No matter how far and wide the Simoneau family travels, there will always be a pocket of paradise in Queensland they call home. By Kirsty McKenzie, photography Anastasia Kariofyllidis
By their own reckoning, if Tamara Simoneau and her husband, Marc, had simply stayed in the one place, they could afford to be driving Lamborghinis. Instead, they’ve lived a peripatetic life dividing their time between Marc’s home country of Canada and Tamara’s state of origin, Queensland. These days, the family lives in Sydney, where Tamara is an executive producer for Channel 10 and Marc works as an IT consultant. But no matter how far they roam, they always return to their beautiful bolthole in the lush hills of Buderim on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland.
Tamara grew up between Brisbane and Caloundra, the second of four children of school-teacher parents. Her mother’s family came from the land in central Queensland, so she counts herself lucky to have balanced her urban upbringing with holidays on farms around Rolleston and Springsure, where she learned to ride horses, drive a car and enjoy all the freedoms a bush upbringing allows. Inspired by award-winning television presenter Jana Wendt, Tamara says she never considered any career other than journalism and went straight from school to a business and media degree at Queensland University of Technology.
“As soon as I could get my foot in the door I started work experience at Channel Seven between classes,” she recalls. “I ran errands, made the tea, helped out wherever I could. Gradually I started reporting and when they started calling me to fill in for reporters on sick leave, I was finally paid for my efforts.” Meanwhile, driven by her determination to explore the world, Tamara spent a year on student exchange in Alabama in the US. On return and graduation, she secured a position with Channel Seven in the Wide Bay Burnett region, working in the newsroom as a general reporter and covering everything from courts and council to croquet competitions.
“I learned to work fast,” she recalls. “In career terms, regional experience sets you up to be able to handle what comes to you in the years that follow. With 23 minutes of news to fill and three journos and a sports reporter to fill it, you have to bring your three to five minutes of content to the news desk. You have to get to know everyone in town very quickly and work that contact book to find stories. It set me in good stead for everything that’s followed, as the basics don’t change, you still have to fill the show, even though you just have more choice.”
After her stint in Maryborough, wanderlust won out and Tamara grabbed her backpack and headed to Guinea in West Africa for a stint teaching English and then to Canada. “I had distant relatives in Toronto so with not much money and no job, I went to stay with them. After three weeks I met Marc, who was working in a bank. When I said I was going to spend a ski season at Whistler, he decided to come too.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Tamara’s visa ran out, so she had little choice but to return to Australia. After six months of love letters flying back and forth across the Pacific, Tamara returned to Canada for a holiday and came home engaged.
“There was a loose plan that we’d be married in Australia,” she says. “There was lots of heartbreaking Green Card-style visa negotiation, but eventually we were married in 2001 in my parents’ backyard at Hodgson Vale, not far from Toowoomba in south-east Queensland.”
The couple settled into work for Channel Seven on the Sunshine Coast, where Tamara says her “bossy nature” had been noted and she transitioned into producing and running the newsroom. But a niggling feeling that she needed to polish her CV with overseas professional experience kept raising its head, so the couple headed back to Canada. Finding work was tough at first, but eventually, she gained a TV job. That show actually stalled, but it introduced her to the person who hired her as 2IC on the prime-time Entertainment Tonight Canada. Finally, Tamara had her dream job treading the red carpet at the Academy Awards, travelling the globe and working with some of the world’s biggest celebrities.
“Marc also landed a good job in Toronto and we loved the city life and the progression of the seasons,” she recalls. “It’s beautiful to experience Fall, Thanksgiving and a white Christmas. Our daughter Scarlett [now aged 14] was born and we decided to come home. But we’d only been back in Australia for six months when I received a call offering me the position of senior executive producer on ET. There was a sense of inevitability as we packed up and headed back to Canada. It was the right choice and we had a great life there and made wonderful friends.”
Tamara was pregnant with Ellie, now eight, when the Simoneaus decided they’d had a good run and would return to Australia. “So, in 2013, we boarded yet another plane and headed back to the Sunshine Coast,” Tamara says. “Once again, Marc was lucky to get work and I settled into being at home. Luc was born 19 months after Ellie, so I took an extended break from the television industry.”
Tamara was hardly idle, however, as she juggled her young family and developed a freelance sideline writing and styling for magazines including Australian Country. “It was pretty hectic,” she allows. “In fact, it was sometimes harder than going to the office every day. Children are a complete joy, but they are also incredibly hard work.”
Within six months of being back on the Sunny Coast, Tamara and Marc had found their ideal home in Buderim. “We knew as soon as we saw it that it was right for us,” she recalls. “Even though it’s a very urban location, it feels like it’s in the rainforest and roos come into the backyard. It’s filled with light in all the right places and it’s a great place for a family.”
The property had already been renovated, but the Simoneaus made it their own, with Tamara’s stylist’s eye selecting quirky finds from op shops to give it her personal stamp. “The swimming pool was already there, but, when my grandmother left me some money, we added a cabana, which we named Iris in her honour,” Tamara says. “I’d barely put the last coat of white paint on Iris, when the phone rang and I was offered a job with Channel 10.”
So, after a five-year break, the Simoneaus once again packed their bags and headed south to Sydney, where they’ve lived for the past four?? years. They rent their home on Airbnb but return as regularly as work and holiday schedules and pandemic border closures allow.
“We love living in Sydney and we’re still in the honeymoon phase of getting to know the city,” Tamara says. “It feels like Toronto, only more scenic and we love getting out and exploring the harbour and beaches. Nonetheless, I get to the point where I need a dose of the Sunshine Coast. We go up quite regularly and had last Christmas there with all our family. Everyone who stays there says it’s a very special house and for that reason, and the fact that we’ve had so many significant birthdays, parties and other celebrations there, I don’t think we will ever part with it.”
She adds that while a piece of her heart will always live in Buderim, she can’t discount the possibility that the family will relocate again. “Perhaps there’s a bit of nomad in us,” she says. “There are so many places to explore. I know we’ve spent a fortune on airfares, going back and forth to Canada and I know we’ll do it again to see family and friends when travel resumes. But the payoff is our children have a deep connection to another continent and they get to call two incredible countries home.” AC.