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A dream home costs $250,000 in The Friendly Town desperate to welcome new locals

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A dream home costs $250,000 in The Friendly Town desperate to welcome new locals

The president of the Charlton Nation Girls’s Affiliation (CWA), Janet Stafford, makes an attempt to be matter-of-fact when speaking about her central Victorian house city.

“It isn’t utopia,” she mentioned.

“Nevertheless it’s awfully, awfully good.”

There’s something occurring in Charlton, simply shy of three hours north of Melbourne, and it’s worthy of deeper exploration. 

Group of younger people sit outside a motel underneath dappled lighting from nearby tree
Attendees at this yr’s OK Motels competition.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

It’s not that it’s unencumbered by issues – like all different regional cities, it has these. 

However there’s an vitality in Charlton, a heat and radiant positivity that shimmers like the principle avenue on a sizzling day.

It programs by way of native publican Greg Towers, as he stands atop his personal bar, black electrical guitar slung over his shoulder, gleefully shredding to a giddy entrance bar crowd.

“I have been again right here 15 months and I have not wiped the foolish grin off my face since,” he mentioned.

Man and woman wearing black shirts smile in front of pub bar
Greg Towers and his associate Leanne from the East Charlton Lodge.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

An uncommon friendship

There are many methods to know Charlton, the self-described Pleasant City house to about 1,000 individuals, however the OK Motels competition would possibly present among the finest entry factors.

In 2018, out-of-towner photographer Kate Berry developed the thought to host a music competition of kinds contained in the Charlton Motel.

Exterior of an old 1970s brick motel at sunset with sun streaming onto building
The Charlton Motel, which hosts the OK Motels competition.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

The very fact it spawned from an Instagram account documenting the light fantastic thing about nation motels might result in the cynical cost that the city was maybe getting used as a prop – merely a classic backdrop for metropolis guests to get a brand new profile image.

As an alternative, a much more significant connection has occurred. 

In its fifth yr, the city of Charlton itself has grown to turn into the headliner – its character and characters the principle assist acts.

Man dives in to bright blue country swimming pool with other people lounging nearby
An OK Motels attendee dives into Charlton’s group pool.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

The group swimming pool this previous week grew to become a dreamy mid-afternoon celebration venue underneath the mid-February solar.

Dozens crammed into the native garden bowls membership for barefoot bowls and Devonshire tea.

All of the whereas, an exciting change passed off between locals and guests, who would possibly by no means in any other case meet.

Woman with white hair wearing jewellery and blouse stands in front of lawn bowls field with people behind her
Eily Rosewall from the Charlton CWA.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

The magnetic presence of CWA member Eily Rosewall could possibly be felt as she flitted in regards to the bowls membership, the place she can be vice-president. 

“I’ve a beautiful time. It is the youthful ones assembly the older ones,” she mentioned.

“It is like velocity courting!”

Woman wearing red and black dress stands by window looking out past curtain, with motel in background
Kate Berry is the founding father of OK Motels.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

Friendships struck in the course of the competition’s Locals and Blow-ins pool competitors have developed to the purpose that some Melbourne guests this yr stayed the night time within the houses of their new Charlton buddies.

“We have positioned a number of significance on the individuals coming to the occasion really speaking and connecting with the individuals who dwell right here,” Kate Berry mentioned.

Two signs on a brick wall relating to dress code and children's safety
The Locals and Blow-ins pool comp has seen residents turn into buddies with metropolis guests.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

There was a free-form, freewheeling really feel to this yr’s competition – a select your personal Charlton journey that, as Ms Berry suggests, “makes individuals coming right here do the work”.

“Folks have the best time right here, however they don’t seem to be being spoon fed,” she mentioned.

“All sides’s giving one thing to fulfill at some extent.”

Older woman in kitchen piping jam and cream onto scones
Members of the Charlton CWA put together greater than 200 scones for a Devonshire tea.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

Even within the CWA kitchen, the place greater than 200 scones have been piped with jam and cream, concessions have been being made.

There is no official CWA recipe for gluten-free or vegan scones, however a flurry of exercise from the city’s members made positive all have been welcome and catered for. 

Twenty completely risen scones sat in a Tupperware container affixed with a pink handwritten post-it be aware. It learn “Gultin free.”

A tupperware container with 20 scones inside and a pink post-it note that reads Gultin Free
Gluten-free scones baked by the CWA.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

A brand new, unlikely house

Maybe the actual success of Charlton and OK Motels is the permission construction it has created for a youthful era of metropolis residents to see themselves as a helpful a part of a small regional financial system. 

Some are actually visualising their place as a part of its future.

Two woman standing outside a home with a large water take and trees visible in background
Tori and Nicole moved to Charlton in 2022.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

Thirty-four year-old Tori Mild and her associate Nicole stand as dwelling, home-owning proof.

The couple could not afford to purchase in Melbourne, so early final yr they set their search on the standard actual property web sites for “wherever that is three hours from Preston”.

In the combo was a house in Charlton – a spot they solely recognised due to OK Motels. 

A group of men and women congregate at the bar of a pub, with alcohol and blue walls behind them
Punters within the entrance bar on the East Charlton Lodge.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

If a city was keen to embrace another music competition, they figured, it’d simply be welcoming to a younger queer couple.

“There’s some kind of consolation in pondering that the city does settle for issues which are a bit of bit left of centre,” Tori Mild mentioned.

For slightly below $250,000, they now have their sprawling 2,000 sq. metre “dream house,” with a yard that stretches for days, a veggie backyard and a set of chooks.

Two woman standing inside a kitchen next to a sink with a cupboard in foreground
Tori and Nicole have discovered Charlton to be pleasant and welcoming.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

“It is such a particular place and such a tremendous group of individuals. Everybody’s simply so pleasant,” she mentioned.

“A number of individuals have come up and mentioned, ‘It is so good to have recent younger faces on the town’.

“I simply love dwelling in Charlton now. We’re right here for the foreseeable future.”

Woman stands on quiet country street
Tori now sees her future in Charlton.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

Tori, a former cafe proprietor, now works out of the native library in a group engagement function for the council and has joined the city band.

She plans on volunteering on the Rex Theatre, a surprising establishment within the city’s predominant avenue. 

If she does, will probably be alongside David Pollard, who began volunteering on the community-owned theatre when he was 19. 

That was in 1980, and he’d reasonably not calculate the hours he has spent there since.

“I do not need to know. It’s going to scare me.”

Man sits on edge of theatre stage with large red curtain behind him.
David Pollard from the Rex Theatre in Charlton.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

With its lush pink curtains and dramatic artwork deco options, The Rex Theatre would possibly simply be some of the spectacular in all of Victoria.

It runs solely on volunteers and must promote about 100 film tickets per week to be viable.

The Rex Theatre’s potential as a regional house to the humanities and dwell music is profound, in that case far largely untapped. 

A sign for the Foundry Palms Motel sits amid palm trees
The Foundry Palms motel in Charlton.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

Like so many within the city, David Pollard is optimistic.

“It is an thrilling interval,” he mentioned. 

“It is nice with a couple of youthful individuals coming to city. The [Rex Theatre] Board is open sufficient to let new concepts occur right here too.”

A group of men and women congregate in a yellow coloured restaurant dining room
Diners within the the East Charlton Lodge bistro.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

What these new concepts appear to be could possibly be something, although the 62-year-old treasurer holds out one private hope.

“I’ve by no means really been to the opera, however I simply need to hear what it feels like on this place,” he mentioned.

‘We’ve got our challenges’

Kaylene Cossar’s workplace as president of the Charlton Neighbourhood Home is tucked behind a curtain on the theatre.

It’s each within the coronary heart of the city and out of view – identical to Kaylene prefers. 

Woman wearing black top smiles standing in front of board with "What's on in Charlton" written above on the wall
Kaylene Cossar has a mixed-use farm simply outdoors of Charlton.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

The 2022 Charlton Citizen of the 12 months is way extra comfy opening tinnies with a spoon whereas working a volunteer bar shift at OK Motels, which she has achieved yearly of its existence, than being the centre of consideration. 

However Ms Cossar is an unapologetically loud advocate for her beloved house city. 

She ensures Charlton’s qualities, in addition to its points, are recognized. 

“Like all nation cities, now we have our challenges,” she mentioned.

A Motel front entrance with an open sign and a door to reception
Charlton has a scarcity of assisted dwelling and aged care amenities.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

Simply this month, Charlton made information in Melbourne for having a newly constructed childcare centre lie dormant for 18 months as a result of it could not discover an operator.

Ms Cossar mentioned the city additionally suffered from a scarcity of aged care and assisted dwelling amenities, which equally resulted in not sufficient accessible homes for the following era of Charlton residents to maneuver into. 

As an area farmer of export hay, grains and lamb, she is acutely accustomed to the area’s propensity to flood. 

A flooded paddock under a purple-orange sky
Kaylene Cossar’s flooded farm in October 2022. (Equipped: Kaylene Cossar)

The October floods may not have been nearly as devastating for Charlton as those in 2011, however farmers whose paddocks absorbed a lot of the harm are nonetheless carrying the associated fee. Hers was amongst them.

Ms Cossar is nonetheless fast to pivot to the constructive.

Cream coloured grain silos sit among trees and a blue sky
Charlton has a proud agricultural historical past.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

She mentions that when OK Motels’ October occasion was cancelled due to the floods, a bar in Melbourne held a fundraiser for the city.

T-shirts meant for the competition have been bought off to boost cash for the Neighbourhood Home.

“It is nice to really feel like they’re invested in us,” Ms Cossar mentioned.

Cultural change cuts each methods

a group of young girls and older women move about kitchen with arched service window through to motel
12 months 10 children from Charlton serving dinner to boost cash for work expertise.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

Dinner at this yr’s OK Motels competition was served by the city’s 12 months 10 college students, who have been elevating cash for his or her work expertise placements in Melbourne. 

Naomi Fitzpatrick, a guardian of one of many teenagers, watched on as chops, sausages and buttered bread have been despatched out alongside vegan curries by way of the motel’s arched serving window.

Yellow tinted bain marie with vegetables in foreground, people standing in pub in background
Vegetable sides served within the bain-marie on the East Charlton Lodge.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

“It is incredible. Exterior cash is superior,” Ms Fitzpatrick mentioned. 

“Being a small nation city, you are at all times digging into the identical pot, the identical dad and mom, identical households, identical farming communities.

“It certainly beats the previous raffle down in entrance of the grocery store.”

Welcome to Charlton text written in large font on a red street wall beneath blue sky
Charlton calls itself the Pleasant City.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

The dinner was soundtracked by a bunch of native musicians.

Native bus driver and Lions Membership president Ross Lane could possibly be noticed on drums, face beaming up at his greatest mate, keyboardist Leo “The Weed” Tellefson. 

He mentioned the competition had modified his perspective about his lifelong house city.

Two older men standing outside a motel, one wearing a cowboy hat
Ross Lane and Leo “The Weed” Tellefson performed within the dinner band.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

“You begin to realise how good the city is,” Mr Lane mentioned.

“The older you get, the extra you admire your city, your group, and simply holding the place alive. I really would not dwell wherever else.”

Behind the bar, Kaylene Cossar was all hustle, wringing the skilled particulars out of anybody who approached for a chat. 

Her hope was that among the attendees – irrespective of their occupation – would possibly tackle a Charlton child to do work expertise.

“We’re an enormous believer in giving our younger individuals a very nice publicity to the whole lot,” she mentioned.

Two girls hold plate of food standing at service window through to motel
Mother and father of the 12 months 10 college students imagine it is essential they get publicity to a distinct crowd.(ABC Information: Jeremy Story Carter)

“Even simply having conversations to increase the range of individuals the children work together with is admittedly essential.

“They could have points round gender identification and sexual orientation and issues like that, so for them to be uncovered to extra individuals than the norm in Charlton is great.”

She wished the city did not depend on so many volunteer hours (“our youngsters should not should fundraise to do work expertise!” she fussed). 

Singer Julia Jacklin stands with guitar on blue light stage with a drummer and guitarist and motel walls behind them
Singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin performs at OK Motels.(Equipped: Kyle Dobie/OK Motels)

However Kaylene Cossar is pleased with her group, and its capacity to fuse its identification, historical past and traditions with an thrilling, open-minded ambition for the long run.

“Let’s face it, you want cash to outlive. However for us, we’d like constructive individuals coming into our group and fascinating with us,” she mentioned.

“We do actually assume that we’re accepting. To have individuals come right here and fall in love with the place and need to transfer right here, that’s what we’re all about.

“That is what we’d like.”

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