Note: This interview was published Aug 1, 2019. Sadly, Greg passed away Sept 8, 2020 as a result of a fall. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Greg moved to Mansfield over a year ago and when asked about his tree change, he quotes Edith Piaf, non je ne regrette rien. This town offers a welcome change of pace for him after growing up in Melbourne, secondary schooling in Adelaide, and living for periods in London and Sydney.
What brought you to Mansfield?
I’ve been coming to the High Country all my life, with Dad and my friends – mainly fishing and camping. Dad knew the Poole family at Kevington and we spent many terrific nights at the pub with Ma, Mick and Irene. When I had enough of Melbourne, there were no second thoughts about the region I’d move to – I only needed to pick between Jamieson and Mansfield.
My health was suffering from my stressful lifestyle in Melbourne, so I made a change. It sounds a little melodramatic, but you could say I moved to Mansfield to save my life not to save money.
Instead of one high-pressure position, I now pursue a semi-retired lifestyle, picking up work where I can and volunteering as much as possible. My background is in fundraising and administration for not-for-profits, and there are many opportunities to assist here. I also value my involvement with Rotary – which is coming up to 20 years now.
I fully intend to start the next gold rush in the region as I enjoy nothing more than wandering around the bush and rivers hunting for gold, interspersed with some fishing and hunting.
Has your health improved since your tree change?
Yes, it has. The sedentary lifestyle that is so easy to fall into in Melbourne (I lived in Richmond) has been replaced by more time outdoors, fresh air, and peace and quiet. I’ve only been back to Melbourne three times since I moved up.
What is your career background?
I did a Bachelor of Commerce at Melbourne University and a Master’s at Monash. My early career was with a large US mercantile company, but I soon discovered that I wasn’t motivated to work long hours to make someone else rich. I found my niche in fundraising for not-for-profits. Over the years, I’ve worked for NSW Police, Red Cross, RSPCA, Melbourne Opera, Melbourne Footy Club, The Australian Ballet and Anglicare.
What inspired your interest in helping foster children?
Both working for Anglicare and my involvement in projects for the Rotary Club of Melbourne have led to a deep concern for who I consider to be the most vulnerable people in our community – kids in out of home care. Anglicare is the largest agency for these children in the state.
Unfortunately, funding and government commitment lay at the core of this complex issue. Care runs out when a child turns 18. In the UK, this age has been raised to 21, which has had a beneficial impact for these young adults.
Some former foster care kids have gone on to contribute greatly to our community, but leaving care at 18 means that many end up pregnant, homeless, abusing substances, or at the morgue.
To build a life, people need a fixed address. You can’t apply for a job or social security without an address. Yet Anglicare’s annual housing affordability survey revealed that only 1% of rental properties are affordable for people on low incomes.
We need to do more.
What does your volunteering role with Mansfield Autism Statewide Services involve?
MASS is a victim of its own success. It has been built on strong leadership, good governance and a single-minded focus on their clients.
They are one of Mansfield’s major employers and many families with autistic children choose to settle in Mansfield in order to access their world-class services.
There has also been a huge spike in demand since the introduction of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), so they have outgrown their current premises. That is a simplistic description of the challenge but it is at the crux of the issues.
My aim is to assist with fund raising so they can establish an adequate facility to meet this demand.
What do you enjoy about Mansfield?
It is a generous community, with many individuals and businesses willing to donate goods and time to not-for-profit groups.
For locals interested in community involvement, there is a wide range of agencies including Red Cross, Rotary, APEX, Freemasons, Agricultural Society, Historical Society, schools, SES, CFA – the list goes on and on.
Sir Andrew Grimwade described this spirit beautifully in his tribute to volunteers, delivered in Mansfield on Australia Day 2005. “… celebrate the great contribution to the community made by volunteers – our unsung heroes. It has made Mansfield the best place in Australia.”
Mansfield’s proximity to the High Country is a major attraction to me, as are the friendships and associations I am developing.
And the fact that we can get a terrific coffee here!
Where to from here?
Mansfield is my home for the foreseeable future, and I’m in the process of buying some land up here. While it’s hard to see my girls, who live in Sydney, we can make it work. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my healthier lifestyle and will try not to be too unbearable when I strike it rich on the diggings!
You can follow Greg on:
Next time: I continue my Houston story in Gbenga Yusuf and The Perfect Dance
Next interview: Barb Grant’s Tough Transition to Mansfield
5 thoughts on “Greg Romanes on Tree Change, Foster Care and Mansfield’s Next Gold Rush”
I know Greg very well and am very proud of his decision to make a real life change. His is an inspiring story and I wish that 30 years ago I would have had the courage to do a similiar change. I wish you the best of luck and hope that it all works out the way you have it planned. RGR.
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What a lovely comment, Bob. And I agree, it takes guts to make a major life change and Greg had done exactly that.
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