Thriving Towns

Change is constant and we all need to be prepared to innovate and adapt. Or we could just do nothing and complain. The choice is ours to make.

As another rural community leader laments on national media this week about their declining population and empty shop fronts, I am compelled to highlight a crucial point. The role and needs of rural towns are constantly changing and, if rural people are not prepared to change, then maybe their town is destined to become a celebrated ghost town, as many have in the past.

Having explored many rural communities Australia wide that are not only surviving but thriving, I can say with confidence that there are three elements that contribute to the success of a rural town and all are equally important.

Taking control of our own destiny

It starts with us. Almost without exception our rural towns, businesses, and even our hospitals and support services, were originally founded on private investment by the courageous pioneers of past generations. It is a national tragedy that we now look to government to solve every problem that arises. If we are not prepared to contribute, then why should anyone else? The communities that thrive are the ones that are prepared to invest their time and dollars in themselves. And their investment attracts even more.

Working collaboratively and inclusively

Never underestimate the power of a community that works together for a common purpose.. Our future is a whole of community conversation. Everyone needs to understand the ramifications of not being prepared to constantly innovate and adapt in a rapidly changing world. Grass roots conversations help educate us all about the importance of a diverse business sector and why we need to support each other in order to achieve positive change. And this does not stop at the town boundaries. Now, more than ever, rural towns need to collaborate at a regional and national level.

Looking at existing landscapes with fresh eyes

I see each rural town as a rustic painting, a snapshot in time, that constantly needs retouching, and from time to time a total paint over. My own hometown of Castlemaine in central Victoria is a classic example. From a town founded solely for the purpose of gold mining to one of manufacturing to today’s much more diverse small business economy; Castlemaine has constantly recreated itself. It could have died but instead it is thriving.

Change is constant and we all need to be prepared to innovate and adapt. Or we could just do nothing and complain. The choice is ours to make.


KERRY ANDERSON: Founder of the Operation Next Gen program and author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. In 2018 she was named as one of Australia’s Top 50 Regional Agents of Change. READ MORE