City dwellers have their own struggles to contend with

City dwellers have their own struggles to contend with

Opinion
Robbie Sefton says about 90 per cent of Australians choose to live in just 0.2 per cent of the country - mostly our coastal cities.

Robbie Sefton says about 90 per cent of Australians choose to live in just 0.2 per cent of the country - mostly our coastal cities.

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We have made one big choice, to live outside the cities - just as all those who live within our cities have made a choice not to live in the bush.

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Australia has more land per person than almost any other country, yet about 90 per cent of its population choose to live in just 0.2 per cent of that space - mostly our coastal cities.

We are nearly as urbanised as Japan (94 per cent) and more urbanised than the United States (82 per cent) and the United Kingdom (83 per cent). We in the bush would do well to remember how minor is our minority in the nation's affairs, and remind ourselves that our fate rests largely in our own hands, and our choices.

We have made one big choice, to live outside the cities - just as all those who live within our cities have made a choice not to live in the bush.

Having made our choice, we can't complain that urban Australia doesn't understand us. We might have to deal with the issues presented by climate, distance and limited infrastructure, but urban dwellers have challenges of their own: property prices, clogged commutes, noise. We all have worries.

But we can do more to instil pride in the 99.8 per cent of Australia that 10 per cent of us call home, and to show the other 90 per cent why they should be proud of it too.

Demonstrating that we are all linked to the soil, and the food and fibre it produces, is a wonderful way to keep our landscapes in the urban eye.

For instance, I love the work being done by the five-person team at Regionality, particularly their Farm2Plate Exchange program.

Farm2Plate is promoted as "where farmers, food and drink producers, chefs, tourism and hospitality businesses gather to exchange knowledge, ideas and learn from experience. It's where big challenges meet big ideas and real solutions are shared, debated and evolved."

This is bringing people together not merely to say, "because farmers produce your food, you should be grateful", but as an invitation to belong. It's asking the whole food value chain to contribute to a better chain, rather than leaving each link to work on its own.

Importantly, it asks the whole chain to think about where we can value-add our agricultural produce, so that Australia's economy captures more of our farm output before it reaches consumers.

This is where the future lies. Not in the urban-rural divide, but in acknowledging our interdependence. We are all linked, not just by food and fibre supply chains, but through the warp and weft of our nation's economy, politics and environment, and ourselves.

Perhaps, through initiatives like this, we might persuade more people in the city to bring their businesses and brains to the bush.

It would be something to be proud of to see Australia's growing urbanisation to reverse over the next 10-20 years, and become a "ruralisation" - the realisation that outside our clogged cities lies opportunity as well as space.

Regionality's Farm2Plate Exchange is being held in northern NSW on May 14-15. I encourage you to think about joining the conversation.

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