Growing up on a small farm outside of Wagga, I never understood the hold the country had on me until I left. In my final year of school, the question that often accompanied “what are you going to do”, was “where are you going to go”. The concept that people would choose to stay in Wagga was a foreign one. The answer was almost always Sydney, Melbourne or Wollongong and it always felt like moving to the city after you finished school was a rite of passage – like there was no alternative.
From a young age, people always told us that there are no jobs or opportunities in the country, that if you stay, you will never leave. There was still a “get out while you can” mentality. So I did. I chose to study Event Management at UTS in Sydney and left.
Filled with the excitement of what the city had to offer, I was open-minded and ready for change, ready to experience the romanticised version of the city I had built up in my head. It did not take me long to realise that it wasn’t the place for me. From growing up where I could see the milky way at night-time, hear the crickets chirping at night and experience complete silence, to living on Missenden road 500m from RPA hospital where ambulances were driving past throughout the night, people were yelling out on the street, and car horns at all hours from people with no patience, it was a sensory overload. There was constant noise. I couldn’t escape.
I had committed to living there for three years while I finished my degree. I took every opportunity to go back to Wagga, feeling the tension slowly easing as I headed back home on the Hume Highway.
Still influenced by the notion that there were no jobs in the country, and determined not to live in Sydney a second longer than was necessary, I decided Canberra was the perfect middle ground and have settled here. The Bush Capital certainly lives up to its name.
After recent developments with more flexible workplaces, and demographic reports which state that, in fact, there are a wealth of job opportunities in regional Australia, I feel let down. Let down that there is that push for young people to leave the regions once they finish school for “better opportunities”, let down because there is a stigma that you are self-sabotaging if you even consider staying in your home town, and let down that despite what the numbers say, people still think that there are no jobs in the regions.
I hope that with the sudden need to adopt a remote work structure, young people will not be disadvantaged if they choose not to take the plunge and live in the city. Although I was one of those young people that took the plunge, I learnt that regional Australia has a pull, unlike any other, and it will always be home to me.
Emily Pillow, ARLF Coordinator, Programs