Lauren Randle - WRITER, MOTHER, HALT VOLUNTEER
I grew up in Montmorency, a small leafy place in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Back then it was all about the big suburban block and having bike riding races out in the street with our neighbour’s kids. I spent a lot of time in Eltham as well; it was a great place to grow up with quite a vibrant art and music community. My favourite memory is getting up early and going to the St Andrews market with my Pa who had a stall there for twenty or so years. As I grew older though the city had my heart for sometime – nights of going to gigs was pretty much my hobby in my teens and early twenties.
I still visit my hometown regularly but it’s a lot more built up with some of the old houses being pulled down for townhouse developments. It doesn’t look the same anymore and I barely know anyone when I go down the shops there – it used to be that you gOt stopped by every second person to say hello; but I guess like many places new waves of people move in and the community adjusts.
I’d been trying to move up to Castlemaine for years but it had never been the right time for our family. It’s always been a place that I’ve had a connection with – my Nan grew up in Marong and later moved to Bendigo before relocating to Ivanhoe in Melbourne. Nan’s best friend still lives in Golden Square and we used to visit there when I was a kid. My Nan and Pa also owned a little block of land in Tarnagulla, my Dad now has this and we built a little one bed cottage up there for him and mum to stay in on holidays. Castlemaine Park was always the pit stop on our travels.
My husband and I used to visit to see bands at the Theatre Royal before we moved here and would often ogle houses in the real estate windows. One day things suddenly changed in our lives and the idea of keeping up with the Jones’ just didn’t stick – we’d had enough of our car loans, big mortgage and the traffic and just craved a simplified life where things were better managed.
Living here is great. My kids think it’s wonderful having the country lifestyle and can often be heard from the back seat of the car as we turn off the highway saying, "So glad we are home!" That’s pretty special to me considering they spent the first half of their lives in Melbourne.
There’s plenty for them to do up here and the schools are small which means you tend to have more communication with teachers and the students. We like the fact that you can go down the street and are familiar with everyone– the kids know our local barista and shopkeepers by name. My daughter is the only one of us who can claim the born and bred status but I think I can safely say that the town has my heart.
I studied Professional writing and editing at NMIT in Melbourne, it was a mixture of certificate III and diploma. I didn’t finish it before I moved here and always planned to go back but babies and life got in the way. I try to make time to write but sometimes there’s just not enough hours in the day so it becomes sporadic and not at all the way it used to be. I used to chuck down a thousand words every morning. I write fiction and for a while there I would contribute to local Zines. I have a couple of novels on the back burner – one in which I am hoping to continue writing in the near future. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship in the Loddon Murray Community Leadership program this year with a focus on mental health awareness, so a lot of my writing will be PR based.
I worked in retail at the beginning of my work life but then switched it up for a five year stint working in aged care. I became a qualified carer but after having my two boys decided it was too demanding and it left me with very little energy to be a mum. After I started studying writing and editing I found myself predominantly working in bookshops; this was great because I got discounts on all the texts I had to read for school. I love myself a good piece of literature and acquired many of my favourites during this time.
I started a market stall when I first moved up here. In time that grew into a studio space at the old hospital in Halford Street and then became a shop called The Reclaimed Room on Hargraves Street. To say it was my heart and soul would be an understatement – I spent years dreaming of my own little space and loved being in the shop everyday. I made so many friends during this time. I sold vintage inspired clothing, home wares, jewellery and my handmade wares. I loved when people would come in and say, "Oh my gosh I feel like I just stepped into the pages of a Frankie mag!" Around the time we signed the lease for the shop I fell pregnant and we had Millie in April after that. I ended up with some serious health complications and had to close the shop just a year or so after we had opened it. People still ask me when I’m going to open another shop.
I volunteer with Hope Assistance For Local Tradies (HALT), which was established three years ago by Catherine Pilgrim and Jeremy Forbes after several suicides in the Mt Alexander shire; it’s a local charity that focuses on suicide prevention in the trade industry. We put on events like our ‘Save your bacon brekky’ in order to link people with services and mental health information. We try to do this in a casual environment and have guest speakers who chat about their experiences.
I got on board after my hubby came home and said Jeremy was thinking about putting on a ‘partners of tradies’ event. I put my hand up and a couple of months later we were holding an event at the Castlemaine Art Gallery that was a great success. I found my experience of anxiety and depression meant that I had navigated the local services and could see how hard it would be if you weren’t aware of what was out there.
The challenges I’ve found so far is lack of funding for initiatives such as HALT, which makes it hard for us to put together the type of events we would like to provide the community on an ongoing basis, and the lack of awareness still out there – a lot of people still don’t know that you can get a mental health care plan from your GP.
HALT has quite a few events in the planning stages at the minute; we are hoping to have another ‘partners of tradies’ event at the gallery in August and a music fundraiser at the Theatre Royal later in the year. You can keep up to date by following us on Facebook or at www.thehaltbrekky.com
Fave local haunts: The Theatre Royal for morning hangs and good music (you can find me there most mornings getting my caffeine hit). Johnny Baker's for the best pastries in town. Margot for a great girls’ night out. The Corner Store Merchants where Steph and Milly will kit you out with some bling and vintage love and Das Kaffehaus for an Austrian style dining experience.