Dawn Fraser at home. Photo Lachie Millard
Dawn Fraser at home. Photo Lachie Millard

How DNA scandal led Fraser to Noosa

It's not always the sun, cheaper housing, work opportunities or a more relaxed lifestyle that lure people to Queensland. In legendary Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser's case, it was the media.

That's right: intrusive journalists and ­photographers camped day and night outside the inner-city Balmain home where Fraser grew up.

"They just wouldn't let us alone," says Fraser, 81, on a sunny spring day overlooking the Noosa River, a few streets away from where she now lives.

"They'd sit outside opposite my bedroom window, with cameras trained on my bedroom, trying to learn something. From three o'clock in the morning!"

Fraser's outrage is palpable. What the media was trying to find out 15 years ago was the paternity of her daughter's new baby.

News had broken that Fraser's unmarried ­daughter, Dawn-Lorraine, had chosen to have a child through ­artificial ­insemination, using sperm donated by a close friend.

"It got to the stage where they were trying to get hand prints from my grandson so they could get DNA," Fraser says. "They used to follow my daughter home when she picked him up from school."

But luckily, Dawn-Lorraine (now 51) had taken her mother's advice and bought an investment property at Noosaville on the Sunshine Coast, where Fraser had also bought a property 25 years previously. 

Ten years ago Dawn-Lorraine and her son, Jackson (now 15), hotfooted it to Queensland, and a year later, Fraser followed them. 

The move has proved brilliant for everyone: "I've been coming up to Noosa for over 50 years and I just love the place. I was always hoping that one day I might have enough money to buy a house, which I finally did."

Fraser has long been a patron of the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club.

The family lives together in the house Dawn-Lorraine bought on a canal, and Fraser's house is rented out ("the bank owns it").

Jackson is happy at a small private high school - where Fraser had the smarts to immediately give a talk when he started: "My grandson doesn't like swimming much; people are always saying, 'Oh, are you like your grandma?' and all that business. He prefers ­tennis. I spoke at the school so he wouldn't get hassled."

Fraser loves being part of her community: she points out a free concert taking place at the park overlooking the river, the glorious weather, the view.

"Just look at it! When we go out on the river on the jet ski, we come out through the lock, we don't have to worry about parking. We go right down to the mouth of the river and if it's a nice day we can go right around and look at the sharks, the dolphins, the whales."

And everyone is so friendly. "Everyone's got a smile on their face, you walk around down here and it's 'Good morning, Dawn', even if they don't know me. You don't see a grump anywhere - in Sydney they're too cool to say hello, even if they recognise you. They just keep walking."  

Don't get Fraser started on Sydney traffic: "I have to go down quite a bit and the last time I was there I had to walk 10 blocks back to where I wanted to go because the parking was so bad." And with that, she's off home to her daughter (a local schoolteacher) and her adored grandson.

Even walking back through the park, at least 10 people say hello. Not one of them is anyone Fraser has met before.

Australian playwright David Williamson in the comfort of his nurturing surrounds at Sunshine Beach near Noosa.
Australian playwright David Williamson in the comfort of his nurturing surrounds at Sunshine Beach near Noosa.

AUSTRALIA'S MOST POPULAR DESTINATION

Fraser is just one of several well-known Australians who made the move north from other states. In the 12 months to the end of March this year, 24,000 ­citizens moved from other parts of Australia to Queensland ­(according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures).

Queensland has become the most popular interstate ­migration destination, with climate, cheaper housing and a less stressful life just some of the reasons the state's population increased overall by 1.7 per cent to 4.9 million.

It's the first time in four years that Queensland has overtaken ­Victoria in terms of net interstate movement, with the most common move between states from NSW to Queensland.

Queensland's improving economy and standard of living are driving the surge in interstate migration, says AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver.

Sydneysiders in particular, he says, believe their city has become "too crowded and too expensive".

SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher agrees: "There are more southerners moving from Sydney and Melbourne to southeast Queensland to take advantage of the standard of living and better housing affordability."

A clutch of famous names now call Queensland home, ­including sportswomen Dawn Fraser (an Olympic gold medallist), sprinter Raelene Boyle (ditto) and former world No. 1 tennis player Evonne (Goolagong) Cawley. All live on the Sunshine Coast. Then there's the cultural crowd: the ­actors, writers and musicians such as Australian Children's Laureate, writer Morris Gleitzman, as well as acclaimed YA writer Isobelle Carmody.

Veteran rocker Russell Morris (of 1969 psychedelic rock classic The Real Thing fame) is now living on the Gold Coast after a lifetime in Melbourne. Olympic gold medallist Sally Pearson moved from Sydney with her family to Birdsville in Queensland's west before ­settling on the Gold Coast in her primary school years.

Australia's most celebrated playwright, David Williamson, and his wife Kristin, a successful novelist, moved from Sydney to Noosa two decades ago, and well-known actor Val Lehman ("Queen Bee" from the long-running hit ­television show Prisoner) was able to buy an ­affordable house on Macleay Island in southern Moreton Bay 10 years ago when she could no longer afford ­Victorian prices. The Play School and A Place To Call Home star, Noni Hazlehurst, lives in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Others have come from further afield: English RADA-trained actor Hugh Parker, who has featured in television shows EastEnders and Jonathan Creek and now regularly stars in Queensland Theatre productions, chooses to live on the Gold Coast. Queensland Ballet artistic director Li ­Cunxin, of Mao's Last Dancer fame, loves living in Brisbane.

Leading scientists - from interstate and overseas - have also been lured to work in Queensland's cutting-edge ­medical teaching and research institutions. Pioneering ­immunologist Professor Ian Frazer, from Scotland via ­Melbourne, and 2017 Australian of the Year, biomolecular scientist Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, originally from ­Sydney, came from the University of Adelaide. And that's not even counting the numerous celebrated chefs who have moved here. Love you, Queensland? You bet.

Author Anita Heiss.
Author Anita Heiss.

A NEW LIFE DAWNS

For author Anita Heiss, bumping into people she knows is one of the joys of living in Brisbane.

Heiss, 50, is Lifetime Ambassador of the Indigenous Literacy Found­ation and a bestselling author of chick-lit - or "chock-lit" as she cheekily calls it. She is also a reformed Sydneysider and one of many celebrated Australians who have chosen to move to the Sunshine State.  

She counts the ways she is smitten with Queensland: its cleanliness and beauty, its friendliness ("Every person who gets off a bus thanks the driver!") and, best of all, Brisbane city's lack of stressful chaos, blissfully free (for the most part) of Sydney's snarled traffic.

"I think Brisbane's the most under­rated city in the country," she says of the place she moved to "permanently" in 2015. Originally invited to Queensland in 2012 to work on creative writing projects with students at St Laurence's College in inner-city South Brisbane, Heiss soon realised she'd fallen in love with the city.

"I'd leave school at three and walk along the river at West End and it dawned on me one day that I felt this enormous sense of peace. I have no idea why, [but] coming from four-and-a-half decades in a big city, Brisbane really does have a country town feel, except with all the trappings of big city life - arts, culture, and you can dine well. There's something about this place that just makes me a happier person.

"For outsiders like me we realise how easy it is to remain connected to people here, in actual physical ways - not online, not on the phone. You can text someone on a Friday and say do you want to meet for a drink somewhere, and everyone's there within a couple of hours. You can't do that in Sydney. You've got to put it in the diary months ahead."

Heiss is now manager of the Epic Good Foundation, the philanthropic organisation set up by Epic Pharmacy Group's owners Stuart Giles and Cathie Reid. When she was offered the job, she leapt at the chance to live full-time in Brisbane.

Heiss has bought a flat in Brisbane's inner south and has found Brisbane's writing community much more cohesive and supportive than Sydney's.

"It's partly about the ability to congregate easily and provide support, to be at each other's event," says the author whose 2015 novel ­Tiddas (about a five-way friendship of Brisbane women) was ­described by one reviewer as "a love letter to Brisbane".

Author Morris Gleitzman at a park near his home in New Farm, Brisbane.
Author Morris Gleitzman at a park near his home in New Farm, Brisbane.

WHEN MORRIS MET PAMELA

It was love that brought Morris Gleitzman, 65, to Queensland four years ago. Originally from England - his family migrated to Australia in 1969 when he was 16 - the bestselling Australian children's author, published in 40 countries, fell hard for Brisbane local, Pamela Easton.

A longtime resident of Victoria, Gleitzman was living in Sydney when mutual friends introduced them. It was love at first sight. He soon learnt that Easton - until recently one half of the award-winning fashion design team Easton Pearson - was very much part of Brisbane's cultural life, having spent her entire creative career in the city.  

Before he wrote his million-plus-selling children's and YA books, Gleitzman worked as a television scriptwriter for award-winning shows including The Norman Gunston Show.

He admits that when he first got together with Easton, 59, he had firm prejudices about Queensland, and was not enamoured of the idea of moving his life - lock, stock and barrel - to Brisbane.

"Even though I'd been a frequent visitor over the decades, I still didn't really get the place and I still subscribed to outdated cliches about it being just a big country town, BrisVegas, and all that," he says.

Instead, ­Gleitzman found it a joy "to discover Brisbane has moved on in major ways. I've been lucky, too, because Pamela is such a longtime resident and I've been inducted very ­happily into a bunch of people who express what Brisbane really is, rather than what people project on to it."

The ­couple now lives in inner-city New Farm. From the perspective of someone working in the arts, Gleitzman says Brisbane's South Bank precinct is "streets ahead" of any other arts community in Australia.

"It's not just a collection of beautiful buildings - which it is - but a beautiful, physical space that serves many functions very well. QAGOMA is full of people doing the most interesting and exciting things and it's doing some of the most forward-looking work in gallery curatorship in Australia," he says.

Australian playwright David Williamson his wife Kristin Williamson at their Noosa home.
Australian playwright David Williamson his wife Kristin Williamson at their Noosa home.

LAND OF THE LONG WEEKEND

Playwright David Williamson, 76, and his wife Kristin, 78, left Sydney for Noosa more than 20 years ago and never regretted it.

"It's very relaxed," says Kristin, "and you can't go into a shop without having a proper ­conversation. In Sydney, no one makes eye contact."

Over the years the couple has become enmeshed in their local community. "We've been pretty active; we helped start Noosa Long Weekend [now called Noosa Alive!] and David still gives a play every year," Kristin says. "We really got into the community properly."

"There's a lot of interest in the arts here. Noosa's a fairly sophisticated town," David Williamson adds. "There's a very active film society, a music society that brings the best of chamber music, and when you add to that the fact that you can dine out here just as well as Sydney or Melbourne … the stereotype of the Deep North as being a place only of sun, sand and surf is not quite right."

That stereotype of great physical beauty only matched by empty heads influenced YA novelist Isobelle Carmody's initial thoughts about moving to Brisbane, too.

"My idea about the place was a series of cobbled-together ­cliches - anti-intellectual, Joh Bjelke-Petersen-land, where people wore bright clothes, didn't read, loved the Kardashians, ­reality TV and all-you-can-eat buffets," she laughs.

 

Author Isobelle Carmody.
Author Isobelle Carmody.

Carmody, whose internationally successful YA books are bestsellers, moved to Brisbane with her Czech poet and drummer husband, Jan Stolba, and daughter Adelaide, after Carmody was accepted into a PhD writing course at the University of Queensland in 2015.

She and her family had been living in Prague but most of her adult life had been spent in Melbourne.  

"I thought I'd be able to bear it for three years - the amount of time it would take me to do my PhD and my daughter to finish high school. I roamed online and found a nice rental place in [inner-west] Paddington, which I'd thought might be a pretty nice suburb to live in.

"[But] I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams how happy I'd be in that little house, or how much I'd love UQ and doing my PhD. I've never been happier than in the years I've spent here," she says.

Currently back in Prague to see her husband's family (her now-20-year-old daughter is at uni in Canberra), ­Carmody waxes lyrical about Brisbane: "There's something about the moist, sweet-scented lushness of the heat. The weather is such that I can walk everywhere. When I don't walk, the public transport system is wonderful." She says that when her PhD is finally finished, she'll be upset because it will mean saying goodbye to Brisbane. "When the day comes for me to leave, I'll be sad to go." ■

SOME OTHER NAMES WHO HAVE MOVED TO QUEENSLAND

Cellist Louise King.
Cellist Louise King.

CELLIST Louise King

King was described in The Australian as a "spellbinding‟ musician who "exudes a vigorous artistry". Born in the UK, she moved to Queensland in 2003.

Before that she worked extensively throughout the UK, Europe and Asia with acclaimed international orchestras including the BBC Philharmonic, the Hallé Orchestra, and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

A multi-award and competition-winning graduate of the Royal Colleges of Music, London and Manchester, King belongs to a new generation of contemporary classical musicians.

She regularly plays throughout Australia and is Music Director for the annual Winter Music School, Rockhampton, and on specialist faculty for Tutti World Music Youth Festival Beijing and Mulkadee Youth Arts Festival.

King also presents workshops for Australian String Teachers Association, Queensland Conservatorium of Music Brisbane, QUT Creative Industries and the Early Music Society, among others.

She lives in the Sunshine Coast hinterland with her husband and two sons.

Professor Sheena Reilly.
Professor Sheena Reilly.

 

PRO VICE CHANCELLOR AND PAEDIATRIC SPEECH PATHOLOGIST Professor Sheena Reilly

Born in Australia, Reilly received her PhD from the University of London, where she later worked as a postdoctoral researcher and clinician at the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital and the Institute of Child Health, University College of London, before returning to Australia.

Her stellar career involves working as Professor of Paediatric Speech Pathology at Melbourne's La Trobe University and the Royal Children's Hospital (1999-2005).

She was also Associate Director of Clinical and Public Health, Murdoch Children's Research Institute and Professor of Speech Pathology at the University of Melbourne before moving to Queensland in 2015 to take up a job as inaugural Director of the Menzies Health Institute.

She is now Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) at Griffith University.

Chef Massimo Speroni.
Chef Massimo Speroni.

 

CHEF Massimo Speroni

Head chef at award-winning Brisbane restaurant Bacchus, 32-year-old Speroni was appointed following a global search. Two years ago he moved to Queensland from the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant San Domenico in Imola, Italy, where he was Sous Chef.

He also worked at the 1 Michelin-starred restaurant Café le Paillotes in Pescara, under the acclaimed chef consultant, acclaimed Heinz Beck (from the 3 Michelin-starred La Pergola).

Massimo first came to Australia in 2012, staying until 2014, where he worked Sydney's famed Steele Bar & Grill, before coming to Brisbane to be part of the opening team for Eagle Street's Pony.

Speroni fell in love with South East Queensland and, ever since, has been looking for an opportunity to return.

He now lives in Brisbane with his wife, Beatrice, 32.

Actor Val Lehman.
Actor Val Lehman.

 

ACTOR Val Lehman

It's 40 years since Prisoner first aired on Australian TV, but everyone who ever watched it remembers "Queen Bee": Lehman, 75, is still recognised regularly.

The Perth-born veteran actor moved to Queensland 10 years ago when her marriage broke up and she had to sell her house.

Her daughter, Cassandra, happened to be living in Brisbane and the self-described "Piscean screaming for the sea" went to visit her, hopped on the internet, and found she could buy a house on Macleay Island in cash, with some left over. Now she's moving again (late actorly nights and ferries don't mix well), to the cooler climate of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs, where she intends to cultivate "a more European garden": the roses and peonies she can't grow on Macleay Island.

In general though she is very fond of the Queensland climate "and the lifestyle is very nice. I'm pretty easy going, so it suits me."

Double bassist Phoebe Russell.
Double bassist Phoebe Russell.

 

MUSICIAN Phoebe Russell

Melbourne-born Russell, 23, has spent most of her celebrated playing life with the Berlin Philharmonic. Russell is regarded as one of the world's most exciting emerging double bassists.

Since last year, she and her Columbian-born fellow double bass playing husband, Bernardo Alviz, have lived in Brisbane where Russell is now Principal Double Bassist with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

She was lured back to Australia - after leaving at the age of 17 for the Berlin Philharmonic - when leading conductor Alondra de la Parra was announced as QSO's new musical director.

Russell has performed in more than 20 countries across the globe, in orchestras including the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Radio Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra among others.

Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim.
Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim.

SCIENTIST Professor Alan Mackay-Sim

2017 Australian of the Year Award for his pioneering work in stem cell research, which played a central role in restoring mobility in a quadriplegic man with a spinal cord injury, Mackay-Sim moved to Queensland in 1987 after he was headhunted from the University of Adelaide.

Mackay-Sim is a world authority on the human sense of smell and the biology of nasal cells, which led him to champion the use of stem cells in understanding illnesses from schizophrenia to Parkinson's disease and Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia.

Until his 2015 retirement, Mackay-Sim was director of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research at Brisbane's Griffith University.

He lives near Lake Currimundi with his American-born wife, Lisa.