REGIONAL Australia has so much to offer, writes DARREN CHESTER
It will come as no surprise to the millions of Australians who choose not to live in a capital city that some regional cities offer a better lifestyle for families.
The research by Suncorp Bank which compared Australia's largest cities on a range of key indicators shows Melbourne and Sydney are left for dead by regional centres such as Launceston, Toowoomba, Albury-Wodonga and Bundaberg.
While the top 30 listing will provoke plenty of spirited debate among regional city mayors, it's also an opportunity for all regional Australians to capitalise on a good news story.
Our story is about quality of life and a better work-life balance. It's the natural beauty; the access to quality health and education services in larger regional centres; the lower levels of crime; and housing affordability.
It's about reconnecting with a community and feeling as though you are an important part of life through volunteering. It's also about professional opportunities which are often dismissed by city dwellers who haven't taken the time to consider the career fast track which is on offer.
As regional Australians, we need to get better at selling the message that we are open for business and welcoming to newcomers from all walks of life.
But governments need to lift their game, too.
We need the Federal Government to commission a regional Australia white paper to build the case for further strategic investment in infrastructure and services to drive growth in regional areas.
Various governments have toyed with decentralisation, but we need to get serious about relocating public service organisations which have no need to be anchored to city locations.
A regional Australia white paper could also consider incentives for private enterprise to expand into regional locations and the need for decent policies to help regional students achieve their full potential by improving the system of student income support.
Most importantly, when we send our kids away for university or further vocational training, we need a better system of bringing them back after they've graduated.
We need a real commitment to build better regional centres in the future.
- Darren Chester is the federal member for Gippsland