Rita Lockyer is known to most of us as the friendly loans officer at Westpac Armidale. We caught up with her to find out about her strong family commitments and what it was like to grow up in Walcha Road.
Where were you raised?
I grew up at Walcha Road, which at the time had a general store, school and post office, which were sufficient facilities for people to consider that they had everything without the necessity to travel anywhere. Our family reflected a time in Australia’s development where there was an emphasis on increasing the population by encouraging immigration.
Both Mum and Dad had moved from Ireland to London for better work opportunities. From there, they married and moved to Australia, which was considered a great place to raise a family.
They didn’t disappoint in increasing the population, as they went on to have eleven children!
We’ve heard that you own a church.
Yes, that’s correct. Twenty-five years ago, the family decided to purchase the Catholic Church at Walcha Road for a weekender. It was conveniently located next door to Mum and Dads’ place. I think Mum was quietly relieved that finally her home could be a peaceful haven and all the exuberant activities could be held next door.
We still use the church for family gatherings. As families lived in different locations, our children were able to get together at Walcha Road and walk in the hills and play in the creek. It’s particularly wonderful to see the cousins who are adults now, return to family gatherings and get so much enjoyment – not only from their own age group but from the whole extended family. It’s a feeling of being connected to something special.
Tell us about your family newsletter?
Our monthly family newsletter started about 25 years ago. We are very proud of the fact that it has not missed a month of distribution since it started. Even though emailing has become the popular way of communicating, we still continue to print and post the newsletter to each family. This way, it has become an interesting and sought after read and is accessible to the whole family.
We take turns to be the monthly editor, responsible for gathering and collating news from the family members. We each try to come up with a creative front page, color photos, bonus issue of news etc. We don’t acknowledge the competitive streak in us; however, as individuals, we take pride in the issue that we produce. After all, when you come from a big family, there is always that little edge … to try to beat your siblings!
What prompted you to relocate for a while?
Both our girls went to Newcastle University, so my husband Ray and I decided to move down that way for 11 years. We enjoyed not only being closer to the girls, but also the experience of living and working in another city.
We are both glad that we had this change; however, we agree that deciding to move back to Armidale was a wonderful decision. We feel so connected to the local geographical area and enjoy the temperate climate. I love the historical appeal of the buildings in the main street area and the way that the quaint older weatherboard homes are being restored.
We have planned our new home with a northerly aspect to capture the winter sun, and I am looking forward to having a cottage garden.
How long have you been with Westpac?
I have been working full-time with Westpac since I left school … a few short years ago! I have always enjoyed working, and it’s interesting to reflect on how banking has changed over the years. I am a naturally optimistic person,; therefore, I have always been able to see the benefits in change and have happily moved along with it. I remember back to when customers’ records and even the bank’s general ledgers were hand written. All the team worked overtime at the end of each quarter, as interest calculations were done manually. Computers are such wonderful things!
Any unforgettable moments?
The one that comes to mind is when I was working in the Newcastle area, we had an incident where suspicious white powder was located in a package of bank documents. The threat of terrorism and the anthrax scare was in its height at the time. Before the powder could be proved benign, the safety precautions went in to overdrive! The branch was cordoned off; police, ambulance, fire brigade and SES were called. Eventually we were taken out into the shopping centre car park, where a temporary shower was set up.
We were given a freezing cold shower with the high pressure hoses from the fire brigade truck! Meanwhile, the whole car park was surrounded by highly amused shoppers. It is hard to forget that one.
Plans for the future?
At the moment I am thoroughly enjoying my role as the Home Loan Manger for Westpac in Armidale. It’s great to renew contact with a lot of the customers that I have known previously, some of whom I met when I first started in the bank.
I enjoy helping people buy their first home, progress on to a bigger home and to acquire an investment property. During the process, rapport is built and a real bond is formed, as customers knows that I will be there to assist them in any way possible.
There is one thing for sure – we have decided that we will always call Armidale home.
Thank you Rita.