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Recently I attended a Seachange Group gathering at Phillip Island. I use the term ‘gathering’ rather than ‘meeting’, as it is not a formal meeting, but a group of ladies who, once a week, get together for a great hour or so of fun, friendship and social activities.

One of the group, Maria said, "We laugh a lot. There are so many positive inputs here it is good for your health‘. Bronwyn said, 'It's a great, friendly outlet…and there is no pressure to fundraise!’ Toni who moved from inner city Melbourne, said, ‘There is friendship and diversity. There are exchanges of information and the networking is big’. Linda mentioned that joining the group for her has been lifechanging. ‘It's a very welcoming group of ladies, it's just fantastic’.

Maddie Baker, the vibrant and energetic person who established the group tells us the background…….

Why did you choose to move to Phillip Island?
We had been coming to Phillip Island for many years, and noticed that there was no 5 Star Accommodation on the Island. We had a strategy to build a small luxury hotel B&B around an historic property, and to leverage major tourism attractions including the Penguins and the GP Circuit.

Where did you live prior to moving to Phillip Island?
Singapore - 8 years.

What was it like being an expat overseas?
Singapore is a soft-landing Asia expat posting. Everything works and its a safe, clean city to live-in. Low taxes and ability to get ahead! Great social life and lots of travel around the region and the world.

Are you involved in social groups overseas?
I was involved in ANZA - The Australian New Zealand Association of Singapore. I was VP of the social activities committee, and was involved in organising the tennis and I ran the ‘Home Aloners Group’ which comprised ladies in Singapore without kids (and with husbands who travel!)

Tell us about your current career..
My husband I run Glen Isla House - A 5 Star Small Luxury Hotel B&B with 9 rooms. See Glen Isla I am also involved with the local aged care facility, Melaleuca Lodge, as a member of the board of directors.

Why did you start the Seachange Group?
Having moved to Phillip Island from Singapore where I had an excellent group of friends and social activities, I found it difficult to get involved in similar activities here on PI. There are some sporting groups and of course the school/kinders etc, but since I don't have any young children there was not an opportunity to meet similar age women. I did get involved in a sporting club but found it very clicky.

When speaking to the editor of the local newspaper here on day, I had told her of how we organised ladies' social groups in Singapore - she said why not get a similar group here and after an article in the paper, and a meeting at the golf club, the rest is history! There are around 30 women in the group, most of them have moved to the island in recent times (semi or fully retired husbands etc) and are keen to meet other like-minded women for social activities.

How many members do you have?
Around 30+

Is it for men also?
Essentially for women, but we do organise a couple of activities each year that the men are invited to (Christmas break-up BBQ, Christmas in July dinner and a mixed pizza night).

What type of activities does the group do?
A weekly coffee meeting - no-one committed but typically 8-15 attend - everyone knows where it is located and it changes infrequently.
Other activities include:

  • Book Club - monthly meeting over lunch
  • Walking group
  • Outings - a trip to Tyabb Antique Cool-Store & Belurra special gardens on the Mornington peninsular.
  • Quiz night
  • Curry night
  • Movies

There is no official organisation and no positions (eg President/Secretary etc) and no ‘funds’. Everyone takes turns to organise things and one lady does the email newsletter - mostly monthly (but as and when needed to communicate - it works well).

Can you relate some stories of people who have benefited from the group?
There are many!

  • One lady was planning to move from PI, but she decided that the group was so important in her life that she couldn't leave.
  • Another women was receiving counselling for loneliness, and after getting involved with the group - has a new outlook on life and new friends
  • A couple of the husbands are now quite good friends and occasionally do things like golf and cards
  • My husband and I have now a small circle of friends we go out with for informal dinners etc

There probably 20 other stories of women feeling a lot better about their new lifestyle on PI.

We enjoy each other's company and best of all we have plenty of good laughs!