Government and media campaigns are encouraging us all to visit fire-affected and other rural communities to help support local economies.
But getting out to rural areas across the state, indeed across Australia, is not just good for rural communities.
It’s good for us and our children too.
And not just because of the incredible festivals some of these places put on, the local markets with locally grown produce or the award-winning sausage rolls baked in the ovens of local bakeries.
Getting out into rural areas is good for us and our children because we can learn first-hand about the hardships our fellow Australians face, but also see how they adapt and cope with them. The resilience of these people and these communities is inspiring and sets a wonderful example for all of us.
As the green of Melbourne fades in the rear view mirror and is replaced by crisp dry grass or bare rocks and soil, school is in. This is what our family learnt from approximately 6000kms on the road this summer:
- Australia is a huge country and subject to a vast range of soil and climatic conditions. Our trip up the middle of New South Wales and into Queensland on the Newell Highway showed us a wide range of land – from prosperous farmland to dry, desert-like conditions. For some Aussies, it’s home.
- The conditions are volatile too. Australia is indeed a place of “drought and pouring rains”. Much of our trip through the barren landscape up the Newell was in 40+ degree heat. In those conditions it’s hard to imagine that it ever rains there. In fact, marking the sides of much of the highway are flood markers, suggesting that it not only rains, it floods. And a mere four weeks on since our time there, many places have flooded.
- Australians care about each other. In late December we met two inspiring women in Lightning Ridge – a mother and daughter duo. Over breakfast at a local cafe they heard us deliberating about our trip that day to Goondiwindi and piped in with their local knowledge to help plan our trip. As we shared our story and they told us their’s, we learned they were accepting handouts from local businesses to keep food on their family’s table. They didn’t know how long they would be able to stay on their farm, which had been in their family for generations. But not only did they go out of their way to help us navigate the next stage of our trip (including recommended food stops and landmarks), they talked with deep concern for the people affected by the bushfires.
- We are resilient too. To me there is no better symbol of resilience in the face of brutal conditions than the silo and water tower art in many outback towns (for where you can find them, see www.australiansiloarttrail.com/). We visited the silos at Thallon (population 257) in Southern Queensland. At Thallon, the Grain Corp Silos have been painted to showcase icons of the area and the presentation is simply stunning (see top photo on this post). The signs providing background to the project state:
“The Silos mural project means a great deal to the Thallon Community as the town has suffered many setbacks over the years with population decline and business closure. We believe this project marks a turning point for the community.”
There are less obvious symbols like these too all over the countryside – the Christmas displays along roads (often featuring a piece of discarded farm machinery and some tinsel) and in rural townships. And, of course, the locals themselves, like the women in Lightning Ridge.
So definitely go bush – go fishing, hiking, camping or searching for the best sausage roll or potato cake. Take a look around you too – see what it’s like to live outside a capital city if that’s where you’re from. And talk to the locals – hear what it’s like to live a vastly different life to your own. Their story might give you a new perspective. It might inspire and uplift you too.
Yes, your trip will be good for local communities.
And it will be good for you too.