Regional investment must be prioritised

It’s a bit over a week and the dust has settled on what we are being told is a record-breaking budget for NSW. I’ve been having a look over the detail and undoubtedly the state is in a good financial position. The state has an extremely large amount of money and media reports that call it the “envy of the western world” are quite correct. Most of this is to be attributed to the large amounts of stamp duty collected, as well as the sale of assets. That said; there is a very clear case for rural, regional and remote areas to be getting a bigger slice of the pie.

There are some welcome initiatives such as the new Regional Growth Fund which represents an additional $1.3 billion for regional NSW. This will be flowing out via a number of sub-projects and funds, which we are yet to see the full detail on. In principle though, it is an appreciated and sizeable investment. The key for success in the delivery of the projects funded within these programs will be the actual tangible outcomes we see, rather than more money spent on planning. Proof of the success and positive benefits of this funding is a long way off for many of the communities of the west.

In many ways, this is a hard budget to criticize; although I do feel that with so much money, and having sold off large assets; the government have missed an opportunity to do some really visionary and ground-breaking projects, particularly for the bush. Those projects are happening in Sydney, but they are not happening in rural, regional and remote NSW on the same scale. Yet.

There is approximately $70 billion committed in the forward estimates, with $9 billion of that ear-marked for regional areas (so far). We need and deserve a bigger share; so let’s hope we see it next year prior to the election.

We can be thankful for a budget that places the state in a great position to be able to invest in its future, but we will be looking for a larger slice of the pie in the future. Rural, regional and remote NSW not only needs it; it deserves it.

What do you think?

Country

Bogged or blogged? 1922 to Now

CWA Members attending the Annual General Meeting in Moree, 1924

CWA Members attending the Annual General Meeting in Moree, 1924

Blog, blogging, bloggers….I wonder what the women who attended the Bush Women’s Conference in 1922 would have thought these words meant? “What, you say someone’s bogged?”

It makes me think about what else has changed; how we go about doing things and how we view changes in our lives now, compared to then. Not that I know firsthand of course, I’m at the younger end of the “baby boomer” generation, only just scraped in actually!

My name is Tanya and I am the current President of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW and if you’re still with me, you are reading my very first blog! I have the privilege of leading the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the state, which has approximately 10,000 members in over 400 Branches from Tibooburra and Menindee to Sydney City.

CWA of NSW formed following the aforementioned Bush Women’s Conference, which was initiated by Miss Florence Gordon who wrote for the Stock and Station Journal under the pen name “Urbania”. Miss Gordon was supported in her efforts by the editor, Robert “Gossip” McMillan and Dr Richard Arthur, Member for North Sydney.

It was envisaged that “the gathering” would bring together a group of concerned people who cared about the plight of women in country areas, to highlight the issues and come up with some solutions. The following excerpt is from our history, “Serving the Country”, written by Helen Townsend.

“My wife is slowly dying before my eyes…we can’t get help for her. She won’t leave me and the boys and take a spell in the city’…In many rural areas…there was no community organisation and no facilities to support a family in distress. The Country Women’s Association came into being to fulfil this need and to enrich the lives of country women and their communities.”

This brings me back to change and how we perceive it. That one little word can affect every aspect of our lives from your vocabulary, actions and thoughts to values, morals, priorities and goals. Whether you treat it as good, bad or just different depends on your perspective. Whether you embrace it or reject it depends, again, on your perspective. The degree of change one accepts depends on what your expectations are in the first place. So from 1922 to now;

The provision of health services… the infrastructure is there but staffing and equipment remain a huge issue for everyone. There are still many rural towns with no permanent doctor, even in larger regional centres it can take weeks to see your GP and if you need specific treatment or to see a specialist…I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on television for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Angel Flight; it’s not Ad company hype.

Telecommunications have improved, at a price. Wireless internet $50/month/ 4GB, compared to cable ($40) or ADSL ($30) for 5GB. Go satellite I hear you say, at $500/month for 4GB it’s a bargain! NBN you suggest…can’t even find out if it’s available here, let alone ever going to be.

It’s not as difficult to “take a spell in the city” these days, unless you’re relying on public transport…or it rains. Local Councils are forced to close unsealed roads (with hefty fines imposed) after rain because they don’t have enough funds to keep repairing them, let alone all the other services they are expected to provide. Then there’s the loss of education facilities (or getting to them on a wet road) and let’s not get started on mining and agriculture…

My point is things have changed, but so have our expectations – are we operating in a “carrot and stick” world or is it just “greener on the other side of the fence”? I think the farmer quoted above would have been ecstatic to know there was a bush nurse and a spare bed for his wife an hour’s drive from home, that’s if he didn’t get blogged! Perceptions and perspectives change, like everything else.

So for me, the importance and relevance of The Country Women’s Association, in standing up and using our 10,000 voices to support women from all walks of life, all ages and backgrounds in a non partisan way, is as important now as it was in 1922. We’re just changing the location of the goal posts!