The Australian government is encouraging migrants to live in regional areas through a number of new visa programs, most notably the Designated Area Migration Agreements as well as pathway options for international students studying in regional areas.
Regional Australia crosses a vast space from cities like Davenport in Tasmania through to outlying regional towns such as Broome in Western Australia. Typically regional areas suffer from labour skills shortages and for this reason the government is keen to attract overseas workers to these areas.
But would living in regional Australia be better or worse than living in one of the major cities?
There is no concrete answer to this question as everybody’s circumstances will be slightly different, however, in broad terms there are some specific advantages and disadvantages to living in a regional or rural area.
Advantages of living in regional Australia
The cities and towns within regional Australia offer a wide variety of lifestyle choices. All of them will offer these advantages to varying degrees.
● Regional Australia offers a quieter less hectic lifestyle.
● In General regional communities are more connected and more welcoming. The sense of community in a regional area is stronger as citizens tend to be more involved in community groups from the local fire brigade through to service and sporting clubs.
● There is a strong participatory atmosphere in regional communities.
● Regional industry is crying out for skilled workers and there are many regional towns actively pursuing overseas workers to fill various occupations.
● Less congestion and easy access to and from work, schools and shopping areas. Typically, you can find your way around a regional town in no time at all. Even the large regional cities like Ballarat and Newcastle are way less congested than the capital cities.
● The cost of housing is generally much lower as real estate prices have not been affected by the property boom as much as city areas. You can expect both rental and purchasing prices to be much lower in regional areas.
Disadvantages of Living in Regional Australia
Those potentially better employment prospects and cheaper housing advantages have their downsides. Depending on which part of regional Australia you choose you will have to cope with what was once famously called the tyranny of distance.
Australia is a huge place and the travelling distances involved can be mind boggling. The distance factor alone presents some ongoing issues for regional Australians. These problems include
● Availability of goods. Competition is not as fierce in regional areas as in capital cities. This means that you may find it difficult to source goods that are not in high demand in the area. This disadvantage has been alleviated somewhat by the internet.
● As most goods are transported some distance into the town, this cost is reflected in day to day prices. Everything from petrol to food can be expected to be a little more expensive.
● Skilled specialists are rare. This becomes a huge issue when specialised medical treatment is required and will necessitate travelling to larger regional centres or the capital city itself.
● Isolation. Regional Australia can be a lonely place and you may find yourself separated from your language and culture.
Each regional community will have slightly different characteristics and there are regional centres that have gone out of their way to welcome specific migrant communities to their region. In Pyramid Hill, close to Bendigo there is a strong Filipino community while the township of Nhill, some four hours from Melbourne has opened its arms to people from Myanmar. Meanwhile in Mingola, New South Wales, African migrants have given the community a much needed shot in the arm.
If living in Regional Australia appeals to you, it will pay to do your homework about specific locations and get a feel for what you are likely to encounter.