Australia’s favourite home show makes a tree change for its 18th season

The Block’s veteran host Scott Cam took on the restoration of the original farmhouse

Rolling green pastures surround me as I arrive in the quiet Victorian country town of Gisborne South.

I quickly discover that hiding behind the tranquil vista is a long line of trucks and further afield an extremely large construction site – the home to this year’s season of The Block.

Our entourage is greeted by Franky the dog, along with his owner Block host Scott Cam.

It’s Cam’s sixteenth year as host and the 18th year of broadcasting one of Australia’s favourite reality shows.

The Block has taken a tree change; this season the houses are spread across 60 acres of old farmland at the base of the Macedon Ranges and I am here to see behind-the-scenes of the show. 

Executive producer and Block co-creator Julian Cress had the idea for the Tree Change series after he and his family moved from Melbourne to Gisborne South during the Covid lockdowns. 

The property is a piece of colonial Australian history, originally belonging to Scottish immigrant George McGeorge and his family who arrived in the mid 1800s. 

Not only is this series a mammoth task for the five contestant couples, but host Scott Cam picks up the tools to renovate the the 154-year-old farmhouse. 

Cam said when he arrived on site for the first time, he thought they had done a lot of big Blocks in the past but nothing as massive as this.

It’s a chilly day in country Victoria and thankfully we avoid any downpours as we literally stomp through mud for a sneak peek at the houses and meet this year’s contestants. 

The sheer scale of renovating these houses would test any professional builder; then add in the location, supply chain issues and labour shortages – this is going to be a series like no other. 

The houses have been designed with sustainability in mind, all with seven-star energy ratings, completely off grid, each with a 400m2 solar power farm, battery storage, water tanks and sewerage.

Not only are the houses some of the biggest The Block has undertaken, contestants also had to create large outdoor areas, designing and building vineyards, tennis courts, organic kitchen gardens, basketball courts and swimming pools.

It’s a renovators dream, but on site the reality is it’s a tough gig for all involved.

It’s challenging conditions for us visitors negotiating the mud, the constant moving vehicles and construction. I asked Scott how he coped.

“I love adversity in the workplace because I have done that all my life, I was a carpenter for 40 years, I worked in the bush and I love that feeling of just push on and get it done – so to me it was great to go up against the conditions, to get the job done.”

Cam took on the restoration of the original farmhouse and he beams with pride about his renovation. 

“I love colonial homes, I love Australian history and I love restoring stuff,” he said.

“The mantelpiece came from Princess Pier which is a tie to the McGeorge family who would have walked on it when they first arrived in Melbourne, not knowing what was going to happen – I love those immigration stories.

“I had a great team of guys and girls working with me and being biased my house is the best one on the block.

“It’s a simple contemporary country design. It feels lived in, like it’s been there all the time.”

The McGeorge farmhouse has been beautifully restored and during the renovation they found many handwritten documents from the family which Scott decided to frame to pay tribute to these pioneers.

Our visit was coinciding with completion of the renovations, so we saw many of the finished rooms. Each house had features that I admired, although some were a little odd to be frank. It will be interesting to watch who wins which room and why.

You never know who you are going to meet on any given day, and we certainly didn’t expect to find Logie award winners Kevin, Tang and Dorian from The Travel Guides on site. The boys work behind the scenes on The Block when they are not filming their own show. 

Viewers will be in for a treat as they see the mammoth construction take place across the three-month series. I asked Scott what he thinks will be the highlights. 

“I know for a fact that younger people will love the machinery as we have heaps of excavation and Franky my dog will be a lot of fun for everyone. 

“There’s always a little bit of drama and there’s certainly a lot of ups and downs but overall it’s been a pretty good series,” said Scott Cam.

The Block airs every Sunday at 7pm and continues Mondays – Wednesdays at 7.30pm on Channel 9.