The true appeal of rural living is clear to those living anywhere west of the great divide but encouraging young urban families to make the move has its challenges.
Panelists at the Quilpie Grow Qld forum discussed the need to make the services and lifestyle available in outback Queensland obvious to city families.
Quilpie Shire Mayor Stuart McKenzie said many basic services such as education and health care were available in rural areas but diversity and choice within employment needed to be publicised.
“Not everyone wants to be a grazier but they might be happy to live with one,” he said.
“There are great stories about bringing up families in outback communities and opening successful businesses and it’s only a misunderstanding between the city and country preventing city families from giving it a go.”
Rabobank’s Lach Douglas pointed to congestion in capital cities and said regional areas had a large part to play.
“There needs to be a conversation at both state and federal levels about incentives to encourage young people to set up businesses in the bush,” he said.
“There are forecast to be between 35 and 40 million people in Australia by 2050 and regional areas should be reaping the rewards.”
Cr McKenzie said tourism held the greatest potential for small towns like Quilpie and if governments were not supporting tourism development, these small towns were “in trouble.”
“The urban lifestyle is a controlled environment so if we drew on this and going west became a compulsory part of the school curriculum, the motion of moving west would become the norm,” he said.
“This is the only way to break down the city country divide and give city folk the chance to understand the real Australia.”
Panelists agreed that setting up a business and raising a family in small country towns could be extremely rewarding.
Sarah and Jeremy Slaughter are one such family to go down this track having moved from a cattle property at Mungindi to open a hardware in Quilpie just over a year ago.
Mrs Slaughter said Quilpie appealed to them for its family oriented feel and the promise of a predictable return on investment.
“We didn’t want to buy in rapidly expanding coal seam gas areas because you can see they’re going to bust- it’s not as exciting as a big boom town but it’s more stable,” she said.
“It was challenging to begin with as neither of us had any experience in retail apart from my tuckshop volunteering but it all came together and it really is such a special place.”
Mrs Slaughter said the cohesive community feel left her feeling certain her children were safe in Quilpie.
“Someone said to me when we moved here the whole town would help us raise our family and they were right,” she said.
“Everyone knows who the kids are, they pick them up when they fall off their bikes and they reprimand them for being naughty when they need it, I don’t know of anywhere else that would happen.”