Bernard Salt: Making Coffs Harbour even greater
THERE is relentless struggle going on across the cities, the towns, the villages and the farmlands of regional Australia.
It is the same issue that defines similar struggles across regional America, regional Canada and even regional France.
It is the lure, the allure, of jobs, education, training-excitement-in the big cities as compared with the regions.
Coffs Harbour faces the same challenges although its position is helped by the fact that this city has critical mass - it is the 24th biggest in Australia - and it offers growth opportunities (another 10,000 residents in the municipality by 2030).
Other communities, usually smaller and without the gravitas of the Coffs Harbour draw cards- business diversity, government departments, hospitals, educational institutions, airport and more - generally tithe there best and brightest to the hipster hotspots of Sydney or Brisbane or Melbourne and beyond.
Well, I say there comes a time and a place where participants in this eternal struggle need to make a stand.
Let that stand be Coffs Harbour and let that time be now.
I get it that it is advantageous for any community to have young people (post high school) leave to get experience, to acquire skills, to build wider relationships, but I say that regional Australia called, and they want their youth back.
Or at least a greater proportion of their youth back.
Sure, go to Sydney or Brisbane, get the degree you need, eat smashed avo in inner-city cafes, but consider coming back.
Consider coming back with your skills, your experience-bring your partner-start a business, buy a home, and invest your youth your energy your career your life in our town our community and create a better future for yourself.
I reckon there is an insidious battle going on where the big city stealthily siphons off some (not all) of the region's best and the brightest.
I want to change the conversation. I want to change the paradigm. I want the next generation to say, "I loved living in Sydney for 5-6 years… but I always knew my future, the very best version of my future, was 'back home' in Coffs"
It's a simply proposition: how do we get the next generation to come back to, to come to, to invest their lives in our community?
I would ensure that Coffs offered the biggest array of job opportunities, of technical and further education opportunities, locally.
I would be showcasing to 16-year-olds the region's best examples of, say, 28-year-olds who have stayed, or returned, built a business, employed apprentices, how now play footy or netball, and who are valued members of the community.
I mean, if all local 16-year-olds hear from "old people" is how someone famous who now lives in Sydney "used to live in Coffs" then, well, that 16-year-old is going to equate leaving this community with success.
I want each and every one of the 90,000 residents of the municipality of Coffs Harbour all thinking and pointing in the same direction.
All believing that their community, their patch of our continent, is the best place in Australia.
And that because of this intrinsic belief every person is willing to and wanting to every day be an advocate for this community's future.
There's a lot to learn from the environmental community who have harnessed millions of people who now think and act every day in accordance with the philosophy of think global act local.
What can we achieve - perhaps started through the pages of the Coffs Harbour Advocate - by harnessing every resident's good will, and galvanising a way forward that we all think - damnit, that we all know - is the best way forward for the best regional community - damn it, the best community-on the Australian continent?
Who's with me on this journey of shaping an even better future for our beloved Coffs Harbour?
• Bernard Salt is managing director of The Demographics Group; firstname.lastname@example.org