REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: What are the longterm impacts of COVID-19 on regional Australia?

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend.

Australians are increasingly looking to regional areas to live as technology allows more of us to work remotely.

Australians are increasingly looking to regional areas to live as technology allows more of us to work remotely.

Well, for an increasing number of Australians, we don't. Those living in the capital cities are picking up on the news many of us have known all along - there's a whole lot going on beyond Sydney, Perth or Brisbane.

But what does this influx of interest mean for regional Australia? We've seen house-prices boom and employers struggle to find staff. The Federal government has even launched a campaign in conjunction with the Regional Australia Institute, Move to More.

There's also been a significant shift in health, as both medical practitioners and patients embrace the convenience of telehealth. But it's not just vital services that have gone digital. How many of us used Zoom for online video conferences the first time in the past year? Whether it was to stay connected to family and friends, for work or to continue to engage with our community.

Suddenly organisations, such as the CWA, are not just having Zoom meetups they're organising entire national conferences in the digital sphere as those of us at home discovered Zoom rumba classes or Facebook live streamed concerts and trivia nights.

As Australia has gradually reopened to internal travel, tourism has exploded with many regional centres being fully booked out over the recent long weekend.

We've learnt there are amazing experiences and travel destinations at home and while many are still desperate to travel overseas, whether for work, family or just plain pleasure, we've had a lot of fun discovering our own backyards.

Shortly ACM will be launching its Race to the Regions series, exploring the impact COVID-19 has had across regional Australia - both those who have benefited and those who have struggled to cope as housing stock gets snapped up and the job market changes.

For everyone who has delighted in the ability to work from home and make the long-desired move to a dream location there have been those who've struggled to find appropriate rental accommodation and whose business has been unable to adapt to the rapidly changing situation.

Will the regional jobs growth continue? The impact of border closures has highlighted the dependence on the agricultural sector and other seasonal employers on backpackers to fill jobs. The Federal government's offer of $6000 for anyone taking up harvesting work failed to attract the required number of workers.

Meanwhile areas including Byron Bay, on NSW's north coast, have seen local tourism explode, turning rental properties into Airbnb stays and other short-term accommodation, pushing out the residents required to sustain the increased demand from employers.

Join us as we explore the issues and success stories over the coming weeks.

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