A beautiful article written about Kangaroo Manor by the Yarra Valley Magazine for your casual perusing. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
It’s Food for the Soul
After Hermann and Louise Mahler married, they had two choices. One: move to Queensland, Louise’s home state. Or two: the upper Yarra Valley, where the German-born Hermann was already living and had his former architectural metal cladding business. Opting for Yarra Junction, they purchased their 40-acre property, bordered by the Little Yarra River, 16 years ago.
For Louise, a former opera singer who had a 15-year stint in Europe, “home is where you hang your hat”. But there was another incentive. The undulating property was an ideal place for the sought-after communication specialist to rekindle her childhood love of horses. So much so, Louise, who uses natural horsemanship, has three tall and handsome steeds, namely Sir James, Two Stroke (a part Percheron) and a 31-year-old Quarter Horse called Buster.
Beauty is virtually everywhere you turn here. For starters, at the end of their long driveway that is lined by manna gums stands their deliberately oriented and naturally light-filled hexagonal home. First built in 1984 by author and advocate of mind-body medicine Dr Ian Gawler OAM, Hermann said the golden brown timber that predominantly features throughout the interior is from the mountain ash that was cleared to build the house. The remaining panels are pine.
Despite how it looks today, their abode needed a major overhaul. “We had a lot of different ideas before we started,” said Hermann, who is now retired from his long-running business that specialised in zinc and copper installations and was involved with major projects like Federation Square and the award-winning Albany Entertainment Centre in WA. “Ian had the perfect position for this house, but I was inclined to pull it down because it was so derelict.”
In the end, Hermann and Louise decided to live in one part of the house and gradually built their way around it. Not only did they pull one part of the hexagon out completely and put a temporary wall in, all of the outside walls were rebuilt, incorporating sandstone that apparently comes from Scots’ Church in Melbourne’s CBD. The new copper roof was second nature.
“We rebuilt this so we (could) get the mountain view,” said Hermann, looking through the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the deck where rescue kangaroo Brynn, with a teeny joey snuggled inside her pouch, lazes and has an outlook of their 25-metre pool. The pool, which they regard as a “sculpture”, also needed renovating, having been a former dam that was filled with concrete.
“You just sit here and it’s like watching TV,” Louise said of their “views to die for” from dawn until dusk. Originally built as a place of healing, many of the notable trees in the garden had already been planted. This includes the magnificent magnolias, pin oaks and the substantial orchard encompassing macadamia trees and 20 varieties of apples. The head-turner is the giant jacaranda tree outside the kitchen, which puts on an astonishing display of purple in spring.
Most of all, it’s where all the creatures live in unison, from Felix the cat lounging on the top of the sound system, near the classic walnut grand piano in the lounge room, to golden retrievers Gilbert and Sullivan romping about and the horses contentedly munching on hay in the paddocks. In addition to beloved roo Brynn, there’s a mob of up to 250 kangaroos as well as wombats frequenting the property. Living in an area that Louise believes should also be known as the wildlife centre, not just the bicycle centre, she has raised seven rescued wombats and nine kangaroos.
But, while Louise coos over the animals, it’s performance that plays an instrumental role in her life. It was when she was completing her economics degree in Brisbane that she became involved with musical theatre. “I took singing lessons and my singing teacher said, ‘I think you should do this professionally’.” After that, it was “go to the Bureau of Statistics, or have a life on the stage?”
Furthering her music studies, Louise went on to perform at Austria’s Salzburg Festival, the Northern Aldborough Festival in England and was then in the Vienna State Opera on a soloist contract. But, with Vienna being into eastern bloc, it was ruthlessly competitive. Louise said the “psychological torture” included receiving anonymous threats and getting beaten up in her dressing room. “I woke up one morning and went, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. (In retrospect) my artistic drive – my musical passion – wasn’t there to drive through.”
Not sure what she would do, Louise landed a corporate job. But it was observing lacklustre speakers that prompted her go into business and use her opera skills to help empower others to present and express themselves. In addition, she completed a masters in organisational psychology, a PhD in business and became an NLP Master practitioner. Although Louise said “it’s been a long, hard climb”, it’s through her unique and engaging model of “the mind shapes the body and the voice is an outcome” that she coaches federal politicians and global corporate leaders across a range of industries.
In addition, Louise is a keynote speaker and an author, with her first book, Resonate, published last year. She is currently co-authoring another book and is keen to create a board game based on overcoming difficult situations, especially since she is now focused on resolving conflict in boardrooms.
Louise’s hectic schedule means she’s usually home one day a week. Her limited downtime includes riding the horses, when she “loses all concept of time” and hitting the Warburton Rail Trail on her bicycle. Perhaps Louise’s most unusual way to wind down, though, is her love of mowing, something she says is trance-inducing.
Given she is away so much, and with Hermann essentially running the property, they offer accommodation at their commodious home (through Airbnb), with people coming from far and wide. “I’m really happy for that to happen because the house is being used,” said Louise. “It’s a different phase of life now … and I’m back off again.
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