The Regional Wellbeing Survey, now in its 4th year, is undertaken by key researchers headed by the University of Canberra. It examines the wellbeing of people living in rural and regional areas of Australia.
The 2015 results, released this week highlight a high level of social cohesion in our communities but sends a salient message to governments about many of the issues which continue to eat at the heart and soul of Our Towns.
Regional and rural Queenslanders have reported feeling their communities, quality of life and economy was declining.
The survey says we are feeling less confident in their communities’ leadership.
The Report highlights the drought, economic downturn, unemployment, feral pests and weeds, drugs, alcohol, communications, roads and transport as issues of concern and impact.
Poor access to food and retail outlets, as well as banking and professional services also rate as key areas causing stress.
There is an emerging and growing disengagement of young people in Our Towns.
The 2015 survey has shown that regional dwellers, particularly those under 30, are 63% less likely to recommend their town to others, with more Queenslanders reporting low levels of economic wellbeing compared to any other state or territory.
But – The Report shows that overall, most rural and regional Australians feel a strong sense of belonging to their community.
More than 70% reported that they felt welcome in their community, felt a part of their community, and did not feel like an outsider, while 52% felt that in their community, everyone was ‘in it together’.
- 73% felt they had good access to general health services such as general practitioners or chemists, with only 16% having poor access to these services.
- Two thirds (67%) of people across rural and regional Australia felt they had good access to education.
- 63% that they had good access to aged care.
- 59% that they had good access to child care.
- Most rural and regional Australians (83%) felt their community was a safe place to live in 2015.
However, half or almost half reported poor access to mental health services (46%) and specialist health services (50%), the services that were least available across rural and regional areas.
When asked about mobile phone coverage, 52% felt they had good coverage, while 31% felt their local coverage was poor.
Half felt that many people in their community abused drugs (52%) or drank too much alcohol (50%).
28% felt there was a high crime rate in their community.
A total of 13,303 people took part in the 2015 Regional Wellbeing Survey.
The Report overall concludes that Rural and Regional Australians are more likely to report feeling a strong sense of meaningfulness, in the sense that they feel as though they are doing worthwhile things with their lives, than to report feeling strongly satisfied with their lives.
It finds that women, those aged 65 and older, and farmers (both dryland and irrigating) were more likely to report high levels of wellbeing.
Those who were not in employment and those aged 30 to 49 and men were more likely than women to report low levels of wellbeing in Our Towns.