Posted by Richard Blakeman
Twenty-seven members and one visitor logged in via Zoom last Tuesday to hear the club's Youth Service Director Matt Fitton deliver his Member Behind the Badge address. Those who were able to join the meeting were treated to something special as Matt delivered an engaging and inspiring talk following the club's AGM. Matt, whose quiet demeanour belies a lifetime of enterprise and achievement, spoke to the club about his origins in Hobart, a childhood in East Bentleigh, and a lifetime of recognizing opportunities, taking a risk and having a go. The fact that Matt, is so busy with his current business, Nurse Next Door, which he operates with his wife Amber, is testament to his business acumen, entrepreneurial skills, organisational capabilities and commitment to delivering value to clients. 
Matt was born in Hobart and lived there for the first five years of his young life with his parents and younger sister. In 1970 they moved to the Big Island and took up residence in East Bentleigh where he attended Coatesville Primary School in Mackie Road. In those days the area around Coatesville wasn't quite so built up and it was a great place for young families. Matt especially enjoyed outdoor activities, particularly hockey and cricket. Matt's high school journey was at St. Leonard's College in Brighton, riding his bike there from East Bentleigh every day. St.Leonards had a fabulous outdoor education program and it was during his time there that Matt developed a keen interest in outdoor activities, including kayaking, rock climbing and bush walking. It was his experiences at school that encouraged Matt in his post-school days to consider a career in outdoor activities, such as forestry.
A young Matt with his family
in Hobart in the 1960s
Matt commenced an Agricultural Science Degree at Latrobe University but his love of the outdoors meant that his heart wasn't in it. His next career move was to take up teacher training at Frankston, an opportunity that popped up via a friend doing the same. It was at Frankston where Matt met his future wife Amber, who encouraged Matt in his studies. It was Amber's encouragement, says Matt, that resulted in his successful qualification as a teacher.
Following teacher training, Matt and Amber took a gap year and headed off overseas, both getting jobs with a company called PGL in the UK, who organised summer camps for children. Taking into account that Matt had indicated that he could speak French, because he had done it as part of his HSC, PGL posted Matt and Amber to a camp in the Ardèche in France, to teach kayaking. If you think Matt was taking a risk with his high school French, think about Amber, who had never kayaked or paddled in her life, and couldn't speak a word of French! Not the first, and certainly not the last time that Matt and Amber had displayed a willingness to take risks.
Their free-wheeling spirit took them to the USA and Canada. It was during this time that they fell in love with Canada and where Matt became involved in hospitality, an interest which he continued to pursue on his return to Australia.  This ultimately led them into a new business venture as restaurateurs, establishing  in 1993 the very stylish and popular Wildflower restaurant in Theatre Place, Maling Road Canterbury (see picture at right).
Ten years as restaurateurs, followed by a successful series of property development ventures in Melbourne and Geelong, and a return trip to Canada provided both experience and opportunity. While in Vancouver, Matt and Amber spotted an interesting business operation, Nurse Next Door, providing qualified home care to people in need. They researched and negotiated over a period of more than a year to bring the concept to Australia, launching in 2018. The success of Nurse Next Door in Australia, firstly in Victoria and now expanding interstate, has been astronomical.
Matt and Amber have three children, Zachary born in 1996, India in 1999 and Flynn in 2003.  All three children have emulated their parents love of sports. India has become an accomplished athlete, with success in both swimming and skiing. She has the ambition to compete for Australia in the Paralympic Games, with every chance of having that dream come true. Zachary too is an accomplished skier, competing in freestyle skiing at the Australia New Zealand Cup in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He is now a pilot for a regional airline in NSW. Flynn is a competitive rower and is just completing Year 11 at Carey Grammar.
Matt's talk kept members glued to their Zoom screens as he portrayed a love of life, a willingness to take risks, an eye for an opportunity and an ability to embrace new paths with enthusiasm. His story is truly inspirational, and what an asset Matt is now to our club, Rotary and through Rotary to the community at large. Thank you Matt for a thoroughly engaging Member Behind the Badge address.
Matt and daughter India heading off to Vancouver. It was
during their time in Vancouver that Matt and Amber discovered
Nurse Next Door
The spectacular view from Matt and Amber's home in Vancouver.
Matt and Amber have a special love of Canada.
The family hiking in the Rocky Mountains
Matt and the family in Vancouver
L-R: Zach, India, Amber, Matt and Flynn