'My internet is better than it was in Sydney': Outback textile artist's pleasant surprise

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Victoria McGrane studied fashion and textiles in Sydney, worked in London for various labels before starting her own, and has worked for many Australian companies as a textile designer.

Now, the fashionista with a flair for design lives and works in the outback north-west Queensland town of Burketown, running her own international brand from the tiny town of about 240 people.

During the wet season Burketown can be cut off from the world for weeks or months at a time. For scale, the drive to Brisbane takes 26 hours.

In her small home studio, Ms McGrane recognises while she has given up some city conveniences for the quiet life with her husband, who works for the local shire council, she has also gained a lot.

Including, it seems, a stronger internet connection.

Connectivity is king

No more peak hour traffic was one big plus for the outback lifestyle, but Ms McGrane said the biggest benefit was a surprise even to her.

“I have to say, my internet here is better than it was in Sydney,” she said.

“If you’re running an internet-based business, [living regionally] is definitely something to consider.”

Ms McGrane said, with her focus on Australiana textile design, she was personally enjoying the ‘other’ Australia.

“I was really open to the challenge of running my business from anywhere,” she said.

“Being up here is very remote, but it’s very different and I’ve got a whole new area of Australia on my doorstep to explore.”

Appeasing the city

Ms McGrane sat in her studio, surrounded by samples, fabrics, designs, and boxes full of the same.

She laughed as she looked around the small space, apologising for the clutter in the small room that holds her business.

After small teething issues upon moving to Burketown in January this year, she now has a warehouse space in Sydney to hold stock to be posted.

“I think the biggest challenge is the location thing and having to explain to people … when people order stuff online, they expect it to arrive the next day,” she said.

With post only picked up from Burketown twice each week, that was never going to sit well with her capital city-based customers.

“I have been doing some things, like moving some of my stock to a warehouse in Sydney so it can be sent directly out from there,” Ms McGrane said.

Attracting digital nomads

The strong NBN connection in Burketown is certainly no secret to the local shire council, which is ready to market the area to digital nomads.

Digital nomads are a growing group of professionals who travel around the country, stopping in smaller towns for months at a time to experience life and run their internet-based businesses from the road.

Burketown Shire Council chief executive officer Clare Keenan said the council was actively looking at ways to create a more sustainable community.

“We really want to show a fantastic model, rural town and shire,” she said.

“We’re also looking at different ways of sustainability in the community. We’re looking for things like ways of attracting digital nomads here because we have fantastic connectivity.

“People can come here for six months or a year, put their kids in the school, to live and work here really contributes to our community.”

She said the unique outback experience paired with great internet should be irresistible to those seeking an adventure.

“To have your wallabies jumping down the road with you as you walk at night, to have everyone in the street say hello to you, it is an incredible thing for people to experience,” she said.