FOR A naive, Italian girl whose exposure to the Australian country was minimal, I can only say I was shell-shocked when I moved to Harden. I arrived in 1983, a uni graduate and newly married, at the age of 21. My family was 12 hours away, so initially I felt very alone. Those first few years were hard; I was timid and had no experience of the huge family I had married into. However, by the age of 28, I had five children and was back at work full-time.
While my children needed me, I think needed them more. They helped me enter into the Harden life. Playgroup, pre-school and primary school all helped me acclimatise and being on the various committees brought so many warm and friendly people into my sphere. I was initially surprised at how people accepted me and encouraged me to be myself.
I hadn’t expected to enjoy teaching, as I had trained as a medical lab technician and was really keen on getting into the medical field. However, having children had changed my perspective on teenagers and I found I loved it. I started teaching at St. Columbus in Harden and then while my kids were young, I taught casually across the district. After four years at Murrumburrah High, I finally moved to Hennessy Catholic College in Young, where I spent the next 22 years. I loved my job and each year I became more and more involved in it. I also found I had more in common with ‘Aussies’ than I had first suspected.
When I had to quit my job due to poor health, I felt shattered for several months. My teaching had defined me, particularly after my children left home to spread their wings. However, my friends in Harden came to my rescue and showed there were other ways to keep busy. What followed was months of learning to reinvent myself.
My life in Harden is completely different to what I expected it would be like. I learnt to be independent and make choices for myself. I got the opportunity to decide who I wanted to be. I even learnt slang, which I admit doesn’t always make sense to me, even now. Pat has learnt how to stop an argument by pulling out some phrase I’ve never heard before – “Who’s skinning this cat anyway?” Blimey, that was a good one – we don’t have a cat!
I love my life in Harden. I have a strong, supportive network that I love being part of, particularly now I’m a councillor and am on a very steep learning curve. People are generous with their time and expertise. While I still don’t enjoy having dust in my house and I’m scared to stay by myself at night, I feel I have become part of this beautiful corner of NSW.
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