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.”

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.”

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.


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.

Calm & Connected

Home should be a place you retreat to. Unwind, savour life.

Home should be your sanctuary.
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A place to retreat, unwind and savour life.
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Away from the stresses of everyday life.
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In the lakeside suburb of Warners Bay, in the quiet neighbourhood of Vennard Street, sits a home that has incorporated these values.
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Through tropically inspired landscaping, a gated entry invites you into the retreat of this home.
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As the large verandah wraps around the house, it leads up to decking – a spot to entertain  by the cabana.
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A hot tub bubbles away, drinks line the bar, just perfect for entertaining.
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Or perhaps,
finding peace on a Sunday afternoon while the palms sway in the breeze.
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The outdoor areas flow seamlessly with the interior. From the formal entry at the front;
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To the sliding glass doors and open servery from the rear family room.
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The formal dining room and kitchen catch gorgeous afternoon light, these alongside the living area create a gorgeous open space; perfect for engaging the whole family and guests.
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Space for the family to breathe…
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The four bedrooms all feature built ins, and windows overlooking the gardens or the elevated views.

The master bedroom features an ensuite and walk through robe; A parents sanctuary.

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All the features are here to accommodate the family.
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Double garage for 2 cars plus extra space for storage.

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Two living areas for that extra sanity is required…
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A view to the backyard, verandah and decking from the family room,
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and all in a quiet locale close to schools, shopping centres, Lake Macquarie esplanade and parklands.

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This bright and uplifting home is waiting to be embraced and enjoyed.
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Life is sweet…

No longer working with Rod, pouring cake batter is more Snellys style these days rather than pouring concrete: Snel is now affectionately known around town as “Mr Cupcake”.


From owning a successful restaurant in New Foundland, Canada, to starting a boutique bakery in Newcastle, Australia – the story of Mara and Snel is a search for sunshine and sweetness. 

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Although they dearly loved their late-night establishment in the Great White North, once their family began to grow, the couple decided on a lifestyle change.

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A search for a sunny, vibrant community to raise their family (now 3 boys) in was about to begin.  


They came to visit Mara’s sister who was studying at the University of Newcastle and once they arrived they simply fell in love.

“We became instantly inspired and excited to raise kids in Newy. We love the climate and lifestyle – it just fits us perfectly!” Mara tells us.  


Saying farewell to family and friends, the pair found a beautiful home in Islington.

“We totally love the community feels at Izzo! Its artistically urban, we are close to our neighbours and we know so many people now in this community – there are lots of people with common interests here.” 


In 2013, once the pair settled in Newcastle, Snelly started working with Rod Roewekemp in the construction and concrete business while Mara put her cooking skills to use making macarons and cupcakes.


Mara had learned to cook while working on outback cattle stations.

“Cowboys love sugar!” She laughs


The brand FiFi La Femme was born, and the sweets were sold wholesale to local cafes. The pair also got up at 4am on weekends to hold various market stalls around the Hunter.


Those market stalls drew quite a bit of attention, and the people of Newcastle became fans of Fifi!  

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Not hard to see why.


No longer working with Rod, pouring cake batter (not concrete) is more Snelly’s style these days. Snel is now affectionately known around town as “Mr. Cupcake”. 

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With a professional bakery in Islington making over 15,000 delicious creations a week, the days of baking until 3am for a 5am start at the markets are behind them – but there are many exciting things to come. 


Fifi La Femme recently celebrated its 3 year anniversary, now with 2 shops inside Charlestown Square, regular artisan market appearances and specialty wedding and occasion cake designs.

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All with a flair for fun, of course!

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“Cakes make people happy,” say the pair, “and that makes us happy!”


“When a customer contacts us after they have purchased a cake for their wedding, birthday or anniversary and tells us what a great night they had, how the cake was fabulous, it almost feels like we are sharing those moments with them.

Those special life moments – that’s an amazing feeling.”  

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Live your dream in Newcastle. Contact us today to start the journey.



Little Cravings

Eric feels Carrington is a destination. Just outside the city – its edgy – in more ways than one.

As you wander down Young Street in Carrington, the funky sounds and irresistible smells coming from the colourful restaurant at Antojitos almost levitate your body and carry you over to the menu. Homemade tortillas and salsa, tasty simple food.

Eric Flores had always thought about starting his own business, and he knew it would somehow involve food.

With a background in commercial real estate, he has helped numerous others begin their own journey as business owners, and his own is now flourishing.
Eric grew up in California where he was emerged in Mexican street food culture. Mexican food is simple food. It’s not fancy, just good.
It was at the California Polytechnic State University where Eric met Newcastle girl, Kristy.
Kristy had moved to California on a Basketball scholarship. She would soon become his wife.
The pair came back to Australia and have since made Newcastle their home, with their growing family in tow.
Its here that the dream of owning their own establishment has become a reality – With Antojitos.
Antojitos literally means “little cravings” and is Mexican slang for street food.
Why Carrington?
Eric feels Carrington is a destination. Just outside the city – its edgy – in more ways than one.
Antojitos clients always so they feel so relaxed, and thats what Eric wants here.

A simple, casual , non-pretentious vibe and its this atmosphere struck a chord with the locals.

There is a place for cafes here in Newcastle and surrounds to stretch the boundaries.

But the all important Question for the Villagers was this; how do we pronounce it?!

Eric laughs “An-To-He-Toes”
However you want to pronounce it, this funky little place in Young street is a wonderful addition to the Carrinton landscape.
Eric thanks the community which has been so supportive, The locals really want to see people succeed here.
And just a hot tip… next time your in town – do yourself a favour and order the Mexican Hot Chocolate.  DELICIOSO!

Happier for the experience…

Be yourself. Be honest. Try to leave everyone happier for the experience.

Rod had wanted to be in real estate from the age of fourteen, but life had other plans for Rod first.

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He started in the family construction business, which lead to his passion for construction and property.

Chasing his dreams, Rod moved to the big smoke, like everyone did.  The plan was to work hard and save for the Australian dream; “the first home” purchase. After four years of civil and commercial construction, Rod returned home.

It wasn’t long before he was running his own business.

The business flourished, from homes on the Merewether strip, to major nationally funded infrastructure projects.  During this time, Rod gained invaluable experience in winning contracts with multi national companies, but best of all building long term relationships with staff and clients.

All this time Rod had been building up a property portfolio. And around ten years ago he enlisted Ben to act for him at an auction.

Rod was standing between his wife, Kim, and Ben. They all became excited as the auction neared the end…

And the house was theirs!

They all reacted with joy, Kim especially, as she pushed Rod out of the way and grabbed Ben, hugging and kissing him!

Not quite what Rod had been expecting.

But this was also to be the start of a firm friendship between Rod and Ben.
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With the setting up of Villager Property, Rod finally achieved his dream of becoming a real estate agent.

With his wide-ranging experience in business and the building industry, Rod brought exceptional skills to Villager:

  • unique insights into building and development nationwide.
  • contacts nationwide within the building/housing industry.
  • outstanding negotiation and people skills.
  • experience in managing a workforce.
  • a strong work ethic.
  • reliability, honesty, and an easygoing nature.

It seems Rod was always destined to be a Villager.

His motto says it all:

“Be yourself. Be honest. Try to leave everyone happier for the experience”.
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To connect with Rod and Villager, Click here

Knock Knock…

He’s a Villager, so he’s a bit different.

His background is very interesting indeed.

Who’s there?


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Only met him briefly,

So don’t know much about him.

Or do I?

Let’s see.

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The people at Villager are all people persons.

They are very enthusiastic about their work.

They always put their clients first, working with them, not for them.

They are all keen to go the extra mile.

They show absolute respect for their clients.

They are positive, interesting people.

They tailor their support according to the individual needs and interests of each client.

If Rod is a Villager, he must have all those qualities.
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He’s a Director.

Must be good!

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We know the important things about Rod as a Villager.

And I now know much more about Rod after a chat with him.

He’s a Villager, so he’s a bit different.

His background is very interesting indeed,

As would be expected of a Villager.

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Want the good oil?

Watch out for the next instalment!

carrington morning_-14To connect with Rod, and Villager Property, Click here