HAVING moved to Melbourne from the Philippines when she was just 11 years old, Geraldine Edar-Ralph decided 12 years ago she needed a sea change.
She had followed her eldest sister and mother to Australia to escape poverty in her remote village in Mindanao.
As a single mum in Melbourne she worked hard to complete a bachelor of arts in social work, youth work and welfare studies, as well as a graduate diploma in secondary education.
Mrs Edar-Ralph said she moved to Warrnambool in 2000 with her eight-year-old daughter Ro after a friend suggested it was a safe environment to raise children.
“I like the fact that I felt safe for my child, that she was able to go out and about and not having to worry about who is going to kidnap her,” she said.
“I had pretty much everything that I needed to have access to raise a child. Plus the fact that Warrnambool is a city as well, it’s a really good place and Melbourne is not that far away.”
In addition to the access to services and resources, she said the atmosphere was a positive contrast to city life.
“The beach, clean air, countryside ... you get to see wildlife and people are really lovely, very friendly.
“Whereas in the city you are practically boxed in your own home, you go out and you don’t even know your neighbours. Here, you actually get to chat to your neighbours if you want to and there is that sense of security.”
Mrs Edar-Ralph began work in the south-west as a teacher and school counsellor in Camperdown, then six years ago became the youth development officer for Moyne Shire.
She said there had been many changes in the region during her time here, not least the growth towards a more multicultural society.
“(The growth has been) phenomenal, and even the Filipino community. It was only a handful when I came here 12 years ago and now they’re everywhere.
“There was only 27,000 people in Warrnambool when I moved here, now it’s nearing 40,000. There is a little bit of mixed culture now.”
Seven years ago Mrs Edar-Ralph married schoolteacher John Ralph, whom she met while working in Timboon.
He travels to Hawkesdale for work each day so they can remain living in Warrnambool, close to his wife’s favourite landscape — the beach.
Mrs Edar-Ralph said she hoped to grow old in Warrnambool.
“I find that the workers here in the aged-care area are really accommodating and if they could do more they would.
“Certainly in the country you get that sincerity, that people really care.”