Lukalyptus a dream home for Merriwa’s emergency service family
BY ALEX TIGANI
Merriwa’s Andrew and Peta Luke have a long history of volunteering with the local emergency services.
They have worked for nine years to secure funding for a new emergency services and rescue centre.
They have also been nominated for the State’s Rotary Emergency Services Awards for their dedication to the community.
Andrew has stepped up to the role of Deputy Commissioner of the Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) following his tenure as a Superintendent for the Rural Fire Service and a paramedic.
Peta has served as a Commander for the State Emergency Service, Brigade Captain for the RFS, Deputy Captain for the VRA and is a registered rescue operator.
Therefore, we can’t help but ask where they found the time to build their beautiful dream home outside of Merriwa.
“We are really grateful that everything lined up,” Peta told The Hunter River Times.
“We were really lucky in our timing because we signed off a week before the covid lockdown.
“Thankfully, it all worked into the scheduled end date.”
The five-bedroom home features a study, library, cinema room and a games room which features an iconic lego city constructed by their sons William and Thomas.
Yet it is the living room which tends to catch the eye of most visitors on account of its picturesque views of the Great Dividing Range and Mt Oxley.
“The living room is the main go to which was based on the view,” Peta continued.
“There were so many things we wanted in the perfect block of land.
“At the time my husband moved from the fire service to the NSW Ambulance so living within 10 minutes from Merriwa was a big priority.
“Most importantly, we had to have a big view and no neighbours so our boys had plenty of space.”
Facing direct north, the living space is naturally lit by the sunset each afternoon which directs our attention to the collage of photos of the family over the years.
More often than not, at least one member will be wearing an emergency service uniform.
This has been the theme of Andrew and Peta’s marriage, having first met in the height of the ACT Bushfires in 2003.
“If those fires did not take place then you could say that this home does not exist today,” Peta explained.
“It was a huge tragedy but it was only because of those bushfires that Andrew and I met.”
Andrew, who had come from Burra near Queanbeyan, was a firefighter who had been working on his forestry degree and gained employment with ACT Forests.
As the bushfires spread that month he needed more help so they put on two more crews of firefighters.
“One had my sister,” she recalled.
Prior to the summer, Peta had been based in Sydney but opted to move back home to Gunning (near Yass) to be closer to her family.
“It was a turning point in my life because at this point in time some doctors had found a hole in my heart and they said that it was at a point where you are not going to get through surgery,” she revealed.
“It was time to say my goodbyes so I packed everything from Sydney and went back to Dad’s near Canberra.
“I remember it was the high fire danger day and my sister who was supposed to take the day off work to be by my side, rung up her boss and asked ‘can I bring my sister to work?”
Peta was furious.
To add to the change of plans, all those in attendance were to be assessed to be fire fighters.
Though Peta had already been a firefighter, she relied on her sister to find her a pair of jeans while Andrew located a Hi-Vis vest.
“They all got assessed and for whatever reason the assessors could not read the work experience all over me,” she recalled.
“So, I did all the knots and that is what impressed Andrew.
“This is pretty much the back story of our life; it all moves back to that day.”
Andrew and Peta would later marry and, since moving to Merriwa in 2006, have established themselves as one of the most respected couples across the NSW Emergency Services community.
Even their eldest child William, who enters his third year as a RFS volunteer at the tender age 14, hopes to become a flight paramedic one day.
Regardless of his future, the teenager has already shown maturity beyond his age towards his fellow Merriwa residents.
When it was time to say goodbye to the family, there was one final query.
The Lukalyptus sign?
“We actually came up with the name before we even had this property,” Peta explained.
“The name came up when we were still living at Queanbeyan.
“Andrew’s parents’ property name was still Ecalpsekul which is ‘Luke’s Place’ spelt backwards.
“I thought as lovely as that is, I don’t want to carry that name on and we need to come up with something that is completely our own.
“When we saw the two Eucalyptus trees, it was meant to be.”