'I moved to Darwin by accident. It was nothing like I expected.'

Northern Territory Government
Thanks to our brand partner, Northern Territory Government

When Monica Bugno rolled into the Northern Territory in a half-broken-down 4WD with fewer than a few dollars to rub together, her first thought was, "Where am I? Is this the Wild West?" 

Born and raised in Griffith, NSW, the entrepreneur has since lived in bustling Sydney and sunny Brisbane before landing, quite by accident, in her new home in Darwin.

Halfway into a 12-month adventure travelling around Australia with her then-husband, Monica recalls, "We ran into a few issues. We rolled our car at Cape York, we lost a gearbox at Mount Isa and so, six months in, we kind of limped into Darwin." The pair figured, "Well, we're broke. So how about we stay here for 12 months and earn some more money before we keep going?" 

At least, that was the plan.

But then, Monica’s life hasn’t always gone to plan, and she couldn’t be more grateful for that. As her 10th anniversary with Darwin approaches, she can boast a robust community of friends, a beautiful partnership with the love of her life and not one but two thriving businesses to boot. 

Monica says there’s nowhere like Darwin, and that uniqueness has opened doors that might have slammed shut anywhere else.

"Darwin is the land of opportunities," she says of her beautiful home. "It’s a completely different world, there’s definitely a lot of opportunity here."

Image: Supplied. 


As Monica can attest, working in the NT is unlike anywhere else. Things move faster, and it will often mean smaller teams and a broader range of projects and opportunities. 

When Monica first moved to Darwin, she started a digital marketing agency with a business partner she met at a networking event. From there, the self-taught digital marketing specialist soon worked her way to becoming an International Marketing Team Leader at Charles Darwin University. Talk about opportunity.

As an introvert, Monica forced herself to jump right in and join networking and community events, but another brilliant way to stay across job opportunities in the NT is to sign up to Territory Worker Connect. There, you can create alerts and stay across job prospects that suit you and your family.


That’s the other thing about working in Darwin, you can completely reinvent yourself. After splitting from her then-husband, with nothing tying her to Darwin, that’s exactly what Monica did. 

After reflecting on where she truly wanted to be, she realised, "I'd built up a really great network and a business here in Darwin. And so, I decided to stay." And it was by far one of her best decisions to date, because, as with any good story, this is where Monica met the love of her life.

One Valentine’s Day, over wine and cheese at a local restaurant, the two talked about life, comedy (her partner is a comedian) and, most of all, their shared love of wine and pasta (my kind of people).

This meeting of good food and good laughs is where their now thriving businesses were born. The pair run 'pasta parties' out of different venues around town, "mostly bars because you can't make pasta while you're sober," Monica adds, where guests drink good wine and learn how to make really good pasta.

What started as "just a great opportunity to teach people how to make pasta, eat really good food and have a great time," has since grown into a lively Italian restaurant, The Last Supper, and a flourishing comedy club called Top Floor Comedy. 

"It’s actually on the bottom floor," Monica jokes. "All the venues we were looking at were on the first floor, upstairs and they all fell through," but the name stuck and the rest is history.


Image: Supplied. 

Something Monica has grown to love about Darwin is how laid-back the people are. She likes that people choose to move at a slower pace, and that everything is just a 15-minute drive away. "I think that makes work-life balance a lot easier because, at most, you’re commuting half an hour a day," she says.

But the relaxed attitude of Northern Territory life didn’t come without its challenges at first. "Darwin is a very last-minute market," Monica explains. 


She laughs, recalling the first event she organised, for which she had sold only three tickets. 

Upon cancelling the event, she got a flurry of phone calls from people who were excited to attend. "People don't make quick decisions," explains Monica of the laissez-faire attitude that distinguishes people of the NT. 

"They're very laid-back and coming from Sydney, where it’s all hustle and bustle, it was difficult to get my head around that," she says.

Once she acclimatised to her new pace of life, Monica also waved goodbye to the winter blues that would come around each year living in Sydney. "It’s a very outdoorsy lifestyle. It’s always warm here, so there are lots of swimming pools, and it's always green, so people are out at all times exercising," she says.

Now, only eight months into running several businesses and with a podcast in the works, Monica admits she’s still trying to find her work-life balance in this busy period. 

However, there’s always time to sit in the pool with her partner and a beautiful glass of wine, reflecting on the life she’s managed to build for herself in the decade since she first stumbled into a whole new world called Darwin.

And if you ask Monica, she’ll tell you she’s exactly where she’s meant to be.

Visit Territory Worker Connect to sign up, create alerts and stay informed about job opportunities in the Northern Territory. 

Feature Image: Supplied. 

Northern Territory Government
For more information on living and working in Australia’s Northern Territory, visit Search for jobs and set up job alerts today at