Changing Tracks 2022: Daryl Finds the Rainbow Connection – Drive

We met at school in the mid 70s. Jayne had recently emigrated from the UK with her family.

We weren’t that close but we shared a few classes. We started dating after our HSC year in 1978. I knew pretty quickly that I was going to marry this girl and I think she knew too.

Fast forward a few years and at 21 we were married on March 5, 1983. Bob Hawke became Prime Minister on the same day. The press always reminded us that we shared them with Bob. At the age of 25, we had two sons. We were your typical Aussie family. Two kids, two cars and a mortgage. We had nothing special. Life just evolved and as the kids got older we became these “active” parents at Little Athletics, then soccer, then cricket, then school.

I worked in the banking industry, and Jayne too. In the late 90s my career started moving forward quite quickly and within just two years we moved from Melbourne to Warrnambool, Mildura and eventually Sydney. As I moved from job to job, Jayne was the one in the background arranging moves, schools, and a myriad of other things.

In 2006 I took a layoff at the bank and then the family business I worked for now wanted Jayne to come. We weren’t really sure but we threw caution to the wind. Now we were empty nesters. It worked really well, living in Sydney’s Inner West, reveling in the ‘café society’ lifestyle – living the dream.

But fast forward to 2013 and my relationship with the company soured. I was on probation. They fired me but kept Jayne. Soon she was brutally harassed, bullied, excluded and ostracized. She documented everything. In my 35+ years in the corporate world, this was the most overt, deliberate and insidious bullying I have ever seen. It’s easy to say “why didn’t she just leave?” but I thought it was a very tough job market as a run-down ex-executive in his 50s, and we still had a mortgage to pay.

A year later, I got a call from Jayne one afternoon. In her car in the parking lot at work, distraught and inconsolable. She was in terrible condition and we immediately sought medical help. His GP was horrified. She put Jayne on medication and although there are more sophisticated medical terms these days for what Jayne was going through but we just knew it as a nervous breakdown.

Recovery was slow. A dynamic and intelligent woman could barely get out of bed. She cried spontaneously. She lost interest. But something inside her decided she wouldn’t let them get away with what they had done to her. We found a lawyer, a court date was set and a lawyer hired. An hour before the mediation, Jayne received a call. It wasn’t a lot of money, but dollars were never the issue. The instant relief was palpable.

For over 20 years we had a running joke between us, whenever things got a little rough Jayne would always say “why don’t we just sell and buy a cattery on a farm in the countryside”. During those dark months in Sydney, Jayne started scouring the internet for catteries.

One in particular on a small farm in southwest Victoria caught his eye. As the months passed and my job prospects did not improve, I relented and we went to Victoria to check it out in June 2014.

Four months later we sold in Sydney and started our new life as novice farmers – and proud owners of our very own 5 star cat hotel. It was always Jayne’s dream, not mine. But now it was my turn to support Jayne.

Fast forward another 7 years. Jayne has turned her passion into a successful small business many times over. She was even recently a finalist for Business Person of the Year. She didn’t win, and I still think she got ripped off, but she found a new life and a new purpose. Sydney is just a distant memory.

In 2014, during this first visit to inspect the company, we returned to Melbourne afterwards. As we drove down St Kilda Road, this changing track played on the radio. We both immediately took it as a sign and decided on the spot that we were going to make this tree change happen. Everyone thought we were crazy, especially the kids. But as they say, the rest is history.

And Daryl’s changing track is “The Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog.

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