Sea and Tree-Change Families Face Life On The Fringe
3 August 2009 at 3:59 pm
Despite the attractions of a sea or tree-change, a new report has found that once families moved they faced significant barriers which affected their ability to participate in their new community and local NFP organisations were having take on the extra work load with additional funding.
The Families on the Fringe report is a co-operative research project between The University of Queensland, Mission Australia, and The Benevolent Society – and funded by the Australian Research Council.
Launched in Sydney the report looks at the motivations and challenges faced by families with young children moving from capital cities to non-metropolitan areas.
One of the report’s authors Dr Karen Healy, Professor of Social Work at The University of Queensland says the study interviewed families with young children who had recently moved from metro centres to the areas of Wyong (Central Coast, NSW), Camden (south western Sydney metro fringe), Gladstone (coastal Queensland) and Oakey (an inland rural town west of Brisbane) and reports on the reasons for their move and the issues faced.
It also interviewed a range of service providers working with young families in these areas.
According to the report, most families relocated to non-metro areas for better lifestyle opportunities, more affordable housing options and in some cases for employment.
But families found that once they moved they faced significant barriers which affected their ability to participate in their new community including long commuting times, loss of social networks, poor local transport options and inadequate service systems such as dental, child care, community support and specialist and allied health services.
The study also found evidence of disadvantaged families from the non-metro areas being displaced by the new arrivals as housing and other local costs rose. This led to a growth in disadvantage in the inland areas neighbouring the towns that were studied.
Professor Healy said the study identified the push factors that led young families to consider moving away from their original location and what steps needed to be taken to reduce their impact.
She says the key reasons that families relocate to these areas are for more affordable and better quality housing, for work opportunities, and for a change in lifestyle. The trend is likely to continue, and shouldn’t be ignored.
She says social inclusion of young families in non-metro areas appears to be a matter of good luck rather than good planning.
Prof Healy says the report found some local agencies were doing a great job to reach out to families, but this was their own initiative which was generally unrecognised and unsupported by funding organisations.
The Benevolent Society’s General Manager of Social Policy and Research, Annette Michaux says the study revealed the non-metro areas would benefit from additional multi-service hubs where multiple services could be delivered from one site.
Mission Australia’s National Manager of Research and Social Policy, Anne Hampshire, says the impact of the global economic downturn – particularly in areas like Gladstone which relied heavily on the mining industry for employment and potentially the Central Coast of NSW where people commuted long distances for work – would likely have exacerbated many of the challenges already being faced by the families.
Hampshire says the report found that while making friends and accessing local services was difficult for many, most at least found jobs were readily available at the time of their move.
The study’s authors believe government and policy-makers can use its results to better plan for demographic shifts and non-metropolitan migration.