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Girl from the Gong sets deep roots in Goulburn

Vicki Rabjohns now runs one of the best properties in the Best Western network but that wasn’t always the case…

It was just before Easter, 1980, when Vicki and three generations of her family – led by patriarch Pop, a 5’ 2” dynamo known as Pee Wee – landed in Goulburn to start a new life running a motel on what was then the Hume Highway, the main route between Sydney and Melbourne.

“I’m originally from the Gong, a surfie chick from way back,’” says Vicki, who was 23 at the time.

“My mum saw a hotel for sale in the newspaper. Pop and Gran were entrepreneurial, they always had something going on. They sold their home and everything they owned, scraping enough together to buy the property.”

Pop had plenty of experience in the industry, working for many years as a porter at the Canberra Oriental Hotel in Sydney’s Kings Cross, while the others had worked in family rentals or restaurants for as long as Vicki can remember.

They arrived to start a new life at the 26-room Lagoon Motel, a faded property with no star rating or even a lagoon for that matter.

“It was too old, too run-down for a star rating,” remembers Vicki, who along with her mother, brother and grandparents, did everything for the first few years, from cleaning to reception. The building would shake as the semi-trailers rolled by.

Vicki Rabjohns at Best Western Goulburn

But they persisted and developed deeps roots in Goulburn, a major regional town two hours south of Sydney. Vicki married local grazier Wayne Rabjohns, who is also Vicki’s business partner, and they’ve had three children together.

As for the hotel, it’s chalk and cheese really.

The highway no longer runs through town and the property, now known as Best Western Goulburn, has been completely transformed over the past four decades with 56 rooms, 35 staff, a popular restaurant/bar, function rooms and a 4.5-star rating.

In addition to family, improvement and expansion have been relentless business themes from the very beginning.

Most of the property has already been rebuilt and more luxury rooms, apartments and a health club are now under construction with building work overseen by son Adam.

Vicki remains passionate about the enterprise – “everything I have goes back into the business” – and manages to be a stickler for detail (you should see the breakfast buffet) while allowing staff the freedom to do their jobs properly.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is Vicki’s philosophy for success.

“You’ve got to make people happy, and you’ve got to listen. It’s pretty simple really.”

And work really hard of course.

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