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UC study finds regional Australians feeling good, but lack connections

Marcus Butler

21 June 2016: Most people living in rural and regional communities are satisfied with their lives, but there are concerns about access to services and infrastructure like high-speed internet, according to findings of the University of Canberra’s 2015 Regional Wellbeing Survey.

The survey is Australia’s largest into the wellbeing of people living in rural and regional communities with more than 13,300 participants last year.

University of Canberra lead author, associate professor Jacki Schirmer said that people from most regions love living in rural and regional Australia.

“Our results show that almost three quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed would recommend their community to others as a great place to live, particularly Victorians (77 per cent) and residents of New South Wales (78 per cent),” Dr Schirmer said.

“However, we found that Queenslanders were significantly less likely to say they would recommend their community to others, with fewer than two in three people feeling positive about their community.”

“Three in four regional Australians rate the friendliness, liveability and local landscape they live in highly, and 75 per cent also reporting spend time volunteering in their local community.

A liveable community is one where residents believe they have a decent quality of life – economically, physically, environmentally, socially, and politically.

“While they value the liveability, social connections and friendliness of their communities, there was more pessimism when asked about access to services and regional economic conditions.”

Critical infrastructure, including telecommunications, was also an area identified by the participants as underserviced.

“Just 37 per cent of rural and regional Australians felt they had good access to high speed Internet in 2015, with almost half (48 per cent) reporting poor access,” Dr Schirmer said. “The figures for mobile phone coverage were a little more positive: 52 per cent felt they had good coverage, while 31 per cent felt local coverage was poor.”

Regional economies were another area where many regional Australians reported concerns: 42 per cent felt their local economy was in decline, and only 31 per cent that local economic conditions were improving.

“This concern was stronger among people in Queensland and Western Australia and among dryland farmers,” she said.

“When we break down these figures we find that more than three quarters (77 per cent) of regional Australians report a lack of local employment opportunities, 56 per cent feel their community is not financially well off, and more than half (51 per cent) feel local businesses are doing poorly in their region.

One quarter of regional Australians reported having poor access to fresh, affordable food, particularly those living in Queensland and Western Australia, while those in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania reported overall better access to quality food.

The results also found that while 83 per cent of respondents felt that their communities were safe, 52 per cent were concerned about high numbers of people in their community abusing drugs and half of all those surveyed also identified alcohol as an issue.

The report is published on the Regional Wellbeing Survey’s website -