Meredith’s Hive

Meredith’s goal in her principalship is to effect positive change and enrich the children’s learning experience with music, art and entertainment.

Arriving at the Carrington Primary School you will notice many bees around the grounds. Not the kind that will sting you though – the kind that will encourage you. 

“Our mantra here is to be a learner, be safe, be respectful and be kind,” Meredith tells us.  The happy little hive here have embraced the bee as their mascot.

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“Its lovely, the students often make and bring me little bee gifts. The students with the most bee cards at the end of the month gets to have morning tea with the principal,” she continues.

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Meredith Lindsay has been the Principal of Carrington Primary School since 2013 and her focus here is on providing a broad spectrum of education.

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Meredith grew up in Kurri Kurri and briefly lived interstate as well as in Sydney, eventually returning to Newcastle with her husband and three children because, “It’s just too nice of a place not to live here!”

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Always a high achiever, Meredith was drawn to management early in life – starting her career with Drake Employment in Sydney, it wasn’t long before she was the Manager of her team at only twenty years old.

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Returning to Newcastle Meredith worked with Park Royal Hotels and after what she calls, “brutal training in service and management,” she was promoted to Manager there within three years also.

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After her children were born, Meredith decided to attend University to gain her Teaching degree. She would take her small children along to uni with her and they would sit diligently throughout lectures, which turned out wonderfully for both Meredith and her studious children, “My youngest daughter could read and write by four years old and coincidentally she is at uni now!”

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When asked about her transition from teacher to principal she replies, “ It was through a lot of hard work and dedication.”


Meredith’s goal through her Principalship is to affect positive change and enrich the children’s learning experience with music, art and entertainment. 

“High engagement in activities means the kids love to come to school,” explains Meredith. “I want to expose them to these things because you don’t know what you like until you are exposed to it.”

Meredith has programs for students to regulate their own behaviour and learning – the children have personal learning goals which promotes self driven learning.

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“I have built my Principalship on kids respecting themselves, the community, the environment and their goals,” she adds.

Since her appointment, Carrington Public School has achieved their best NAPLAN results to date and the growth rate in Grades 3 to 5 has been well above state average.

“21st Century learning is about critical thinking and problem solving,” Meredith tells us. “ I have an open door policy for all staff and students – but I urge them not to come to me with a problem, but with a solution.”

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The school embraces such programs as a Chess Club – with which they are about to represent the school at semi-finals; Coding Club for young IT enthusiasts; craft; didgeridoo lessons; yoga and stretch classes for all interested students at lunch times and a student managed vegetable garden and chicken run.



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Giving is a strong value that Meredith and the school also work towards and part of that is to raise money, “We are raising money this week with the Art Exhibition on Thursday night. I want to show the children that you can make a difference through giving, though art and through music. That way they understand that they have the power within them.”

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When we asked Meredith what she does to relax and have fun, she smiles, “I am an academic at heart and I really do learn for fun. I guess I am most happy with a cup of tea and a research paper.”

A keen interest in health, nutrition and food science is another of Meredith’s passions. 

“I am quite known around the staff to always encourage everyone to eat their fresh fruit and veggies,” Meredith laughs as we discuss the school’s Swap It healthy eating program.

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“I really do love the community here at Carrington, we really are just like a little village and I don’t think I have ever met a more supportive and inclusive community.”

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Love where you live? Contact Villager Property and discuss with us today how you can live and love local. 



Brain Sports with Dr Gardner

A local rugby player had suffered concussion during a game and was ready to play again the next day, when an MRI conducted by Dr Andrew J. Gardner changed the course of his season.

“Another Concussion on-top of a concussion can be serious,” Dr Gardner tells us. “Its all about managing risk versus benefit.

A local rugby player had suffered concussion during a game and was ready to play again the next day, when an MRI conducted by Dr Andrew J. Gardner changed the course of his season.

“Another concussion on top of a concussion can be serious,” Dr Gardner tells us. “It’s all about managing risk versus benefit. The player made a full recovery and is very thankful for all the treatment we’ve done with him.”

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This situation is part of Dr Gardner’s daily work life: working full-time as a Clinical Neuropsychologist, the co-director of the HNE local sports concussion clinic and also contracted to be the consultant for the Australian Rugby Union’s Concussion Advisory Board.

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From junior teams through to professional players and then post sports career, Andrew is focused on looking after the welfare of athletes.

“I have started my own business, Neurogard,  which delivers pre-season baseline and post-concussion neuropsychological assessment for athletes of all ages and sports.”

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Andrew grew up in Teralba then attended the University of New England in Armidale to complete his Bachelor of Psychology, followed by completing his Doctorate in Psychology (Clinical Neuropsychology) at Macquarie University in Sydney and finally returning to Newcastle to complete his PHD in the School of Medicine and Health at the University of Newcastle.

Andrew’s thesis for his PHD on the acute and cumulative consequences of sport’s concussion in semi-professonal rugby players won the prestigious award for The Most Outstanding Dissertation for 2011 from the National Academy of Neuropsychology in the USA – the first and only time the honour has been awarded to a student outside of North America.

Dr Gardner’s academic excellency, among numerous other prestigious awards, has seen him gain fellowships to Harvard Medical School, where he was able to gain incredible contacts within the field of traumatic brain injury research.

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“The best thing about Boston of course, is getting to see my Red Sox play!” Andrew tells us as he shows off his screen saver of his time in the box seats at Fenway Park and points out “The Green Monster”.

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“I was only just yesterday watching the Red Sox win their 6-5 victory over the Yankees,” he says as he quickly replays the win on his desktop, the excitement still new. “I may have been yelling – just a bit!”

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 “I’ve always been involved in sports, from playing to following the games,” Andrew tells us. Although his love for sports has been rivalled by his drive for academic success.

“In 2008 and 2009 I was playing Premier League Bowls when I had to make the decision to quit playing and focus on the transition into full time academia,” Andrew says, “and that can be a hard thing to come to terms with. It forces you to redefine who you are.”

Andrew understands the importance of a sports career and helps players and patients through tough journeys when they have to give up a career early due to injury and rehabilitate their life.

This continues to drive him to sit up until the early hours some nights researching and working.

“I can sit up most nights, I just get lost in it,” he tells us. “I love what I do and believe I have these skills and this passion for a reason.”

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Andrew’s itinerary is full of upcoming speeches he will be giving at high profile conferences around the world; papers and books he is writing; all the while continuing to develop his research into problems associated with sports concussion in athletes.

Looking at his extensive list, we ask how he manages the complexity of his commitments and he assures us it is with ease.

“My job is also my hobby, only I get paid to do it – but if I wasn’t… I would be doing it anyway,” he smiles. “I’m meant to do this.”

Andrew’s genuine character, enthusiasm and passion is revealed as he speaks about the wonders of the brain. For Andrew, his field is his calling – his patients and players are in safe hands.

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Dr Andrew J. Gardner will be one of our guest speakers at Meet The Villagers on September 22, 2016 where everyone is invited to join in the fun to hear 6 speakers with 6 mins each to talk about their field of expertise. All funds raised going to charity. For tickets click here. 

Proudly brought to you by Villager Property 

The Elements at Hillcrest

Nature never goes out of fashion; so earthy slate was chosen for the kitchen and bathrooms, while exposed timber beams connect you to the surrounding bushland.

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30 years ago, an architect had finished drawing up a large formal design for 1 Raymond Street, Speers Point when the owners started researching pole homes.

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They began exploring the idea of incorporating exposed beams, texture and and layered living; much like the surrounding hillside – and they knew that this is what the home should reflect.

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Nature never goes out of fashion; so earthy slate was chosen for the kitchen and bathrooms, while exposed timber beams connect you to the surrounding bushland.

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The front balcony and cleverly placed windows ensure a view of the blue shimmering lake sparkling below.

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Like the branches of a tree, there are 4 levels that layer warm family living areas with quiet nooks.

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From the welcoming formal entry hall to private areas like the rear sunroom and ground floor rumpus room.

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Wide open spaces with beautiful views over the suburbs and lake; no matter your mood – you’ll find your space here.

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Sounds of laugher and games from the in-ground pool float up to the northerly al-fresco balcony;

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while the song of whip birds, rosellas and lorikeets rings out from the treetops beside the windows.

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Inside, a fireplace in the living room invites you to sit beside it in the colder months listening to records, while keeping the dining loft warm for entertaining.

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The kitchen will never be bare when there is a productive vegetable garden downstairs, fresh pumpkins, herbs and greens at always hand.

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And a view like this from the kitchen window –  yes please!

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A large room used as a study on level 2 has built in library style shelving, and views direct to the treetops.

The rear sunroom would be perfect for a studio space with direct access to the backyard and the current owners once used it as a perfect little sanctuary for their pottery sculpting.

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The landscape gardens include formal hedging of gardenias, fresh vegetable garden, shady paved garden dining area, whimsical pond, and flower gardens with winding paths – a garden for each season.

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All 3 bedrooms enjoy a view, of either the gardens or the water.

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The master bedroom features 2 walk in robes, an ensuite and exceptional lake scenery.

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A home that is full of light, music, texture and nature; a home full of life; all the elements are at play here for you to a life in your element.

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To learn more about this Raymond Street, Speers Point property: head over to Villager Property 

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Centrally Speaking

Sean Blakemore is abuzz with momentum – there’s a bright smile on his face and energy in his step. Rightfully so, because there’s a lot for him to be excited about.

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Sean Blakemore is abuzz with momentum – there’s a bright smile on his face and energy in his step.  Rightfully so, because there’s a lot for him to be excited about.
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Sean’s wife recently gave birth to their beautiful daughter, Edie and while taking on the role of new Dad, Sean is also taking on the sole ownership and management of Central.

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Sean opened Central in October 2014 with a business partner, building the furniture, designing the special touches of the interior and ensuring that the rich history of the building (a former church, theatre and cinema) were all reflected.

The authenticity of the building has kept it warm and inviting.

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Central may only be 2 years old next month but this isn’t a new passion for Sean. Hospitality and adventures are kind of his jam.

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For 10 years Sean worked at Custom’s House on a year on / year off basis, using his time off to backpack and work his way around Europe and North America.

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“I spent a while working at Planet Hollywood in Piccadilly Circus, which was great. I got so much inspiration and experience to bring back home,” Sean says as he creates one of his speciality teapot cocktails.

“It was all a great big mixed bag of experience – it makes you grow as a person.”

Back in Newcastle, Sean is happy to be apart of a strong community where he is a well known local.

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“I grew up in The Hill, went to school here and played rugby for South’s alongside Ben.”

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You will see Sean making the most of the convenient inner city lifestyle: scooting around town travelling from home to Central, the beach and all around Newcastle on his Vespa.

Nowadays, when he is not spending time with his new daughter, Sean is working hard at Central, which is now home to a cafe in the front foyer, restaurant and bar inside – an amazing venue for live events and functions.

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“We ensure all our produce is sourced locally: from the fresh ingredients in the kitchen, to local wine from the Hunter Valley and an exclusive range of craft beer from Matilda Bay Brewing Co.”

“The building here at Central just begs for live entertainment, and thats something I’ve always done here is to remain true to the building and the local community,” Sean tells us proudly. “I just love the buzz of the place!”

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Villager property are holding an event at Central 145 later in September, click here for more details 

Mark Hughes- A foundation of Support

There are many reasons to love the Newcastle community, but Marks story reminds us of the incredibly supportive environment in which we live.

It’s a sunny August morning in Hamilton and we’ve stopped in to catch up with Mark Hughes.

We have a chat about beanies, gratitude, the Kokoda trail and a magic ball.

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There are many reasons to love the Newcastle community, but Marks story reminds us of the incredibly supportive environment in which we live.

Mark grew up in the town of Kurri Kurri before moving to Newcastle to play for the Knights. He now resides in the beachside community of Merewether with his wife Kiralee and their 3 children.

“I love living in Newcastle,” Mark says. “It really does have that big community feel.”

Mark played for the Newcastle Knights from 1997 until 2005, and played for the NSW State of Origin team in 2001, thus making Mark a celebrated Novocastrian.

After seeing a doctor about recurring headaches, in 2013 at the age of 36, Mark was diagnosed with brain cancer. An emotional journey that brought his family and community close together, banding for support.

Mark and Kiralee subsequently began the Mark Hughes Foundation. The foundation partners with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), raising funds to help find a cure for brain cancer. In January 2016  The Foundation appointed a Brain Cancer Care Nurse within the John Hunter Hospital.

“The Brain Cancer Care Nurse is focused 100% on the brain cancer patients at John Hunter Hospital,” Mark informs us. “A great support for patients to have a nurse that is committed to their condition.”

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The Foundation has raised over $250,000 through the MHF Beanies for Brain Cancer fundraiser, hosted the Magic Ball with over 600 local participants, organised charity auctions, received donations from numerous local families and businesses and has even had Paul “The Chief” Harrigan going on the national TV program Im A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! to win $50,000 for the cause.

The response from the community is a massive source of inspiration for Mark, Kiralee and the MHF who work tirelessly to offer support for brain cancer patients and their families.

Sitting on the sunny deck of Mark’s Hamilton office, we talk about the importance of the foundation, “Our biggest goal of course is to find a cure – but we are also aiming for more awareness of brain cancer,” Mark says. “Brain cancer is the biggest killer of people under 40 – more than any other cancer – and we need more attention to this in the media and more funding for research.”

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Mark and 17 others recently completed a Kokoda Trail “Coast to Coast” challenge: riding 130kms from the Northern tip of Papua New Guinea to the track, trekking the 100km trail and then riding another 70kms to Port Moresby.

“It was physically and emotionally challenging – yeah it was hard,” said Mark, “but I was also inspired to be with those 17 others and raising $150,000 for the foundation.”

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Mark Huges on the Kokoda Trail. Picture by James Brickwood for Fairfax.

Since beginning his journey with brain cancer, the overwhelming story of support for Mark and the Foundation is what really stands out.

The Newcastle community, and national community too, reaching out with assistance and funding.

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Here at Villager Property, Mark’s foundation is very important to us, especially for our Villager Rod, who donates $500 from every sale commission (currently totalling $3,000) to MHF in honour of his nephew, a young brain cancer survivor.

“We have great support from the community,” Mark tells us, “and I do tackle every day as it comes – but I am very lucky and I am very grateful.”

www.villagerproperty.com.au

Strawberries and Cells

“At times it would get hard,” Raewyn admits, “And sometimes I would feel disheartened – but my Aunt Jenny who was battling cancer at the time had said to me “You have to do this!” And I knew I could.”

This week we caught up with local Newcastle Scientist Raewyn Billings.

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Raewyn specializes in molecular biology, genetics and cancer research and is currently working at the John Hunter Hospital as a Translational Scientist.

Seeing as we had arrived to write a blog on this interesting local, we needed a little more clarification. “So what exactly does a Translational Scientist do?” We ask.


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“I develop new testing and techniques that will be validated and put into clinical testing, which helps speed up turn around times for certain genetic tests. I look at DNA all day!”

As we share a delicious fruit platter, Raewyn tells us about the long spiraling ladder that is DNA, “It’s the recipe for every living thing,” she tells us excitedly.

“DNA and RNA are used to create proteins and give instructions for the shape and formation of proteins – they’re like a secret code.”

After further conversation about exome sequencing, clinical diagnostics and genomes, Raewyn decides to break things down for us more simply… and deliciously.

“I’ll show you,” she laughs. “Lets extract some DNA from these strawberries.”

Sure, why not!

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So as we got to work extracting from the berries in the lab, we also got to work extracting the story of Raewyn’s journey into genetics.

“I have always been the girl who had to figure things out,” Raewyn tells us while cutting up berries and pureeing them.

“I had a dream to work in forensics. When I was in Year 10 I started a petition so that our science classes would include forensic lessons. Mr Cook was the teacher and he eventually gave in – we did some fingerprinting and some other things.”

After school, Raewyn followed her passion for science and gained her Biotech – Medical Forensics degree working in Anatomical Pathology and Molecular Genetics.

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It was in 2006 that Raewyn’s dream of being a forensic scientist would become a reality, as she was successful in gaining a role as a Scene of Crime Officer based in Gosford.

For almost 6 years Raewyn attended high volume crime scenes, gathering and examining evidence.

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“I loved my job but something was missing. I missed the lab work and started to realise that my real passion was genetics.”
Through close personal family and friends being affected by cancer, Raewyn felt the push to further her study into medical genetics.

“I applied to the UBC – one of the top medical science universities in the world – and was so excited to get in! I had to leave my family here in Newcastle and move to Vancouver and spend my life savings to do it. But I knew it was my calling.”

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Raewyn scoops out a long piece of white string (DNA) from the strawberry goop with an aura of fascination that can only come from someone who is passionate and engaged with their work.

We talk about Raewyn’s time in Vancouver, Canada while studying her Masters of Science, Medical Genetics.

“At times it would get hard,” Raewyn admits, “and sometimes I would feel disheartened – but my Aunt Jenny who was battling cancer at the time had said to me “You have to do this” and I knew I could.”

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Her Thesis on simulating the human tumour heterogenteity using cancer cell line mixtures sits proudly in front of us as proof that she could – and she did.

An impressive undertaking on the understanding of the evolution of a tumor and a revelation on finding the culprit cell that is driving any one particular tumor, so that the correct treatment can be administered.

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Another passion formed in Canada for Raewyn and that was photography and the online social community of Instagram.

“I find photography an amazing outlet for creativity and to use another part of my brain away from all the pressures of science,” Raewyn says. “I’m an avid adventurer, so I utilised my time in Vancouver to make the most of the amazing hikes and scenery there.”

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Raewyns Canadian adventures became quite popular on Instagram gaining over 50,000  followers, however she now gladly shares her adventures back home in Newcastle.

“I am glad to be back home in Newy, it’s such an amazing place to live: the beaches, the opportunities and of course the wonderful community,” Raewyn tells us.

She is now contemplating her next move: a PHD with the University of Newcastle while simultaneously working in the lab to help produce results for cancer patients, all while enjoying Novocastrian life back home.

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Newcastle is a thriving and supportive community, and from what we learned from Raewyn about the spiraling ladder of DNA (that tells proteins how to form in the right shape), we are happy to know that our community is an amazing building block that supports it’s villagers, creating an abundance of vibrant life.

Visit us to discuss your next move in our vibrant city of Newcaslte, NSW

Sister Girl.

Melissa made it her mission to nourish the community and help create a healthy environment to heal and grow in.

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Arriving to have a cup of tea and a chat with Melissa Histon, we are greeted by two bounding pups – Carlos and Jadie. It’s 3pm and school children are lining up to give their favourite neighbourhood pups a pat and a scratch through the decorative iron fence.

“Carlos and Jadey are a bit famous around here!” Melissa says as she lets us in. “A lady from the neighbourhood found Carlos when he escaped one day, she brought him home of course, but not before taking him out to lunch!”

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We are welcomed inside Melissa’s gorgeous home at The Junction and she tells us that taking her dogs for a walk up to Bar Beach is one of her favourite things to do when she isn’t blogging, coordinating and event planning for her business –  The Sista Code.

Another of her favourite things to do is to travel. “I love to immerse myself in other cultures – really get to feel their way of life,” she tells us. “I just got back from an amazing trip around the UK.”

Although Melissa travels extensively, she has been a Novocastrian at heart ever since she moved from Canberra to Newcastle when she was 10 years old.

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Melissa was operating a successful photography business in Newcastle when her passion for travel and culture led to an opportunity with 3 Angels Nepal, a human trafficking rescue program.

Working as the stills photographer on location for a documentary, Melissa was to embark on a photographic and personal journey, documenting the harsh realities of life for women and girls in Nepal.

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When Melissa returned to Newcastle from this particular trip to Nepal however, she admits it was hard to forget about what she had witnessed and to continue on ‘life as normal’ back home in Australia.

“I knew I had to do something – I had to do my part to start helping lift up the women of Australia and the women of the world.”

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This is when she started The Sista Code, a growing community with a mission to make a difference.

Melissa made it her mission to nourish the community and help create a healthy environment to heal and grow in.

The code is simple:

  1. Support and uplift other women
  2. Celebrate the wins and successes of other women
  3. Lead the way – inspire other women and be inspired by other women
  4. Love you and love others
  5. Have fun and enjoy your life
  6. Laugh often and heartily
  7. Be happy – strive to raise your baseline level of happiness
  8. Pay-it-forward as often as you can
  9. Be open-minded
  10. Let your beautiful self shine without apology

And Melissa is certainly living up to the code – from organising local fundraisers, to furnishing women’s refuges, to building houses in Nepal with Habitat for Humanity.

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The Sista Code raises funds through it’s own charity arm Got Your Back Sista, which primarily focuses on helping women and children become emancipated from domestic violence situations, and from there helping them to be nurtured and healed.

It’s not hard to be inspired by Melissa’s work and passion. If you are reading this and thinking about what you can do to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud – we have a suggestion:

Melissa is currently rallying the Villagers of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley to join her at the upcoming  1000 People 1 Voice Event on September 3, 2016 at Hunter Stadium.

“Its going to be a great day! Great entertainment for families, a kit full of vouchers, a shirt and a drink bottle – things like that,” Melissa tells us. “It’s a real community event and best of all the proceeds all go toward furnishing two new local crisis centres for women and children.”

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“It’s all about being the best person you can be – uplifting, inspiring other sistas and sharing the love!”

Villager Property are passionate about our community and are determined to support the villagers and vibrancy within it.