by Candace Sutton news.com.au
CATHERINE Schuetze, the woman behind the "fussiest house share ad" in Australia, believes her home country has become a nasty place and is ridiculously expensive.
The 46-year-old veterinarian, who has spent a decade living in Dharamsalan in the Himalayas, recently spent time living with yak herders in Bhutan to research her PhD.
When she returned to Australia to complete her thesis, she discovered personally this week Australia is not the "gentler and kinder place" it once was.
And she described the cost of Sydney housing as "evil".
Ms Schuetze made national news on Thursday with her very specific Gumtree ad for two flatmates for her Sydney rental art deco home.
The 46-year-old vegan and animal rights activist advertised for "2 mature, clean, vegetarian working professionals to share this lovely space".
Stating "the house does not have commercial TV/ radio", Ms Schuetze wrote in the ad, "I love friends, cooking, dinner parties, meditation"
Ms Schuetze, who returned to Australia last year after 15 years travelling extensively and working throughout India, also mentioned a love of Asian antiques, eastern spirituality, contemplation, and conversation.
She also cited "good quality movies or miniseries, eastern spirituality, contemplation, and conversation.
"I am clean, quiet, caring and respectful of other's privacy and space. I love chatting and interacting but can also keep to myself when needed."
She returned to complete her PhD at Sydney University on the traditional veterinary medicine of Bhutan in Tibet.
"The house is vegetarian (what you eat outside the house is up to you though) and is a composting, recycling, low impact lifestyle space."
"It is a quiet and positive space filled with light, bookshelves, comfy nooks for reading and meditating, spiritually focused and consciously lived, but with a sense of childlike fun and profound conversations."
The response to her advertisement has surprised her, even if it did attract responses from potential flatmates who share her interest.
"[I'm] a bit perplexed why a share house ad would have national significance," she told news.com.au.
"Australia has changed a lot since I grew up. I think the influence of America's cultural values and this nastiness, it's just nasty.
"Not everyone, I am generalising, but it's no longer friendly ... it was a gentler place and a kinder place.
"People would help their neighbour, be community oriented, help each other and do community work ... have strong cultural values.
"I don't want to alienate people or make them think I'm a freak.
"[But] I found more generosity and kindness in the poorest areas of India.
"The hospitality and inclusiveness is astounding. Again I'm generalising, but they would give you the shirt off their back and take you in and feed and house you.
"It is much more tolerant of religious and cultural diversity."
Ms Schuetze, who originally comes from Queensland's Sunshine Coast, said she had been a vegan long before she went to India.
As a teenager with a deep empathy for animals, she became aware of cruelty to animals the intensive farming industries.
"Including dairy and egg, there is just very abusive widescale institutional animal cruelty," she said.
"I'm not prepared to eat my pet dog, so I didn't see any difference between a dog, pig, sheep, cow, dolphin or fish."
After completing a vet science degree at Queensland University, she began travelling to India and went to Dharamsalan, where the Dalai Lama lives, to study his teachings.
"I fell in love with India. People kept asking me to help."
Ms Schuetze began the organisation Vets Beyond Borders, which invited Western-trained professionals to volunteer throughout Asia.
The focus of her work in the Himalayas was tackling rabies in the local dog population.
The viral disease kills 20,000 people in India a year, accounting for 75 per cent of the world's deaths from rabies.
Ms Schuetze supervised sterilisation and immunisation of dog programs.
She came to realise that India had a very different view of Australia which it regarded as very cruel to animals.
"Culling kangaroos, poisoning feral animals, intensive animal farming and live export," Ms Schuetze said.
Living in India, she said, cost around $80 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
That made the annual rental of $960 around the same as the average weekly cost for a three-bedroom house in Sydney of $1100.
Food in India was about one tenth of the cost in Sydney.
"It's like 40 cents a kilo for tomatoes and you can go out and eat for a couple of dollars," she said.
"The price of housing in Sydney is just evil, and just to get housing [is hard].
"I am a mature working professional and it's even difficult for me to get a lease on a house.
"What do struggling families do?"
Ms Schuetze's Gumtree advertisement for flatmates in her four-bedroom house in inner western Sydney asked for two people to pay $340 for a bedroom.
She said the unintended national publicity her ad attracted had encouraged some like-minded people to contact her and give their support.
Ms Schuetze has since taken down the advertisement, but hopes to have some new housemates soon to share the home and the rent.
And, as she said on Gumtree, to share the large back yard "ideal for growing veggies and relaxing in the sun through winter."