Regional migration highlights an unexpected trend in education

Regional education a first choice for many families

The rite of passage of leaving home to go to university has spawned hundreds, if not thousands of coming of age films in America. Leaving your home town for university is also pretty common place in countries such as England. Australia not so much. With increased living costs delaying the age at which young Australian's move out of home many are choosing to attend universities they can commute to.

For anyone in regional or rural Australia it's not such a straight forward choice. Fortunately, whilst attending university in your home town might not be an option for young regional Australians, there are plenty of opportunities available. In fact, the real difficulty is choosing from the wide variety of courses available across the regional university network.

For anyone interested in mining (or brewing), Federation University in Ballarat has long been a leader in providing the skills required in those fields. Or for a who's who in Australian media you just need to look at the alumni list from Bathurst's Charles Sturt University and its journalism courses.

This doesn't even take into consideration agriculture or health. The University of New England highlights the importance of research in the ag sector, managing a number of properties for students to apply the Sustainable, Manageable, Accessible, Rural Technologies (SMART) concepts taught in the classroom.

The benefit of these specialised learning environments doesn't even take into consideration the way a town or region can benefit from having a centre for innovation on its doorstep.

But what about primary or high schooling? Where does that sit in the hierarchy of needs in regional areas?

We've heard of the scramble of parents in the capital cities putting their kids names down for schools as soon as they're born. Or the coaching colleges that have sprung up to help primary school-aged students get into selective high schools or win scholarships.

But have you ever heard of a family upping sticks from Bondi Beach to the Byron Bay Hinterland for a primary school education?

If you've ever lived in Sydney or Melbourne it may seem far-fetched. The only thing that can match the passionate debate over house prices is education. However, for many parents who make the move the benefits of a tight-knit local school are invaluable.

Howard Porter and his family recently relocated to Dunoon from Bondi. Working in IT, Howard was not particularly tied to any one location, he just wanted to find somewhere that had a strong community or village atmosphere and where his daughter could experience the freedom he associated with his own childhood.

Treechanger Howard Porter has swapped Bondi for the Northern Rivers. Image: supplied.

Treechanger Howard Porter has swapped Bondi for the Northern Rivers. Image: supplied.

He and his family bought an old church and made the move based on the positive feedback he'd received about the newly opened Living School in Lismore.

Jane Thomson, the CEO and founder of the Fabulous Ladies Wine Society had a slightly different journey to regional Australia. She grew up in Sydney and hadn't really considered a move out of the city until the birth of her first child. Within weeks of making the decision, she and her husband had moved back to his family farm in the Byron Bay Hinterland.

Fabulous Ladies Wine Society founder, Jane Thomson. Image: supplied.

Fabulous Ladies Wine Society founder, Jane Thomson. Image: supplied.

Since moving to Eltham, Jane has set up an international events company whilst also helping her husband diversify the family farm, developing new crops and establishing a small herd of cattle. Jane emphasises the benefits she and her family have received from being able to attend the local public school.

It's not just that you're not spending hours in traffic everyday to get to school but that the people at the school gate are your neighbours and local business owners. For her, it has given her the opportunity to give her kids a great childhood and education as well as the chance for her to become a part of a tightknit community.

This doesn't even take into consideration that for many regional students, the impact of COVID has been dramatically reduced compared to their metropolitan counterparts.

As Melbournians spent months in lockdown last year with children learning from home and children across the Greater Sydney region remain in lockdown children in regional areas have been able to get back into the classroom with less disruptions.

In fact, for some schools such as the School of the Air it's been business as normal, with enrolments continuing to increase.

Whilst it's too early to have hard data on the changing enrolment figures of regional schools with the Victorian state government committing to 100 new schools in the next five years and schools such as the Living School opening its doors in northern NSW it seems the future of regional education remains strong.

This story Regional education a first choice for many families first appeared on The Canberra Times.