Unfortunately, a unique environment with an abundance of natural amenities doesn’t create a care-free community.
Regional locations across Australia face severe challenges, with lack of services having a particularly heavy impact on remote communities.
“A minimal number of basic services in health is a major issue,” Nick says. “This includes mental health, which is a growing challenge for regional Australia.”
Without access to health and wellbeing services, the struggles of people within regional and rural communities go unaddressed and are left to worsen. This creates a community that lacks the support and ability necessary to contribute positively to its overall condition.
There are also challenges presented by the ageing populations within regional communities.
“Urban shift and a lack of opportunities in rural areas force younger people to move to Cairns, Townsville and beyond, resulting in shrinking rural communities,” Lisa says. “Left behind are ageing populations in towns unsuitable for the elderly, with wide streets, high kerbs, empty shops and little entertainment.”
Nick says a “long-standing issue” for rural places is the impact that the departure of younger generations has on industries that are reliant on regional communities, such as agriculture. Without a new generation to take over and only an ageing population left, rural communities are left without anyone to contribute to their story, let alone believe in it.
These issues each stem from one large problem – jobs.
"Jobs are a massive influence. Jobs will define how we potentially see young people move in the next ten years in this recession."
Dr Nick Osbaldiston
The issues that Lisa and Nick have identified – lack of services, lack of opportunities, lack of jobs – existed long before the effects of COVID-19 swept through rural communities’ economies. Facing a recession and an uncertain future has heightened these challenges. Regional communities now require new solutions to old problems.
Acknowledging such challenges must be included in the stories of regional locations so that their narratives can also include improving and serving the community in the ways it needs most.