The fresh air, the change of scene, the country boys… the country has so much to offer to women wanting the real Hart of Dixie experience. But what happens when a Melbourne-based GP packs up and moves to a country town of 800?
Meet Sinead de Gooyer. Doctor, mother and netball enthusiast, almost a decade and a half ago, this former Melbournian made the move to Timboon, Victoria. Like most women, Sinead juggles work, family and community everyday. One major point of difference is that Sinead also has a farm full of cows that she looks after, too.
We spoke to Sinead about what spurred this life-changing move.
Sinead de Gooyer and family at home on the farm. Image: supplied.
What inspired you to move from the city to the country?
I spent the first seven years of my life living on a large, rural, idyllic property in Cornwall, in the UK before my parents, my three siblings and I migrated to Melbourne, Australia. I knew from an early age that I wanted to become a doctor and I was lucky enough to have the stubborn determination to make that dream a reality.
It wasn’t until halfway through studying though that I decided I wanted to be a country GP. The catalyst for this decision was a rural GP rotation in central Victoria. It was during this time that I met one of the most inspiring rural GPs; one who was totally committed to ensuring that his community had access to high-quality care and that he himself played an involved and active part of that community. That community spirit that sense of belonging really appealed to me.
"That community spirit that sense of belonging really appealed to me." Image: iStock.
So, in 2003 after I’d finished my medical degree and worked for a couple of years in metro hospitals, I moved to Timboon – population 800. I wanted to challenge myself personally and professionally. I wanted to be the rural doctor that delivered the baby then continued to see that child grow up - supporting the family throughout their journey. I was also attracted to the different pace of life and the spectacular beauty of the country. I still am.
How did you adjust to life in the country? What was your community like?
I can laugh about this now, but at the time when I’d moved to Timboon I didn’t know that cows could kick! One of my first patients came in and revealed the culprit for his injury was a half-tonne heifer. It was definitely a “we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto” moment.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”. Image: iStock.
Looking back, I can honestly say that I absolutely loved it and embraced how new and different it was. In the country, you really become a part of the community, and everyone knows and interacts with everyone else. I certainly had a lot to learn about rural living, but the move really marked a turning point in my life and the start of the amazing rural adventure that I’ve been on ever since.
Tell us about how you and your husband met. What inspired him to become a dairy farmer?
I had been in Timboon a couple of months and was loving my new rural life and, on reflection, the stories that I was becoming a part of. Yet, if someone had told me then that farming would actually feature prominently in my future and my story, I would have laughed them off. But that was before I went and fell in love with Evan, a country vet.
Evan and I met at the Port Campbell pub. What can I say? The city girl in me loved the fact he had a Ute!
Left: Sinead and husband, Evan. Right: The cows on the de Gooyer Dairy farm. Images: supplied.
We married in 2005 and nine months later, while travelling around Australia, Evan told me about his dream to milk cows full-time. I just remember taking a massive breath and knowing life was going to change forever.
What was it like adjusting to farm life? Were there any difficulties?
“Never marry a dairy farmer” was something I’d heard repeatedly during my time in Timboon, which is so ironic now.
Part of my hesitation in embracing this lifestyle change was simply the fear of the unknown. It was truly a massive adjustment. One of my most vivid memories from that time was sitting on the bathroom floor bathing my eldest, looking out at pouring rain while Googling: dairy farmer wife - support group needed.
At the end of a year, after ‘joining’ season (which is when we encourage the cows to get pregnant), I had one of those moments when things just clicked. I remember answering the door to an eager grain sales rep with one child pulling on my leg and the other on my boob: 'Can I do this?' 'Hell yes I can do this!'
Sinead with her children. Image: supplied.
Now, my life involves working at the practice three days a week, making sure my three kids get to and from school on time (or close to it), and helping my husband on the farm. I’m surrounded by an incredibly supportive community who have welcomed me into their lives and homes. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What did you find most challenging about moving to a new place?
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