the newspaper before printing, collation and mailing to all households.
Once the Advocate is printed for the week, we all take a big sigh of relief, and I work between administrative tasks of accounting, business management and public relations, attending functions / events for the business and newspaper, as well as printing and graphic design jobs, which could range from setting up stud cattle / sheep sale catalogues through to wedding invitations, business cards, brochures, flyers, memorial cards.
No request is too odd; we basically design and print almost anything! Interspersed with these tasks is serving Centrelink customers.
What is the history of The Apsley Advocate?
The Apsley Advocate is a free community newspaper, which is delivered to all households in Walcha and surrounding district every Wednesday. The newspaper started in 1993 as a TV guide, and has grown from there. It is funded through advertising, and we are fortunate to be very well supported by the community.
Even though it is a lot of work, I really enjoy putting the newspaper together and get a buzz when people tell me how much they enjoy reading it – it is great to know that all of the hard work is appreciated.
Working on the newspaper is also a great way to meet people from many different backgrounds, and I have covered some really interesting stories over the past ten years.
When did you and Mal start The Oxley Explorer?
In 2002 we purchased the depot and fleet from Mal’s parents and have gradually replaced vehicles to have one of the most modern fleets in the New England.
The company prides itself on its well maintained vehicles, as well as the exemplary customer service provided by the drivers. We are also quite unique in the fact that we have a qualified chef on staff, so we are able to provide catering for your group while they are away.
Describe your fleet of buses?
The business has two main streams – school runs and coach charters. We operate eleven vehicles to provide six school runs and charter work in the region.
The coach fleet is comprised of four modern vehicles ranging from 20 to the 70 seat double decker. We provide transport for community groups, schools and sporting groups to and from anywhere.
During winter, we provide coaches for ‘People to People’, taking American school students up and down the east coast for their summer holiday tour.
The coaches also spend quite a lot of time working for CountryLink and Rail Corp, providing transport for boarding school students on their breaks, as well as for rail passengers during scheduled track maintenance.
What tours do you offer?
At present we are running New England Wine Tours every second Sunday. The tour visits Thunder Ridge, Mihi Creek and Merilba Estate, where lunch is provided. Pick up is available in Walcha, Uralla and Armidale, and it provides a great day out exploring the district. If you have a group of 12 or more, we can arrange a tour of the wineries on any day that suits.
How do you juggle working 2 businesses with raising a family?
Sometimes we wonder how we fit it all in. Mal is a very early riser and is often at work anytime from 4am onwards, which he finds to be the most productive part of the day. If he isn’t driving a school run, he always comes home around 7.30am to spend some time with Amber and Darcy.
We are both extremely fortunate to have incredible staff to operate the businesses when we are away, and we are very grateful for their dedication and all that they do for us.
Amber and Darcy are also fantastic, and fit in very well to our busy lives. You will often find them at functions while I take photos, or taking a bus for a test drive with Mal. They really enjoy coming to work with us if it is school holidays, or if there is no day care. We are lucky that we can do this, as it allows us to spend quite a lot of time together with them.
I am also extremely fortunate (sorry guys you’re going to hate me for saying this) that Mal is great at helping me with everything at home (except the ironing) and even does a lot of the drop offs and pick ups of the children. Without this support I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of this work.
Thank you Anthea.