What a town of 200 taught me

Last weekend, I travelled to Perth and then drove 3 hours to a little town called Kalannie in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. No, I’m not considering a career change, but this was a work trip. I was invited to speak at the Dimensions of Women’s Wellness Conference that was being put on by the community resource centre. When this email first came my way, I hesitated as It seemed so to travel. But after soon realising the benefit this would bring, I said yes. Imagine what it must be like living in a town with a population of 200 and struggling with your relationship? We all struggle from time to time, but when everyone knows your name, is it so easy to put up your hand and ask for help, airing your dirty laundry, vulnerabilities and maybe even secrets along the way? As much as this town is only 3 hours’ drive away from Perth, they are also a busy farming community and isolated from so many of the resources that so many take for granted, in person sex and relationship advice being one of them (and access to sex toys).

If you were in a marriage or relationships in a metropolitan city and things didn’t work out, you would be able to find another partner and date somewhat easily thanks to technology and population size. What would you do in a town with 200? You might have to leave to find love again. What If you had kids and couldn’t leave? You might be dating your former partner’s mate or the children’s school teacher. But the odds are, if either of you re partnered in the community, it would be with someone you both knew.

What if you were trying to date? Maybe you could go to Perth for nights out or date in another close town, but even that has it’s struggles. I loved my time in Kalannie, but it also made me realise how different their world of love, sex, relationships and dating really are.

One local spoke to me about marriages. She believes that those in Kalannie are forced to work on their marriages more as the idea of divorce is not so easy. Whilst working on a marriage or relationship is something that seems less and less done, what happens if you are stuck in a truly unhappy place? Another said to me that when issues in relationships arise, people often dig their head in the sand (along with the flies).

Distance is another factor. All kids in Kalannie go to boarding school for grade 7 and many Mums follow them or spend a lot of time in Perth, leaving their partner behind. I have been told that for some, having to have their kids sent away so soon and then spending time away from their significant other takes its toll.

And just like any other town, hook-ups do occur. But when a hook-up occurs, everyone knows about it. As there is a lack of singles in the area, when there are newbies it’s often a visiting worker. I was told how people will sit at the pub (there is just one) and watch the hook-ups about to occur with all the town knowing exactly what went on and who was hooking up with whom. There are no secrets. Everyone really does know your name (and all your personal business).

But there is something in Kalannie that in the city we don’t have, a sense of community. Yes, we have communities, but as a whole it feels like we are more focused on our own busy lives, competing with each other and not leaning on our neighbours for help or really offering enough help in return. The sense of community in Kalannie is what I adored.

How many times have you fallen out with a friend? How often do you drift apart because life gets busy? In Kalannie, it’s not so easy just to fall out with someone as you can never escape them. One women told me you grow as a person because you are forced to work your shit out and put your difference aside (well at least try to anyway). How often do we walk away from others because we are told to stick up for ourselves and at the end of the day it’s easier to do.

On return to Sydney, I was faced with an upset friend who believed that someone she knew had made a fake profile and was bullying her online, leaving nasty comments on her posts. Isn’t life hard enough? Where is the sense of community and support that we should have for one another? Especially women who are in the same circle. I wonder if this situation would happen in a town like Kalannie?

Another woman with three small children told me how the community help to raise each other’s kids, giving parents a bit of a break. Parents ask me all the time how to fix their relationships and get that spark back in the bedroom and I only wish I could give them more time for each other. I can’t, but maybe some of you can. Have you ever considered offering to look after someone else’s children and hopefully they might do the same in return? What a saw speaking at the Dimensions of Women’s wellness event was women supporting one another, women from all walks of life and all ages.

They bound together as a community to support each other through the real struggles that life and sometimes Kalannie bring. It was that feeling of “I’ve got your back and I’m listening to your concerns.” Even though they might not be any secrecy and everyone really does know your name, their sense of community, binding together and helping each other out is what outweighs any negatives of living in a small town.

I might have been there to teach them a thing or two, but they also taught me the importance of having a community and supporting those in it. And a community depends on how everyone’s health and wellness is. Maybe it’s about time we cared about those around us a little more, friend or neighbour and also considered the impact our behaviours, actions and words are having on them.

Thanks you Kalannie, I’m sure I will be back!

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