Mackay proves to be a “hidden gem” for the Daly’s

When a job opportunity came up in the mines for Helen Daly’s engineer husband, Andrew in central northern Queensland, they never thought a decade on they would still be up there living in such a “hidden gem”.

Moving from Sydney’s eastern beaches, Helen says the family, which has since grown to five, are now well and truly settled in Mackay.

Mackay proves to be a "hidden gem" for the Daly's - Image 1

“Life in Mackay has absolutely exceeded my expectations,” she says. “Having lived both in Sydney, working right in the city on George Street and also for a short time in a small mining town west of Mackay, I can say it definitely has the best of both worlds.”

Growing up in Parkes in central New South Wales, Helen says they learnt after having their first child that their lifestyle in Sydney – where they spent 13 years prior to the move – didn’t offer the “quintessential Aussie childhood” that she herself experienced.

“The desire for my kids to have freedom, space, and for life to be less rushed was definitely a big factor in the move”, she says, “as was the cost of living” with the rent going up significantly on their Maroubra home.

“If we stayed in Sydney, we would have had to move well away from the city to be able to afford a house with a decent yard. And it was not what we wanted.”

Moving first to Middlemount, three hours west of Mackay, the family then settled in Mackay, with Andrew able to “drive in, and drive out” of the mines.

Despite feeling initially unsure about the move and being so far away from family and friends, Helen now describes Mackay as a “hidden pocket with friendly people and a real community”.

Home to a “passionate sporting community”, and a hub for arts and cultural events, Helen says Mackay also boasts “beautiful beaches, lots of islands which are accessible by small boats, freshwater dams for water sports, plenty of camping, rainforests and waterfalls”.

Mackay proves to be a "hidden gem" for the Daly's - Image 2
Helen Daley

“I really feel there is not much lacking,” she says. “Some people are often quick to complain that there is nothing to do here, but when challenged to describe what they wish existed, they usually can’t think of anything.

“I personally can’t think of too many things that our family can’t do here that we could in Sydney.”

Helen says the “strong sense of community” in Mackay also prompted her to follow her passion and embark on a career change from corporate communications to the community sector.

“When we moved, I looked at Seek to see which industries were thriving and offering interesting employment opportunities,” she says. Obtaining a diploma and then a degree in community services and counselling, Helen now works as a project coordinator at The Neighbourhood Hub in the field of integrated family support.

With the Hub’s vision to help build a connected, empowered, and resilient Community, Helen says the “organisation works within a community development framework encouraging the community to develop their own long-term sustainable solution”.

“We work a lot with multicultural families who are new not only to Mackay but to the country, so I see what people need to feel a sense of belonging when they relocate and I’m proud that Mackay ticks lots of those boxes.”

Helen says organisations like The Neighbourhood Hub, and a really engaged regional council, means there are always opportunities for people to find a way to connect and she would encourage anyone thinking of making the move “to give it a go”.

“While part of me wanted to move to Sunshine Coast as it was closer to family there just weren’t the same job opportunities, ease of lifestyle or bang for your buck with housing,” she says.

Citing the affordability of the housing market as a huge drawcard, Helen says property prices haven’t gone up as dramatically in Mackay as most other coastal areas.

“Without that mortgage stress we are able to allocate more of our income to doing fun stuff like buying a boat and taking more holidays with the kids,” she says. “It’s really about weighing up what’s important to you.

“We love Mackay. There are so many opportunities and like everywhere it absolutely is what you make it.”

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