French Island

Reporter: Jackie Quist

Erica Proctor's life is bliss. Just nine years after she and husband Bruce tossed in stressful corporate lives on the mainland, they found Nirvana on French Island, just 60 kilometres south east of Melbourne. It has no local council, rates, land tax, utility bills, and few rules. The residents governed by the laws of common sense.

There's no bridge, but the journey from the mainland taking just 10 minutes. "There are only 80 on the island, so there's no crime, there's nothing like that and we don't ever lock our door", Bruce said.

"You're over-governed on the mainland. If it's not the shire, it's the state, if it's not the state, it's the federal and here at least you've got some peace", Erica said.

It's a back to basics 1950's way of life. Islanders are almost self sufficient, growing their own food, generating power, collecting water and living for as little as $200 a month.

Not much has changed since Rose Scott was born there 77 years ago. Her ancestors carved roads through the rough scrub, settling the 18 kilometre long island. "I just think its paradise, I really do", Rose said.

It's a piece of paradise even a certain world famous popstar couldn't resist. Kylie bought "Beauciel" four years ago, transforming the century old farmhouse into a luxury French style retreat. Sitting atop a hill on 50 acres, its well away from prying eyes and is now on the market -- it could be yours for $1.1 million dollars. "You're on top of the island there. You got very good panoramic views, bay views, rural views, very tastefully done, its completely self sufficient", said real estate agent Hendrik Boer.

Hendrik and local identity Alan "Koala Dundee" Chandler claim there's exclusive as well as budget priced properties on offer. "There's one place of 7 acres at $190,000 but that's more bush really. There's one at $290,000 and you get the 5 acres and the view -- I can come back to the view all the time and isolation that's the secret really -- it is away from the rat race", Alan said.

Maurice Ralph runs the only shop with wife Glenys. The store doubles as a post office and these sea-changers are finding island life wonderful for their daughters. "They build cubbies, they ride their bikes down the jetty and go swimming and fishing. They just wear what they've got, they play with what they've got, they play with their friends and there's no social pressure, there's no stranger danger for want of a better word", Glyns said.

The girls attend the only school with just six students, so individual attention from teacher Michael Ennis is a given. "You know where each child is with their learning and they can learn at their own pace", Michael said.

Locals claim the beauty of the island lies not only in the national parks surrounding them, but their whole way of life centres around human kindness - giving and sharing with one another. "We've got plumbers and electricians and builders and folk that are prepared to help out, barter a little -- slash a paddock or build a fence, for a dozen eggs or whatever", Erica said.

But although the Proctors are moving on -- heading for Bruce's native New Zealand to be closer to family - the couple say they will miss French Island. "It's become very much a part of me", Erica said.

"It's changed our life, this place", Bruce added.