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Living in regional Australia - pros and cons

Pete and I live in the South Burnett region of Queensland.  We are about two hours drive from Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Dalby and Toowoomba in each direction, which are all much larger towns and cities.  Its not exactly the middle of nowhere, its more like nowhere in the middle of everywhere else.

An afternoon walkies on our quiet country road


Only about 10% of Australians live in rural areas (although I'm not sure how they defined rural).  In fact, 25% live in Sydney, so there's more people in Sydney than living in rural areas.  This made me think that many of my readers have little experience with rural and regional Australia, but given that you're reading this blog, maybe you're interested in moving away from the city and into a regional or rural (or remote!) area at some stage.  And maybe you're wondering what its really like out here.

We've had a few trips to Brisbane lately (and of course Pete grew up there and I've lived there on and off a few times), which has helped me to contrast our quiet rural life with the busy city routines.  Our Eight Acres property is close to Nanango (population 4000), and Cheslyn Rise is close to Kumbia (population 350).  The biggest centre in the South Burnett is Kingaroy (population 12500).  I always think you can gauge the size of a town by the number of pubs and supermarkets.  Kingaroy has four pubs, three supermarkets and nearly all the other shops we need most of the time.  We pop in there every few weeks, and we go to Brisbane or Toowoomba every few months.

What I like about living in the country
I like going outside to lock up the chickens after dark and being able to look up and see the stars, smell the gum trees and hear only leaves rustling in the wind and the frogs and insects calling.  No neighbours, no cars and no streetlights!

Everyone is friendly.  We wave to everyone we pass in the car, we say g'day to everyone we pass on the street.  I tried that in Brisbane and all I got was funny looks.

Everyone is connected to the land and the weather.  Even people who live in town drink tank water and care about when its going to rain next.  Unlike the Brisbane conversation I overheard in which too ladies were complaining about the much-needed rain ruining their hair!

You can park anywhere.  Even in town.  I have never ever had to worry about where I was going to park.  Also, no traffic lights!  Well there is one set in Nanango and Pete can still get mild road-rage if he has to stop there for a minute :)


The Brisbane River


What is hard about living in the country
You can't always get what you need at the local shops.  I have to mail order a lot of things, but that's not so hard now with the internet, you just have to be organised.  And some things we have to drive into Brisbane to collect, like a new sofa, and floor tiles, but at least we are only two hours away.

Health care and education opportunities are limited.  I think it you're elderly, ill or young, its pretty tough living out here.  There is a small hospital, but if you need chemo or specialist care you have to go to a bigger centre.  There are highschools and a TAFE with limited courses, you have to leave to go to university or get a decent apprenticeship.  Jobs are pretty limited for young people.

Entertainment and other amenities are limited.  There is no BIG museums, art galleries, theatres, or libraries.  There is a small one screen movie cinema (which mostly shows childrens movies, we've never been to it).  There are other things, like country shows, rodeos, church concerts and local theatre groups, a small library, local galleries, that fill the gap.  These were the things I enjoyed in Brisbane while I was there.

There is no public transport.  Well there is a bus once a day on weekdays only that stops only in town centres and goes to Caboolture train-station, which is then an hour on the train to Brisbane.  But for general commuting to work, there is no public transport.  So you have to own a car.  When I lived in Brisbane for two years I had no car, and only used public transport and it was no problem.

Lack of diversity.  Nearly everyone here is a white Australia.  Some people have never left Australia, some have never left the state of Queensland.  There is a distinct lack of diversity and interest in other cultures.  I think its more ignorance than actual racism.  It wouldn't be easy living here if you looked different, even having a New Zealand accent is bad enough!

Postal service.  It can take a week for parcels to arrive from Brisbane, which is a 2 hour drive away.  I don't know why (possibly they go to Sydney to be sorted and then come back here, I wouldn't be surprised).


I'm not saying its unbearable out here, but I want you to know that some of the conveniences in the city are not available.  But for me all the positives make it worth the small sacrifices.  Before we moved here I had never really thought about what we might miss out on, so its good to know about these things if you're thinking about moving.


Do you live outside the cities?  What do you love, what do you miss?  If you're in the city, what do you want to know about country life?

Comments

  1. It's only 2hrs to everywhere else if you have a good run and not stuck behind a Sunday driver on Wednesday 80kph in 100 zone.... and if a town is gauged by the number of pubs well Nanango is up there with 3pubs and RSL...... in the big smoke all they worry about is lawns and if rain on the weekend = disaster....
    I loved it when we first got here but now it is too noisy we hear everything and I'm on a rural block about 5k from town got all of 4hrs sleep last night....
    I miss the choice of garden shops, fabrics and craft supplies... I don't miss seeing people I'm happy here when it is quiet.

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  2. We live rurally in between Ipswich and Toowoomba, and I wouldn't change it for any amount of convenience! I love having no close neighbours, and stopping in the post office for a catch up, and that everyone who stops in there knows you. I do have to drive to Gatton about 40 minutes away to do my monthly "big" shopping ( Ipswich is technically closer but I can't stand the traffic!) but that's a small price to pay :)

    Love your blog by the way! I keep Dexter cattle as well :)

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  3. I grew up in Far North Queensland and had to leave when I went to university. As a teacher, I've worked in lots of places, Nanango included! While I now live in the city, I have to be in an area where I can look out, where I don't feel "hemmed in", where I can see lots of trees. I miss the space of the bush, the quiet and absolutely the real darkness and stars. I love taking my son "home", taking him outside at night and showing him the heavens. I love that it's so dark up home that when he holds his hand out in front of his face, he can't see it! I do agree that there are challenges though. My Mum is getting on now, it's been hard for her to access good health care and it's not easy caring for a larger property as you age. And yes, you do need a car! Meg:)

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  4. Very interesting post Liz. Of course, it's doubtful I'll ever even visit Australia let alone live there, but there are many similarities to urban versus rural life around the world. I live in between. We're just outside a small town which is about 30 minutes from a small city. As much as I love our place, I sometimes really long for a more quiet, secluded location. Looking outside our back door looks like country, but looking outside our front door looks more like suburbia. The saddest thing is that almost no one is connected to the land or weather. In fact, all our neighbors think we're nuts. It's a very isolated feeling, because in theory I agree that a like-minded community is a must, but we have to work on alone in our chosen lifestyle.

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    1. We like all our neighbours, they're hard working folks. But they too, think we're nuts sometimes. Especially when it comes to digging by hand. In fact, doing lots of things by hand. They shake their heads and say, "I couldn't do that", and suggest that's what earth movers are for. It's all good natured dialogue. No offence is meant and none is taken.

      I have found odd neighbours like us though, just not living in our street. And we're often so busy doing our land stuff, we have no time for socialising. We chat in passing. Which IS the lonely part. Doing all those hard yards by yourselves.

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  5. All so true Liz, at the moment I am having the experience of splitting my time between Brisbane where hubby is in hospital and home on the Darling Downs and I am appreciating the rural life as a respite.

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    1. I'm so glad home is a respite for you Barb. When we travel from Brisbane, back home, it's generally after Christmas, so more favourable conditions than your recent commutes. But when you start to separate from the Brisbane traffic, and see the home stretch on quieter roads, it's such a wonderful feeling knowing that home is coming.

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  6. We live regional, as opposed to rural, but hope to live rural this year :) we have similar issues with our post to you, I have no idea where things go or what routes they follow...I believe Australia post is the issue as courier companies can get stuff here from interstate quicker than we can get stuff from Sydney ( we live 1hr 45 from Sydney. ) similar issues with hospital care, but probably more available here? Honestly, where I live is quiet, as it is on the out skirts of town, but there is light pollution, smell pollution ( I said to my partner, I want to live where I can't smell the neighbours highly perfumed washing powder! ) and a degree of noise pollution in terms of mowers, edgers, chainsaws and power tools. Strangely we rarely hear any kid nois, except for the rabble ours make lol

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  7. We have a teenager, who is just starting to discover the bonds of close friends. So she yearns to be in town with them, whenever possible. My husband loves the gyms in the city. My idea of a good time in the city, is a picnic in the botanical garden. I hate driving, parking and walking in crowds otherwise. It's much nicer out here.

    Although as Leigh mentioned earlier, it's the isolation which can become somewhat of a burden. So it's nice to be able to pop into town every now and again, for our top-up of human interaction. We live in what is termed a "semi-rural estate", or lifestyle acreage. Everyone who moves out here, generally appreciates the separation from the bustle of city living. But in many ways it's just glorified suburbia too. Hardly anyone is using their land for production. And while we're all good neighbours to each other, we're really too busy to dedicate much time, building our bonds. This isn't a complaint. Just talking reality.

    What I like most about living rurally though, is not having to be tied into municipal infrastructure changes. We manage our own water and sewerage, so it changes only when we want it to. We don't have to front up money, because upgrades are needed to accommodate more households. We front up, only what we need to. I also appreciate how living independent from municipal society, I've opened my eyes to the realities of life and death. When you're allowed to keep animals, and lots of them, you encounter the truth of life. It involves aspects of death which are not pleasant. But oh so necessary. When I didn't have that understanding, I could decide what was right on a whim - without knowledge of the truth. So living rurally, has kept me more grounded and more real.

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  8. Very interesting post, Liz.
    We live 2 hours south of Sydney. Wollongong is one hour away, and Nowra, a town of 30,000 is 15 minutes drive away so I would describe ourselves as living in regional Australia. Not rural so much, although we have beef cattle grazing across the road.
    One positive thing I would like to add about living out of cities, and it follows on from tending to know everyone in town. When you engage a local tradie, chances are your children will go to school together, or you'll play tennis together, or they'll be someone's neighbours. It means you can have a fair amount of trust in them because news of any shoddy work or funny business will get round the community in a minute. That is very reassuring.
    I love being woken up by the birds!
    I grew up smack bang in the middle of Sydney, but my husband is a Queensland country boy who did not want to live in Sydney long term. Leaving Sydney but staying in NSW was our compromise when we left the city 18 years ago. I was not convinced when I left, but it would take a very unusual set of circumstances for us to even consider going back to the city now.

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  9. This is a good post for thought.

    I was reared on a 7,500 acre farming property on the far west coast of South Australia. I suppose you could call it remote considering it is an eight hour drive to Adelaide from there. We moved years ago for work, but we are still three hours north of Adelaide. I am always glad to get home after a couple of days in the big smoke. All those people and hustle and bustle. No thanks.

    I have never had the desire to live in the city. I lived in the town for a while, but felt suffocated by the closed in yards and neighbours just over the fence. So we found a couple of acres just outside of this town.

    I am a country gal through and through and love the space. I agree that the internet is really good for online ordering as we don't have many stores here. I usually stock up when in Adelaide :)

    xTania

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  10. I don't understand why people complain about lack of things in the regions.
    Why try and have both when in reality, having all the things you miss means your environment will be much the same as the big town anyway.
    At least you know the services you are missing are available and can have a holiday and see them. As for thinking the other locals are a bit, unworldly, I think you may find they have wonderful experiences to share if you just talk with them.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. We are currently renovating a house and not being able to buy decent paintbrushes locally has been a real pain! I don't want a holiday to "see" things, I want to be able to buy the things I need without driving 2 hours each way or having to order online a week in advance. However, I agree, if we lived in a bigger city with such conveniences, we would lose the quiet country lifestyle that I love. Not complaining at all, just telling people the reality.
      As for the locals being unworldly, that must be a kind term for ignorant racists homophobes. I think it is truly an unpleasant place for anyone who is not white with an Australian accent, I have many foreign friends living here who have told me the sort of comments they have to put up with. This is something that people should know before moving too!

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    2. People should share the challenges of their existence, no matter where they choose to call home. Not only does it help those who share the same challenges, feel like part of a community that understands - but it also educates those who may not have experience in the same region.

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