REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Exactly how important is education to the growth of regional Australia?

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About this time last year I found myself sitting in an RSL beer garden by the Barwon River. As I relaxed with a beer after a long day on the road I got chatting to the teachers sharing our table.

All three had moved to the region over the past few years, with one of them only having arrived six weeks ago. All from Sydney, all at different stages of the career. All in agreement that moving regional for their job had been great for them.

The thing that stuck in my mind as we chatted away was that for them, the move to teach in a regional school was very much a lifestyle decision. They didn't want to be stuck in inner city schools, or doing relief work.

While they were all at different stages of their careers, with one teacher still excited to have her first full time job for another this was her in the later stages of her career, thinking towards retirement and where she'd like to spend her post-work life.

So why are we so surprised when, instead of a teacher moving regionally for the lifestyle and opportunity, it's a family?

A couple of months ago when I started researching the Race to the Regions series I put a call out for people to speak to on a variety of topics. I never expected I'd be introduced to a family who relocated from Bondi to Dunoon so that their daughter could attend a new school that had recently opened in the area.

Years of hearing from those in major cities about the difficulties of buying properties in the catchment areas of "good" schools had warped perceptions of what a good school is. For many it isn't about a focus on NAPLAN scores and after school coaching to get a child into a selective high school program or a scholarship to a private school. It's about becoming part of a community.

It's certainly a topic that raises passions. Speaking to the formidable Jane Thomson about how she manages to run an international events company from a small town - while also raising a family and running a small farm with her husband - she highlighted the valuable role of her local public school. Inverting the adage it takes a village to raise a child, Jane highlights how important a local school is to the community, allowing new residents to easily integrate and make connections.

The opportunity to not spend hours chauffeuring children to and from school and after school activities in Melbourne or Sydney traffic also plays a part!

This emphasis on primary education doesn't even touch on the role of regional universities and TAFEs play. Without the targeted degrees and qualifications these institutions many regional businesses would struggle to find skilled workers.

Join us this week for Race to the Regions as we look at the role education has in supporting the growth of regional Australia.

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