G’day there,

I’m Vanessa Wiltshire, a Gen-XY ‘tree changer’, living in Heathcote, Victoria. With a background in HR, economic development and communications, I am a journalist and ‘tree change concierge’.

Three years ago my husband and I made the leap from Melbourne to Heathcote. We found jobs through the ‘hidden job market’. For three years I have educated people about the broad and untapped opportunity in Victoria and wider Australia. I have also worked in state politics and general news media.

On 4 September 2017, 15 months into my ‘tree change’ took a dramatic turn. First on scene at a rural road accident, I held a woman’s hand as she passed away. At 4:40pm on this day, I was forced to look inside and reassess.

Because of this, I set out on a 12 month journey to understand the nature of revitalisation and renewal.

Put simply, it boils down to two things. People - and jobs.

In all, I travelled 30,000 kilometres. I became involved in politics - as an electorate officer - to understand how decisions are made. In all, I spoke to over 1,000 people about why they live in regional Victoria and what they do for work. I spoke to regional business leaders about their challenges. Three things I found:

  1. One of the top problems experienced by regional organisations is attracting talent. It’s a myth that there are no ‘good’ jobs.

  2. Many Melburnians - and Australians - would consider a ‘tree change’, IF they knew where the jobs are. There is no ‘road map’.

  3. The start-up and existing small business opportunities in the regions are almost endless. If you’ve got a passion or interest, skills and talent, there has never been a better time to create your own opportunity.

Ultimately Spark Rural is about two things. Breathing life into the country through people (talent). And breathing life into people through country.

Vanessa Wiltshire

PO Box 265, Heathcote 3523.