Photography by Ally Cheble

the kids of castlemaine, straight up

Teenagers sound off on the pros and cons of growing up in the country.

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Sep 6 2018, 3:28am

Photography by Ally Cheble

Sitting on Djadjawurrung country, Castlemaine is a one and a half hour drive from Melbourne and a sort of link between the city and the country. The early 2000s saw flocks of 'tree changers' moving there from the city to escape the unaffordable urban sprawl. So, while the town is well known now as a creative hub within the region, it still exists within the context or regional Australian life and classic Australiana. Here we talk to local kids about how they feel about life in their part of the country, and discuss the real issues facing them and their friends.

Hamish
"My family is largely musically or artistically inclined. When my dad first moved here, he said it was full of arty people, musicians and stuff, but since it’s become a bit more stereotypically redneck. I ride my bike around everywhere and am fairly outdoorsy, I guess. My friends and I travel to Melbourne a fair bit because that’s where everything is going on. I don’t think I see a future for myself here in Castlemaine. I skateboard and in the city there’s a lot more opportunity to skate. I wouldn’t say that the country is lacking compared to the city, it's just different."

Cash
"I think you connect with people a bit more in the country. You make connections really fast and you don’t really want to leave. I have lots of friends here but it’s always changing. A lot of people go to The Lookout, which is up this steep hill with this sign telling you where everything is. We have a local radio show called Hip Hop Smash where I’ll play the new school hip hop and my mum will play the old school. It’s a great feeling just being able to go for a walk, and know you'll be fine because you know everyone."

Pearl
"In my friendship group we take care of each other, that’s an important thing, taking care of each other and making sure we’re doing alright. We really thrive on each other’s successes and want to see each other get better and grow. I didn't find that when I moved to the city. The love is a lot bigger here I think so it was a big relief to be back after so long. In regards to mental health there’s a huge lack of emphasis. We weren’t really taught what anxiety or depression or eating disorders or gender exploration are. I feel like that’s so important for children who have these new vessels and minds that they still haven’t really become accustomed to. Kids are just faced with this idea of success and that’s it, it’s so rigid. I mean the education system only serves one kind of purpose and you kind of have to conform to that or you’re an outcast and that’s really unfortunate in my opinion. I try to reach out to kids I’ve grown up with and connect with, and they’re all really smart and self-assured. It’s really beautiful watching them explore through art and fashion and creativity, especially in Castlemaine, that’s big here, to be creative, to live through expression and colours and that sort of thing. I definitely see a future for myself here."

Sage and Stella
Sage: "Out here we get to grow up in tight communities, which is really great. You’ve got your family then you’ve got your community family. The hardest thing is that if you want to do more you have to leave. But there’s also some great opportunities here like the theatre which hosts a lot of pride events and things like the queer formal. There’s a lot of kids at high school here that don’t really think about stuff like the future, school is more of a chore for them. I value being close to my family so I think I’d probably like to stay here."

Stella: "I’m in the school diversity group and we’re planning another queer formal that's coming up. We just raised pride flags in town. There's quite a small group [of queer teens] but we’re pretty tight. It’s pretty accepting here. I had a work colleague who we had to pretend that we were cousins for but around the community it’s not too bad, we don’t have to hide who we are very much. A lot of kids are struggling with anxiety and depression around this area though. I feel like a lot of the people I’ve come into contact with feel like they’re more alone than they maybe actually are. Not sure, what about you? I'm not sure what the future holds, I’m just waiting for something to pop up."

Scarlett Storm
"I liked growing up in Castlemaine when I was younger, and I still do, but I’m a city person and I think I would have enjoyed Melbourne when I was 15, for like high school. I go to the city a lot and it’s definitely where I want to be living. I prefer that in the city there’s a lot more different types of people, different ethnicities, and people from different backgrounds. For a small town, there’s definitely worse places to live, but as I’ve gotten older I’m kind of sick of it. We kind of just hang out, eat food in the park, that’s is all there is to do in Castlemaine. If you want to do other things, like go to galleries or things like that, you kind of have to go to the city."

Chase
"I’m doing land management right now in TAFE. I feel like I’m going to be a park ranger when I’m older so... because I’m part aboriginal. Most of the park rangers up there are aboriginal and I know them so I’ll just go to them. I reckon it’s really fun [growing up aboriginal in the country] because you get to experience more stuff from the aboriginal people before white people were here. We just go out looking at old artefacts and searching artefacts."

Leah
"I want to work with children in residential care and I'd need to go to Melbourne somewhere to study. My mum was talking about me being an ear, nose and mouth surgeon because there’s not many of them anywhere. I don’t see myself getting anything productive out of this place. My mum works at the bakery two days a week, sometimes three… I have five sisters and two brothers. We have parties at our houses. Chill parties, not like hectic, or where it gets out of control, and we have bonfires usually."

Sam
"It’s cool growing up in the country, because it’s not all cramped like the city, and you can easily get around. My mum works at the winery and dad’s owns the vet clinic. Staying here worked out for them but I kinda just want to go to TAFE. I want to build houses because it’s probably the thing I’m best at; building stuff with wood."

Sequani
"I’ve lived here for 12 years. I go to school and like skating and hanging out with friends. I have a lot of friends here from a few different friend groups, some that are really close and supportive, some that I just hang out and joke around with. My friends and I mostly talk about drama that happens in town —drama between different people, relationships, people saying shit about other people, that kind of stuff. I’ve recently been thinking about travelling around Australia. It’s such a small town that you feel like there's so much more out there but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on too much."