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When Neighbours Become Good Friends

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

When Shirley Stainton heard her neighbours and good friends were moving to a new house, she decided she and her husband should too.

Born in Mildura, Victoria in 1935, Shirley is the youngest of six children. With four brothers and one sister, she lived in a very busy household. She completed her primary and secondary schooling in Mildura and then found a job in a local pharmacy.

“I met some people when I was at work who were visiting Australia from New Zealand,” says Shirley. “We became friendly and they said that I must visit them if I ever decided to travel to New Zealand. So, I did.”

In 1957, Shirley embarked upon a working holiday to New Zealand. She arrived in Wellington and took a job in Woolworths’ head office.

She flatted in Wellington with three girls, and downstairs from the girls lived four boys who were university students. One of those boys became her husband.

“I came home to Australia to marry but we didn’t stay long,” says Shirley. “My husband was a geologist and his work took us to so many different and interesting places. I think we’ve moved to a new house at least 30 times in my lifetime.”

“Our first baby – our daughter – was born in Holland, and our second – our son – in New Zealand. We have also lived in the Philippines. It wasn’t until 1967 that we came to Australia permanently where we bought our first house in Melbourne.”

“We didn’t settle there for long though,” she adds. “We also spent time in South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.”

“We travelled so much because my husband was looking for gas, minerals and gold. Sometimes he found what he was looking for. Other times he didn’t.”

While each move presented a new and exciting opportunity for the family, Shirley recalls it was also difficult to pack up and move so often. Sometimes the family lived in motels for weeks on end while they waited for a house to become available.

“We made lots of wonderful friends, but I think the moving was especially difficult on the children. They had to keep changing schools and finding new friends each time. But they managed.”

Shirley and her husband retired in Brisbane, but with their daughter living in Lennox Head in Northern New South Wales, they decided to make another move, this time to Lismore. They also bought a caravan and embarked upon an around Australia trip which lasted a couple of years.

There are many happy memories from the time they spent travelling – crossing the Nullarbor Plain, visiting the Great Australian Bight and spending time in Western Australia are amongst them.

Once back home, Shirley decided to take on a volunteer role in the children’s ward at the Lismore Base Hospital. She moved into a different volunteer role, this time at the St Vincent’s Private Hospital, until she was offered a part-time role there. She’s been at the St Vincent’s Private Hospital for 12 years now, where she works in admissions five mornings a week. Her 84 years of life experience mean she’s the best person for the job. As do her kind and caring ways and compassion for people.

“I like to help people,” says Shirley, “but I do get a bit emotional at times, especially with those patients who come into palliative care who I get to know. But it keeps me going. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

When long-time neighbours and friends Noel and Bronwyn Collins announced they were moving to Oak Tree Goonellabah Shirley thought it might be worth taking a look too. Shirley’s husband had become ill and the house they were in was too much for them to manage.

They loved what they saw at Oak Tree. No gardens to worry about. No lawns to mow. And the opportunity to stay living alongside Noel and Bronwyn.

“Bronwyn and I can’t believe how lucky we are to still have each other as neighbours,” says Shirley.

After many years moving around Shirley is happy to call Oak Tree home. For more information about Oak Tree Retirement Village Goonellabah phone 1300 367 155.