Former school teachers Mary Sayer and Ian Hunter moved into a Hometown Australia lifestyle community on the NSW North Coast so they could be closer to their relatives - all 72 of them.

Mary and Ian’s extended family is spread across South-East Queensland, with the youngest being a grand niece aged around six months old and the oldest being close to 80. 

“We belong to a large family network in South East Queensland and I think it’s fair to say we’re the favourite aunt and uncle,” Ian said.

Being able to spend time with our mob and do things together is a great gift,” Mary added. “We don’t need anything more than that.” ​​

Mary said the whole tribe meets up several times a year, usually for Christmas and Easter as well as milestone events, with smaller groups meeting more regularly.

Mary and Ian with their extended family

More people moving close to their family

Mary and Ian are not alone in deciding to stay close to those who matter in their lives. 

A recent Australian survey found that COVID-19 has made many downsizers realise the importance of retiring near their family.

The survey found that older Australians have become significantly more aware of their own vulnerability and more conscious of their health and wellbeing, as a result of the pandemic.

This has led 57 per cent of prospective retirees to think more about their retirement plans and 45 per cent to re-evaluate where they want to live in their later years.

The survey also found 66 per cent of survey respondents said being close to their family had now become the most important factor in retirement.

About Hometown Australia Banksia Waters

Mary and Ian’s family launch pad is their stunningly located two bedroom home at Hometown Australia’s Banksia Waters community, at Tweed Heads West.

Pool at Hometown Australia's Banksia Waters community at Tweed Heads West

“We have kangaroos who visit us along with birds and a little water dragon,” Mary said.

“We also grow our own veggies, in a little plot behind our house and we often have enough to give back to our community.”

The setting reminds them of their 16 hectare property in regional Queensland, which Mary describes as “a slice of heaven”. 

They only sold it after Ian became ill and went through extensive, debilitating chemotherapy. But thankfully that’s all behind him now. 

“We moved into Banksia Waters in 2017 because we had wanted to find a welcoming community and not to live on our own,” Mary said. 

We also wanted to be close to our family and water and nature, so it’s perfect for us.”

Hometown Australia’s Banksia Waters community is a true coastal retreat set on 44 hectares. The community’s facilities include a clubhouse, swimming pool, croquet court, community bus, BBQ area and a well-stocked library.   

These types of facilities can be found at some of the 52 lifestyle communities operated by Hometown Australia in NSW, South Australia, and Queensland.

Croquet court at Hometown Australia's Banksia Waters community

Most are also pet-friendly, which is good news for Hometown Australia residents given that, as everyone knows, pets help keep you fit.

There’s also many sporting and arts and crafts activities, along with Friday night drinks and brunching groups depending on the community.

It’s all about building your lifestyle just the way you want it and having a secure base to travel and also to catch up with family.

Many of these communities are also ideally located in well-known holiday destinations including Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Gold Coast regions, NSW’s Mid-North, North Coast and Port Stephens regions and South Australia’s stunning Fleurieu Peninsula.

Hometown Australia's Banksia Waters community has its own lake

Settling in is relatively easy as Hometown Australia residents purchase a home and then benefit from a secure, long-term ground lease. 

One of the great benefits is that there’s no stamp duty or council rates, while  the affordable price point of these homes, along with lack of government taxes, allows many retirees to top up their retirement savings. 

Homes are stamp duty free at Hometown Australia's Banksia Waters community

It all adds up to a greater sense of freedom and being able to create the retirement lifestyle of their dreams.

“It’s quite unique”

Mary and Ian have certainly carved out an idyllic life for themselves at Banksia Waters. 

“It’s quite unique,“ Mary said. “We’re 10 minutes away from three different beaches and 10 minutes to the mountains.”

Often on Wednesdays, they set out in their car to explore some of the fishing villages nearby, stopping for a coffee and just walking around. Sometimes a few of their neighbours come along for this excursion.

Ian also spends two days doing wood work at a craft studio in Murwillumbah, often making things for the community.

“We‘re at a stage of our lives now where we both believe in giving back,” he said.

“For so long we’ve been defined by what we did for a living and not really who we are as people,” Mary adds. “But living in nature at Banksia Waters and being close to our family, has changed all that and helped us to grow.”