When Pete Bourke graduated high school, he wanted to travel. High school for Pete was in Maroochydore, Queensland – a coastal town on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. “It was popular back then for Australians to go to America and work as camp counsellors,” he said. “A teacher at my school had been to that camp and had recommended it to me.”
That’s how and why Pete’s first travel adventure abroad landed him in Wake Forest, North Carolina – a town situated just north of Raleigh, the state capital. Pete loved working as a camp counsellor that summer. Among the forty or so staff, he was one of four visiting Australians. But when it came to an end, where to next? First a visit to New York, and then north to Canada – where longer term work visas were available to Australians.
Hometown: Maroochydore, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Executive Director CVCC,
Project Coordinator – DOI/SIB
Columbia Valley arrival: 2005
In November of 1996, Pete Bourke landed in Calgary. When the first snows of winter fell that year, it was the first snow Pete had ever seen. Ever. Initially, he found it difficult to find work. “It was implied that because of my accent, it was going to be super easy to find a job, but that wasn’t the case for me.”
After a few months, Pete was down to his last twenty bucks. In his pocket was a pre-purchased return ticket home. With limited resources and a hard Canadian winter in the headlights, that return ticket home to sun and sand sure must’ve been tempting. But Pete stayed on, remained patient. “And lo and behold, I found my first job.” Pete began working that winter in a Beltline liquor store, making $5.65 an hour.
That job led to a brewery assistant’s job at a brewpub. Over the next nine years, Pete swiftly moved up the ranks in Calgary’s food and beverage industry. “I established a great network in the industry with people that I still keep in touch with,” Pete said.
In those nine years, he also met and married his wife Sarah, a registered massage therapist with whom he started a family. In 2004, they welcomed their first child Finn (this year’s high school valedictorian), and one year later, their daughter Layne was born. In those years, change was constant for the young Bourke family. In between having their two children, they also moved to the Columbia Valley.
In 2005, Intrawest, then owner of Panorama Mountain Resort, farmed out to a third party the contract to operate the resort’s food and beverage operation. That company was called Mountain Resorts Restaurants, and one of its newest employees was Pete Bourke. “At the time, we thought we’d be here for a couple of years,” Pete said.
Seventeen years later, here the Bourke family still lives. And they’re thriving.
James Rose, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer