Thursday, May 03, 2007

Outback revival or just a talk fest

Outback Australia isn't about to lose many of its young people judging by their responses to a survey conducted as part of the Year of the Outback 2006 celebrations.

As part of the Year of the Outback program, the Federal Government, through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and the Australian Outback Development Consortium Ltd were partners in a nationwide research project to discover and document what rural youth see as the important issues facing them in rural, regional and remote Australia. And they were asked to provide their ideas and recommendations on how these issues can be addressed by government, rural industries and communities.

The results of that project have been published in a new report, "Outback Youth Infront, Their Voice - Australia's Future" which can now be downloaded from the Outback Development Consortium's website or at

Australia's Youth Infront was the theme of Year of the Outback 2006 and, due to its significance, will continue through to Year of the Outback 2010. The information in the report was compiled through a comprehensive process including a national on-line survey, five workshops at strategically chosen rural locations and a final workshop held in Canberra.

This final workshop involved a panel of participants representing the five workshops already completed along with representatives from the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry and the Australian Outback Development Consortium Ltd.

The key findings of the report were:
* Most participants imagined they would still be living in regional and rural Australia in the next 10-20 years;
* Participants noted there were many advantages to living in rural and regional Australia with lifestyle and community stated as the best aspects;
* The top three issues identified as important to young people were employment, community and education;
Among the report's recommendations were better professional development opportunities for young outback dwellers; wider promotion of jobs available; and attracting and retaining medical professionals to regional Australia; information packs for organisations on how to run successful training programs; the creation a job database for the local area; more social and professional networks and interaction opportunities for young people.

While Government has tended to act in enhancing the opportunities for medical professionals in rural Australia, through greater opportunities for professional development, there have been relatively few actions to support others - vets, agricultural scientists, surveyors, and other professions of significant importance to regional Australia.

Zone allowances of the Federal government are stuck in the 1970s, with no significant change for many years. Travel costs and the need to regularly update professional accreditation requirements impose very high costs on those professionals in regional areas. There are few major accredittation training opportunities set for regional centres, although distance education opportunities for formal courses are improving. The ongoing cost of being based in regional areas and lack of access to many of the professional seminars, etc are critical to personal development. Where are the technology users to better distribute these opportunities via podcast, video or DVD? [ and a free kick to the Desert Knowledge CRC for making a DVD on the recent conference available!!]

Although, it must be said that housing costs do tend to be lower, even if food cost is much higher than living on the crowded eastern seaboard.

I am sure that many other remote regions around the world might find these ideas relevant as they are for Australia.

These outcomes from the Outback 2006 interaction do need ACTION.........but will we see it anytime soon?

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