REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Regional is not a dirty word

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by group content editor Joanne Crawford.

ALL HEART: Regional cities and towns are big enough for a decent cup of coffee, small enough to care.

ALL HEART: Regional cities and towns are big enough for a decent cup of coffee, small enough to care.

Sometimes, living and working outside the big capital metropolises of Australia's coastline, you get the feeling that you are a little less visible, a little less valued when it comes to, oh, just about everything - from deserving of fast communication networks, to deserving of quick access to the latest health services, to deserving of well-maintained transport links, to deserving of equal pay.

Not that I'm whinging - not really - because living and working in a regional area of Australia has loads of benefits: quicker commute times for starters, usually cleaner air, often cheaper housing, and a connectedness to community that can be difficult to find in a big city. (Reference the Regional Australia Institute's recent report on the liveability of cities v regions and the very clever Move Tool).

FOR BETTER OR WORSE: Check out the Regional Australia Institute's Move Tool to compare city and country areas.

FOR BETTER OR WORSE: Check out the Regional Australia Institute's Move Tool to compare city and country areas.

But still, it's annoying to hear patronising comments from city-dwelling friends (even those you love) and business acquaintances who imply country standards and country residents' expectations are second-rate; that we can't possibly have a top-class restaurant, or theatre group, or marketing business, or university in our midst.

They should be listening to the likes of Kelli Ritchie, who's marketing start-up in Wollongong is turning heads in Sydney. "While [it is] outdated, you occasionally come across the perception that being located outside of the major metro cities is a signal as to a lower level of skill, capability or your level of innovation," Kelli says. "The talent within [my business] Zoologic is second to none, and attracting new talent is easy when the balance between work and life can be easier to manage."

GOALS: Kelli Ritchie's marketing business is booming out of its regional base.

GOALS: Kelli Ritchie's marketing business is booming out of its regional base.

Or following the work of University of New England researcher Andrew Robson, who is at the forefront of developing new technology that allows remote sensing and digital mapping of agricultural crops. The research has implications for improved biosecurity, crop health, and yield and quality forecasting.

Or dropping in to visit Gavin Hughes and Karen Touchie, who escaped from Melbourne to the far south coast of NSW and built a world-class (as in they've just won international awards) artisan gin distillery. "We're very much about being connected to the place," Gavin says.

Whatever you think of his politics, our deputy PM Michael McCormack (a Wagga local) was spot on when he described towns in his electorate, the towns he knows well, as "big enough to find a good cup of coffee but ... small enough to care". McCormack was offering his views on the subject of regional Australia as part of the launch of a new magazine series and website - Future Focus.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Future Focus is a magazine series and website to focus discussion on regional Australia.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Future Focus is a magazine series and website to focus discussion on regional Australia.

Future Focus is an initiative of Australian Community Media (publisher of this newsletter) to focus thinking on the opportunities that abound in regional Australia, and what policies and strategies are required to maximise the potential and ensure the prosperity is delivered in a balanced and sustainable way. You are invited to join the debate: go to futurefocusproject.com.au and sign up to the discussion platform.

Before you start into too much complaining and demanding, have a read of economic geography professor Phillip O'Neill's article explaining why regional Australia has not descended into the angry and depressed dystopia of some regions of the UK and the US. Yes, there is a lot going for our regions, although Phil warns against complacency. So let's look for the solutions.

And - by the by - swing on over to Boomtown, a campaign by regional media companies, including Australian Community Media, to sell city-based advertising agencies on the idea that regional Australian audiences are intelligent, listening, and valuable. The stats and the stories there are pretty inspiring too.

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