Some alternative resolutions for regional Australia

As we head into the new year, most of us start by making a few new year’s resolutions. Things that we vow to take on in 2019 or to leave behind in 2018.

In 2019, why not think a little differently. Leave the diet shakes at the chemist, stop beating yourself up and look to what you can do for your regional community.

Here’s a few ideas that come from the work we do at the Regional Australia Institute to get you started.

First up, why not think about how you can welcome new people to your community.

Many people take a risk and make the move to a regional community, but don’t stay because they can’t find a way to build the local connections to really feel at home.

Small communities like Nhill, Dalwallinu, Pyramid Hill, Hamilton, Mingoola, Biloela which do this well succeed because new people stay and then tell others like them to come. These amazing stories show just how big a difference this resolution could make to your place.

To help you and your community go big, the Regional Australia Institute will be releasing a migration tool kit documenting how to attract and welcome new people early in the new year.

A second resolution option is to value older people in our regional communities. Many regions are ageing rapidly and we have a terrible habit of seeing ageing as a curse – when it is a blessing.

If you are an employer, I would really encourage you to make sure you are supporting older workers to join your business and thrive. But even if you’re an employee, resolve to value older members of our workforce and community at large.

If you are not convinced on why this matters, check out the RAI’s reports on ageing and work.

To make things formal, you can sign up to the pledge as part of the EveryAGE Counts campaign in which we partner.

The third option is a double barrel – volunteer or start a business.

Volunteering is a competitive advantage for regional communities. Our volunteers get things done that other places can’t and it makes our towns better places to live.

Check out the stats in the Institutions Foundations section of [In]Sight our regional data portal if you don’t believe me on this one.

Being an entrepreneur or supporting a risk taker who is will also be of incredible value. A particular shout out to regional women on this one as they are again leading the way for our communities. Check our Lightbulb Moments and Regional Online Heroes competitions on our website for some inspiration or get in touch with your local network of entrepreneurs for support and inspiration.

Let’s all make a pact not to talk regional Australia down.

New year is also a time to shed some bad habits, so here is a fourth option for those of you seeking that kind of progress in 2019.

Let’s all make a pact not to talk regional Australia down.

I talk to a lot of urban people about regions. Many of them are in a position of importance and influence. Too often, those who don’t know a lot about regions have a general picture of mass unemployment, poverty, constant drought, flood and disaster and dying towns filled tumbleweed.

But the numbers we see tell a different story, as do most of the people I meet who are leading the way in their regional communities.

The drought is real in some regions and the cyclones and fires will come again in others, but our communities stand up in the face of them and will do so again this time. Help from outside is appreciated, but regional communities are not a charity case.

We have more than 47,000 job vacancies in regions right now. These aren’t just low-skilled jobs, they range from CEO positions to medical practitioners as well as lower skilled options.

At least 243,865 new jobs are expected to be created in regional areas over the next five years. We have mapped the vacancies on our website if you don’t believe me.

The RAI’s new year’s resolution is to create the spaces we need for the positive stories and opportunities to be put before our decision makers.

We’re kicking off our inaugural Regions Rising event series with a national event in Canberra on April 4-5, just as we are expecting to head into a federal election campaign. Other events will follow around Australia.

Good luck with deciding on your new year’s resolutions and here is to another prosperous and successful year for regional communities.

Jack Archer is chief executive of the Regional Australia Institute.