When Queenslander Monica Dickson first arrived in Ballarat as a fresh graduate working in a veterinary practice, the plan was always to return north and be close to family.
Fast forward almost 30 years and the sheep veterinarian is happily married, has seven children and is running her own business.
All while staying put.
“When I came to Ballarat I had spent nine months in Bendigo and I had just started to make a group of friends,” Ms Dickson said.
“But I found Ballarat to be very welcoming and met some great people.
“Six months after arriving here I met (husband) Tim and the rest is history.”
While born and bred in Rainbow, Mr Dickson has deep roots in Ballarat with his great, great grandfather John Thomas Dalton – one of the miners involved in the Eureka Stockade.
“Tim called through to visit some of his young farmer friends and extended relatives,” Ms Dickson said.
“And because he was a plumber someone wanted some spouting put on a hay shed and he never left.”
The couple was married in 1992 and went on to have six boys and one girl – Thomas, 25, Conor, 23, Hugh, 21, Declan, 19, Clancy, 17, Geordie, 15 and Maeve, 12.
It meant a big extension to the couple’s property.
“Tim had a little two bedroom house in Magpie and he couldn’t swing a cat in it,” Ms Dickson said.
“We asked a real estate agent whether we should sell up and buy something bigger or extend, and he said the location was too good (to sell).”
The family has just completed 20 years at St James Parish School in Sebastopol with the youngest child starting high school this year.
While achieving work-life balance has been difficult, Ms Dickson has been able to pursue her dream of being an animal production scientist as her children have gotten older.
“I’ve been doing a Masters degree in animal science by distance education and just about completed that,” Ms Dickson said.
While undertaking study, she has also managed to run her business Ballarat Sheep Veterinary Services with Ballarat the centre of a large sheep production area.
Ms Dickson said she had to learn to prioritise time for herself, starting mountain bike orienteering in 2010 and joining the Dirt Girls.
“I used to say, ‘In my spare time I do mountain biking’, but I corrected myself and said, ‘No, I make the time and tell my family it is not negotiable’,” Ms Dickson said.
“With the Dirt Girls, I have met a whole new circle of friends and they are all really amazing, talented women.”
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