From Little Styx River Cabins, to Moffat Falls Lodge & Cottages, to Yaraandoo, Lorraine Gordon is passionate about everything she does.
> Yaraandoo is well know for hosting conferences. What else does it cater for?
Yaraandoo was built by Dumaresq Shire Council in 1999 as an educational interpretive centre for school groups and visitors to the region.
My husband Jack and I purchased Yaraandoo from Council in 2000 and changed its focus into a conference venue that would meet the needs of corporate and specialist interest groups.
The facility was ideal for workshops and team building activities, as well as weddings and special family functions. Our vision was to transform Yaraandoo into an environmentally and financially sustainable icon for the people of New England.
> What is your personal history with Yaraandoo?
My family had owned the adjoining beef cattle property for a number of years, prior to us purchasing Yaraandoo. Jack and I had been cattle graziers along the Point Lookout Rd over a combined 15 year period, establishing the Little Styx River Cabins and later building the well known Moffat Falls Lodge & Cottages overlooking the spectacular Moffat Falls.
Our tourism enterprises met the needs of bushwalkers (visiting the adjoining New England National Park and Cathedral Rocks National Park) and fly-fisherman from all over the world, who were keen to enjoy the alluring qualities of the energetic rainbow trout that the Ebor Plateau is renowned for.
In 1998 Jack was offered an amazing career opportunity as an engineer with Air Affairs Australia (based in Nowra), designing targets and unmanned aircraft for the armed services of the world. Having previously held the role of CEO for New England North West Tourism, I accepted the position of Tourism Development Manager for Shoalhaven City Council, and so we moved to the South Coast, leaving Jack’s parents, Lynne and John Gordon, to look after the farm – which we later leased to our friends and neighbours, Tim and Jayne Rogers.
The move to the South Coast proved to be a catalyst for not only our career expansion, but ironically for the growth of our tourism enterprises along the Point Lookout Road. Jack got to travel the world trialling unmanned aircraft, while I went on to sit on the Reserve Bank’s Small Business Review Panel, the Tourism Training Australia’s Regional Tourism Board, the South Coast’s Regional Tourism Board and write numerous publications and books on behalf of the State and Federal Governments.
When Dumaresq Shire Council decided to sell Yaraandoo, it was both an opportunity and challenge that we just couldn’t walk away from. After all, we were only 9 hours drive away from the business, and it made sense to add it to our existing enterprises!
By 2007 Yaraandoo was expanding to the point that it was either time to sell it or return north to be a more hands on presence and grow it to another level. In addition, our eldest son Ethan was about to commence year 7 at Kings in Sydney, so the timing was right for a move.
We decided to re-locate to Urunga, where we had holidayed as a family for years and had recently purchased our dream piece of real estate overlooking the river and the ocean to the east, and my much loved mountains to the west. Urunga is only 1 hour and 15 minutes from Yaraandoo and Moffat Falls, and the weather is perfect. Also, as most of our family lived in Armidale, the move only made sense.
> You’re excited about Yaraandoo’s potential?
Well yes I am, but more importantly I am passionate about what this facility can do for our region. Over the last couple of years my passions have expanded from agriculture, to tourism, to protecting Australian Wildlife, to rural leadership, to wanting to give something back to society and the regions I so dearly love. It’s great to have so many passions directing my energies, but my biggest passion remains my family.
> Who are some of the clients Yaraandoo caters for?
Yaraandoo meets so many needs. From workshops for our valued corporate clients such as Telstra, ANZ Bank, RTA, Country Energy, National Parks, UNE, Anglican Church and the Salvation Army, to family reunions, birthdays and weddings, and more recently, Respite Retreats for the mental health industry.
Our friend and adored colleague Paul Mailfert (from Jazzamataz Catering) has been providing superb catering for the past 8 years. Yaraandoo services the New England, North West, the Hunter and Mid North Coast Regions and is the most central meeting point for these regions to come together. I am told Yaraandoo means “meeting place under the Southern Cross”. The name, while tricky to spell, is very appropriate.
> You have just received funding for a mental health project that’s close to your heart?
Yes, ongoing funding for our Respite Retreats. You ask me about my passion … well, I am very passionate about mental health, which affects 1 in 4 people in our country, and the numbers are increasing. This unique project, funded jointly by Yaraandoo and the Federal Government’s Mental Health Respite Program, completed its pilot programs last year, and due to their successful outcomes will receive ongoing funding for a number of years.
Yaraandoo Respite Retreats are a unique service for carers and recipients affected by mental health challenges. For three days and two nights carers are given a much deserved break, with all their accommodation, meals and pampering needs met. We pick them up from their hometown by coach, give them massages, facials, live entertainment, guided bush walks and most importantly, a box of coping tools presented by professional, qualified facilitators.
We run retreats specifically for carers, retreats for both carers and recipients to attend together and specialist retreats just for recipients with various mental health issues such as depression, bi-polar, post traumatic stress syndrome and schizophrenia – just to name a few. Unfortunately, in the current economic environment, mental health is a growing concern. It has always been the silent disease in our farming and rural communities.
> How can carers and their families become involved with this new initiative?
Carers can either contact their local Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre or phone Yaraandoo direct. There is absolutely no cost for the participant to attend our retreats; there is only a short, confidential assessment process over the phone to gauge the specific needs and eligibility of the applicant.
> Plans for the future?
In addition to running Yaraandoo and its Mental Health Program, I am undertaking my PhD in Corporate and Political Strategy and Jack is running a large tourism operation on the Coast. With the mountains and the coast as our playground, and three boys to run around after, life will never be dull in the Gordon household.
“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”