The river Murray
The river Murray borders the north of Victoria and the south of New South Wales where agriculture, politics and drought have controlled the economic lives of local people. It is also -
Not an island.
But another favourite place of mine. My family live on the Murray river bordering Victoria and New South Wales. If you love birds, this is the place to be. Cockatoos, finches, rosellas, pelicans... and I'm sure any twitcher could rattle off several hundred more. It's only a short trip to the ski-fields of Falls creek, the quaint villages of Beechworth and Bright and a slightly longer drive to Melbourne, Canberra, or Sydney.
Living on the Murray feels similar to the suburbs of Melbourne, or Sydney, with trendy cafes, the Museum of Modern Art in Albury and all the mod-cons. But it comes without the hassle of traffic and with the joy of living amongst nature - and all the healthy lifestyle possibilities that offers: cycling on the rail trails, taking the boat or a kayak on the river, or doing a run through the hillside. I spent a few months working in Wodonga and am enamoured by the kind, welcoming people who live there.
The Aboriginal heritage of Albury - Wodonga
The original inhabitants of Albury-Wodonga were the Wiradjuri people who named the region Bungambrawatha meaning homeland. The name Wodonga is still an Aboriginal word for bulrushes. The Murray river was a rich source of food for the indigenous people and extensive preservation of cultural, archaeological, artistic and craft has been done through the Gateway Village and Indigenous Cultural and Environmental Discovery Centre, Burraja.
Little Bhutan - surprising refugees in NSW
It came as a surprise to me to find a growing community of Bhutanese refugees living in Albury-Wodonga. Heralded as the happiest country in the world, persecution is not commonly associated with the himalayan kingdom. However there are over 1000 Bhutanese refugees who were thought to be Nepalese descendants and expelled from Bhutan in 1994. The new arrivals to country Australia have created an organic community vegetable garden that you can visit on their Facebook page here.
Health services in Albury-Wodonga
There are several general practices in the region and lots of permanent specialists including fertility obstetricians and excellent paediatrics. Some GPs run after hours emergency services but there are also a few small hospitals to choose from. A newly built regional cancer centre has a unique cross-border catchment between NSW and Victoria, to provide radiation and chemotherapy to local communities. Less available specialists still require people to travel to either Melbourne or Sydney. There is also a local Albury-Wodonga aboriginal health service.