Moving from Sydney to Armidale may seem like an enormous challenge, and to some city folk it was a move they would never consider. The Hempel family have recently relocated to Armidale, and we caught up with them on their beautiful acreage close to Armidale to find out how they have settled into their new lifestyle.
What made you first think of relocating out of Sydney, and why choose Armidale?
After over 25 years in Sydney, both Sebastian and I were keen for a change. We’d both come to Sydney for university and hadn’t expected to stay in Sydney so long. We had friends who were born and bred in Sydney and could never imagine leaving the city. We didn’t feel like that.
We were conscious that if we were going to relocate, we wanted to do it before Emily and Marcus got much older. Sebastian grew up here, and had been reconnected to Armidale since early 2007 through the The Armidale School Board, making moving to Armidale a favoured option.
Looking at country towns a key attraction of Armidale is quality schools to enable the children
to get a great education and lots of opportunities,
as well as its proximity to Sydney, Brisbane and the coast. Now we’re here we realise that Armidale has a lot going on for all ages, including music, education, art and drama.
You both have country backgrounds. Why is it important to you to allow your children the opportunities of country living?
We want our kids to grow up well-rounded and not just experiencing the slice of Australian life that is Sydney. After living in close quarters and near busy roads, we wanted them to have space and the opportunity to grow up in a more relaxed environment, but at the same time experience a wide variety of challenges.
You have found a very special place with a country lifestyle just on the edge of town. What delights you most about your home?
After living in Sydney, having acreage is fantastic. We’ve bought pregnant cows and then seen our calves grow up. Emily helped us round them up, vaccinate and ear tag them. At the same time, we’re close to town for the ferrying around and quick trips in to the supermarket or the post office.
What were your expectations of the move? Would you say Armidale has met or exceeded those expectations?
We expected to have more space than in Sydney, and this expectation has certainly been met. We expected a more balanced lifestyle with more focus around the children and them growing up, rather than our work, and this has also been met.
Making new friends has been easier than we expected, and that is great. One thing we’ve noticed is how many activities there are for the children to be involved in. Not having to battle the Sydney traffic makes it more manageable.
Tell us about how you balance your busy city careers with living in a regional centre.
Amanda does most of the commuting. She’s down to Sydney most weeks, but tries to only be away one night. Coming back to Armidale makes you appreciate the lack of traffic and the short trip from the airport. Seb has a bunch of local business clients and several city and overseas clients with his work as a lawyer at Wilson & Co in town.
However, his company directorships, including being Chairman at TAS, now occupy a lot of his time, and a lot of this is done by email and phone. Technology means the people on the end of the phone or email don’t necessarily know or care where you are. It’s easier to manage having one parent away when you are living in a regional centre. The trips to school, sport and music are much quicker.
Emily, what has been the biggest change for you? You’re at PLC; tell us what is special about your school?
It was a surprise to be leaving Sydney, but I have really enjoyed moving to Armidale and living with extra space and farm animals. It was really easy to settle into PLC. I have a great class and really enjoy my friends and teachers. We get to have great excursions and do things with the university, as well as learning in class.
Marcus, you’re at Martins Gully. What do you love about your school?
It has a great playground, and I have made good friends there.
What are the unique and special aspects of Armidale that make it ideal for families?
As we’ve mentioned, there are lots of opportunities without feeling like you’re giving up the quality education and social opportunities you would find in a major city. There’s plenty of space and a lot less traffic!
What would you say to the other families considering a lifestyle change to a country or regional centre?
Moving from Sydney makes you realise how Sydney-centric people can be. When Amanda suggested to her law firm that she could still do the same job by commuting and using technology, they had some doubts, but were willing to give it a go. Eighteen or so months later, everyone is surprised and pleased at how well it works.
Coming to Armidale, you realise how many people are running businesses and working around the country while based in Armidale, without needing to be in the city. The smaller schools and a focus on rounded education have been great for the kids.
From a social point of view, the smaller community is great, and we make the time to support local events. As someone said to us when we moved, it’s important to support the various productions and events that come to Armidale to make sure they keep coming.
Thank you Amanda, Sebastian, Emily and Marc.
This story was published in issue 63 of New England Focus