Ideas & services vital

NSW towns and regions thrive on fresh ideas and services


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AGENDA SETTERS: The annual CWA of NSW state conference is where policy is set for the thriving organisation.

AGENDA SETTERS: The annual CWA of NSW state conference is where policy is set for the thriving organisation.

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The CWA of NSW has been working to improve the lives of those in rural and regional communities across the state since 1922.

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The Country Women’s Association of NSW has a focus on improving conditions for country women and children.

We work to achieve that aim through lobbying all levels of government on issues important to our membership, working hard within our communities, providing health and education scholarships, and creating a network of support through our towns and cities.

This organisation of hard-working, passionate and committed women is unique both in terms of its membership and charter. We recognise those in country areas face challenges metropolitan residents don’t, with the tyranny of distance impacting access to business and government services, particularly with regards to health and education. It has been the CWA of NSW’s aim for more than 90 years to do everything possible to alleviate some of these challenges, and we know the emphasis we place on lobbying government is one of the most effective tools we have. It puts these issues before our decision-makers and we know we’re getting results.

How can improved infrastructure and transport make a difference in regional, rural and remote areas?

Infrastructure upgrades and improved transport links in country areas can only enhance the liveability of these centres, for both current residents and those who are looking to make a “tree change”. Those in metropolitan areas don’t think twice about the suite of public transport options at their doorstep. They may complain about the reliability of these services, but at least they’re an option. Transport options to and from centres – including our capital cities – is another vital link in the chain. Maintaining airline and interstate rail services must be a priority if we are to grow regional centres, with affordability a key factor in any discussions or strategies.

How will such improvements benefit those areas?

In country areas, even larger regional centres, it’s almost imperative to have a motor vehicle to get around where you need to go and when you need to get there. But not everyone can afford that luxury, so those without access to a car they are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to employment options, and health and education requirements, and even maintaining social networks. Access to public transport – even a limited offering – levels out that playing field and ensures people remain engaged, active and healthy in their communities, have the best chance of regular employment, and even get their kids to school on time.

What other services are needed in regional, rural or remote areas? 

Reliable telecommunications has always been a rallying point for the CWA of NSW, which has campaigned long and hard on this issue, and lobbied government on at all levels. It can’t be emphasised enough how vital access to an efficient communications network is for encouraging the likes of business growth, new business opportunities, enhanced education options and the relocation of families and individuals. Access to basic and necessary health services also continues to decline in the bush, and the rot must stop. The fact many country hospitals, even in reasonably large centres, no longer have a maternity unit underlines this point.

Can attracting young people back to the bush benefit those areas?

Youth are our future, and they’re certainly the future of our rural and regional communities. But, how do you keep them and how do you encourage young people to make the move to these communities? Quite simply it’s about what these areas can offer and without the likes of transport links to cities and major centres, a healthy economy with employment prospects, or a reliable internet connection, then it’s game over. You can spruik the benefits of country living all you like – affordable housing, reduced traffic congestion, healthier environment – but without the infrastructure to back these benefits it’s unlikely to be enough.

Diversity in our communities can only benefit future prosperity

What are the benefits of population diversity?

Diversity in our communities can only benefit future prosperity, growth and opportunities. Attracting people from various cultural backgrounds, occupations and age groups prevents the stagnation of regional towns and cities by injecting fresh ideas, new perspectives and renewed enthusiasm.

How can regional and rural towns fight back against e-commerce?

Many of the things our country communities can do are the same things retail outlets in our major cities have to look at. The level of service is key. Most people still appreciate good old-fashioned service and may even pay a bit extra for it. Many consumers still enjoy the personal experience of shopping, picking up the merchandise and talking to a sales person. On that front, rural and regional stores must have a good handle on their customer base so when those customers walk into the store, they can get what they came for, and the sales staff have the knowledge and enthusiasm to get the potential sale over the line. E-commerce is not going anywhere, but local business networks have the ability to work together to try to keep as much money as they can in their community.

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