A grand town to call home

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Jes­sica Howard

THEY may have spent the past 32 years in the same home, but it took Michael and Geral­dine Dixon some time liv­ing in var­i­ous places be­fore they set­tled on Tas­ma­nia.

Even now, it’s rare for their car­a­van or mo­tor­cy­cle to sit idle for long be­fore the Vic­to­rian- born travellers are off on an­other trip across the coun­try.

Their 1919- built New Town home has been the scene of many a fam­ily cel­e­bra­tion, as well as of­fi­cial par­ties with distin­guished guests.

Over his ca­reer, bar­ris­ter and so­lic­i­tor Michael has worked as, among other things, a recorder of ti­tles, deputy om­buds­man, di­rec­tor of the ad­vi­sory coun­cil for in­ter- govern­ment re­la­tions and le­gal ad­viser to the ad­min­is­tra­tor of Nor­folk Is­land.

It was the last job which led to he and child health nurse Geral­dine mov­ing to the is­land for which their New Town res­i­dence is now named af­ter.

“I came home to Geral­dine af­ter be­ing of­fered the job and said, ‘ How’d you like to live on Nor­folk Is­land?’,” Michael laughed.

“We got out the at­las and found where it was and just a fort­night later we were on the is­land with three chil­dren in tow.”

Their youngest daugh­ter, Jen­nifer, was born on the is­land and, liv­ing across the road from Govern­ment House, the chil­dren would of­ten sneak in­side through the large cat flap to sam­ple some of the gov­er­nor’s wife’s lat­est cakes.

Re­turn­ing to Can­berra af­ter al­most five years on the is­land, Michael was of­fered a po­si­tion in Tas­ma­nia.

“We sat at our kitchen ta­ble in Can­berra and told our el­dest son Peter we were think­ing of mov­ing to Tas­ma­nia so Michael could take up an in­ter­est­ing job,” Geral­dine said.

“We’d been in the habit, be­cause we’ve al­ways had a car­a­van, of traips­ing all over New South Wales and Vic­to­ria so we got out the map and of course Tas­ma­nian’s not very big on the Aus­tralian map.

“Peter, aged 10, said, ‘ We’ll see it all in 12 months and then what will we do?’ I must say there’s very lit­tle of Tas­ma­nia we haven’t seen.”

Orig­i­nally mov­ing to Lind­is­farne, the fam­ily of six moved into the seven- bed­room New Town home in 1981.

Built af­ter the end of World War I, the house is be­lieved to have been the city home for a wealthy farm­ing fam­ily and was also used as a board­ing home for a time.

Ren­o­vated in the 1960s, the home con­tains ex­ten­sive Tas­ma­nian oak fea­tures, par­tic­u­larly down­stairs in the vast li­brary and lounge which is big enough to seat more than 40 peo­ple – and it of­ten has.

One cor­ner boasts the chil­dren’s vast col­lec­tion of univer­sity de­grees – at least three each to Peter, Stephen, El­iz­a­beth and Jen­nifer. Up­stairs, ev­ery­one has their own do­main. “I have my sewing room and Michael has his train room,” Geral­dine said.

“Jen­nifer drops in with her kids ev­ery now and then to stay, so her old bed­room is still there for her.

“Our friends of­ten come over and it’s been a bit like a ho­tel lately.

“We had the house on the mar­ket for a while last year and we’d go to bed at night and say, ‘ Do we re­ally want to sell it?’ and in the end we re­alised we didn’t.”

A wel­com­ing house of­ten filled with peo­ple, the Dixons con­tinue to take in friends and rel­a­tives when they stop by Ho­bart.

“With four kids grow­ing up here, it’s a house full of mem­o­ries,” Michael said.

“Ours was the house all the kids came to, strangely enough, be­cause of Sal­lies [ the Sal­va­tion Army] just up the street.

“You’d think they’d want all the lat­est brand names but they were af­ter the se­cond- hand clothes at Sal­lies.

“As they got older you’d hear all this guf­faw­ing at 3am and you’d come down and there’d be heaps of kids sit­ting around the ta­ble and that’s what this house was meant for.

“The kids were com­fort­able bring­ing any­one home. You’d char­ac­terise it as a home, not a house.”

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