Otway People – Fiona Brandscheid

What brought you to this part of the world? 

Birregurra Festival is the reason we landed in Birregurra! After hearing about the festival on ABC774 around 2009, we came for a day trip and within 30 seconds of walking down Main Street, my husband Steve and I looked at each other and declared “This is IT!”. Within 3 months we’d bought a home and haven’t looked back.

What have been your biggest challenges in life? 

I’m very much an optimist and an adventurer, so for me, I generally see challenges as very positive and I tend to proactively dump myself in the deep end to see how I go. Mental illness is the one real challenge that I’ve had no choice about and is constant in my life. While I have been able to stay clear of the black dog myself, some family members do struggle. There’s a lot of unanticipated guilt that comes along with that and I’ve had to be proactive in allowing myself to focus on my own wellbeing. In my situation, there was a point when I realised that there was nothing more I could do and have had to accept that the only thing left is to just be there when the time is right.

What is the best thing about living in a small community in a rural area? 

There are lots of great things of course but the best thing for me is the people. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t have a great chat to someone about something interesting that’s happening. Most people are so proactive in this community and it’s just so exciting to hear what they are doing, how they’re doing it and why they are doing it. I am constantly inspired.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?…

Apart from Donald Trump being kicked out of office, my big dream is that our own government finally finds the strength to act seriously on climate change and inequality. I don’t hold out much hope at the moment but do enjoy seeing the power of the individual and how their own changes can accumulate with others to have a significant impact overall. On a more personal level, I dream of living in Italy for a few years with my husband, then returning to Birregurra to build an off grid home and then spend our days playing ukulele and gardening.

What do you do for your job?

I’m a freelance graphic designer and writer, working mainly with financial institutions. I am also the part time Arts Development Project Manager for Birregurra’s Small Town Transformation Project. Working on this project has allowed me to tap in to the pathways for bringing more arts opportunities to towns like ours. The arts can have such a positive impact on individuals as well as on whole communities, be it through live music, dance, comedy, theatre, collaborative community projects or learning new skills. After the project is finished, I am hoping to continue to bring arts opportunities to our area and also explore the links to health, including mental health. I feel very strongly that small towns like ours deserve it as much as folks in the big smoke.


Minister photo (1)
Fiona Brandscheid (left) with Vicki Jeffrey, Angie Smales and Minister Martin Foley at the announcement of the $350K Small Town Transformation grant


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