Fleur Anderson wants thousands of Australians opting for a tree change to know they do not have to choose between their professional aspirations and a regional lifestyle.
Ms Anderson is the director of statewide coordination for the Office for Rural and Regional Queensland, and has managed a team remotely from her cotton farm in central Queensland for 12 months.
When Ms Anderson is not speaking with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and State Cabinet about the issues impacting regional and rural Queenslanders, she helps her family plant, maintain and harvest their crop.
Ms Anderson said she loved working within the rural landscape, but worried her location in a town of less than 500 people would rule her out of certain jobs.
“There are jobs that often come up and I would think, ‘Gee I’d really love to do that work, that’s something I’m really passionate about. But it’s too far and the travel is too much’,” she said.
Several years on, Ms Anderson stopped seeing her remote location as a barrier.
“So, when this job came up, and a person within the government asked me if I was interested, I thought, what have I got to lose?”
More Queenslanders are ditching the idea that they need to be in larger city centres to pursue their dream career.
Chance to advance career
Thomas Gardiner is the senior planning officer at Rockhampton Regional Council.
When Mr Gardiner graduated from university in Brisbane five years ago, the decision to move to a regional centre was not popular among his cohort.
“For young punters from my generation, I saw a bit of a reluctance for people to get outside of their comfort zone and go into regional areas, especially when they’d grown up in Brisbane or the Gold Coast,” he said.
Mr Gardiner has never looked back since making the move.
“It is a small council compared to those in South East Queensland, and you’re more likely to get your hand on diverse projects.”
In 2018, Mr Gardiner won the Young Planner of the Year award.
“Talking to a lot of my colleagues still working in Brisbane, I certainly think working with regional council afforded me that opportunity for that award,” he said.
Mr Gardiner encouraged young professionals in his industry to consider a career in the regions.
Ms Anderson noticed an increase in young government workers taking an interest in a regional lifestyle.
She said the change was positive, but highlighted that more support needed to be given to those working remotely.
“I think there is a real appetite for it, we’ve got to just catch up with some of the structures and the ways we do things,” she said.
“It’s about finding the right person for the right job, and then just putting the right support structures around that person so it can be done regionally.”
Kristy Sparrow is from Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia, a company advising and advocating for broadband in the bush.
She owns a property just north of Alpha, 400 kilometres — or about 5 hours’ drive — west of Rockhampton.
Ms Sparrow said as more people talked about making a tree change, the difference between regional towns and the more remote or rural parts of Queensland should be part of the discussion.
“There’s definitely areas that would welcome, with open arms, people moving to their regions and then there are other communities that have a housing crisis or health care crisis of their own.
“The smaller the community, the less capacity to have those services.”
Still, Ms Sparrow said regional Queensland had a lot to offer those looking to pursue career opportunities, as long as they knew how to stay connected.
“Some education around how to video conference, how to maximise your connection so you can work from home without your Zoom buffering, stuff like that is so important,” she said.