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16 November 2020
The entire Lifestyle Wimmera Edition 6 is available online. READ IT HERE!
By Dylan De Jong
More than 15,000 kilometres of separation from friends and family has not stopped Canadian expat Scott Robinson setting up a life in the Wimmera.
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The 31-year-old took the plunge to move to Australia in 2016 for a ‘much-needed’ change from his home’s harsh and bitter winters.
Although it was only meant to be a short trip, his plans quickly changed.
“I was 26 when I decided I wanted to move. It took me about a year to save enough money and say goodbye to friends and family for what I thought would just be a one or two-year stint,” he said.
“But four years on and I’m still here.”
Scott said he was keen to share the key differences between life in the ‘icy’ north compared with being amid the sparse agricultural fields of the Wimmera-Mallee.
He said the region actually bore similarities to his home town in Ontario, where he was living near the United States border in Canada’s largest wine growing region, Niagara.
“I grew up 45 minutes away from Niagara Falls and there was nothing but vineyards and farmland in between,” he said.
“But it would get down to negative 25 degrees sometimes in the coldest parts of winter and snowed almost all winter.
“That was actually one of the main reasons why I left Canada – I was just so sick of the winters.”
But how did he end up in the Wimmera?
When Scott first landed in Australia, he found himself in a predicament all too familiar to the backpacker community. ‘Should I go to Sydney or Melbourne?’. And on hearing of Melbourne’s renowned coffee culture, it was enough to lure him to Victoria.
“I spent my first year in Melbourne just exploring the city and making friends. I did a bit of travel, travelled the Great Ocean Road and went to Sydney for a weekend as well,” he said.
“I met my partner Patrick fairly quickly on arriving here in Australia and we fell in love.
“When Patrick finished his university degree, he started looking for work in his career and after 12 months he finally found his job opportunity in Horsham.
“I thought, I’m going to stick around and started looking online for things I could do in Horsham as well.”
They moved to Horsham in 2017 and Scott started working with service provider Uniting Wimmera in administration and reception and wasted little time getting involved in the community.
In the past year, Scott took up the head position in LGBTIQ advocacy group Wimmera Pride Project and supports youth mental-health organisation headspace Horsham.
“We definitely found it very welcoming moving to Horsham, it probably took us about a year to develop some strong friendships with some of the residents here,” he said.
“The pride project was another way for us to make friends and really involve ourselves. We also found Horsham Arts Council was really beneficial for us to make friends and get a sense of community here.
“The pride project was something I didn’t have when I was growing up, a positive LGBTIQ community group that I could have really found beneficial as a young person.
“I’ve really been able to build myself up here, build a friendship group, a career here and just be able to be myself and do what I want to do.”
With a background in design and animation, Scott has been able to use his skills to help promote positive mental health strategies across the region with headspace.
“I actually have a degree in video game design and animation and these skills translate to logo design. I’ve been pretty satisfied to be able to use those skills for headspace and promote positive mental health,” he said.
“The concept of mental health being real and it being an important part of our daily lives has really expanded over the past decade.
“Being aware of strategies and things going on in your mind and just being able to help others – it’s something I could really have used as a young person, in my teens and into my 20s.”
It’s likely to be a while before Scott will be able to see his family and friends back home due to COVID-19 restrictions on international travel.
But he said he looked forward to when he could see them again.
“I definitely miss friends and family back home – the time difference makes it really hard to communicate with people, but that’s just one of the sacrifices I’ve made moving over here,” he said.