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Rapid population growth puts South West in focus at national Regions Rising conference in Bunbury

Jacinta CantatoreSouth Western Times
Regional Development Minister Don Punch gave the keynote address at the Regions Rising conference in Bunbury on March 10.
Camera IconRegional Development Minister Don Punch gave the keynote address at the Regions Rising conference in Bunbury on March 10. Credit: Jacinta Cantatore

The South West is at the forefront of regional Australia’s rapid population growth, but this is driving the jobs, housing and childcare shortages in the area to near breaking point.

While regional WA has seen some of the strongest growth in capital city-to-regional migration, this has further tightened the already-stretched services, rentals and housing availability in regional areas.

The Shire of Dardanup saw the third-biggest annual growth in capital-to-regional migration last quarter, according to the institute’s latest data from the Regional Movers Index.

Donnybrook-Ballingup shire came in at number four, with annual population growth almost three times higher in 2022 than 12 months ago.

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At the same time, 89 per cent of regional West Australians live in a “childcare desert”, reducing the ability of parents to enter the workforce.

Regional job vacancies in WA are 84 per cent higher than they were five years ago. In October last year, regional Australia recorded 94,100 job vacancies.

Regional Australia Institute CEO Liz Ritchie outlined the startling figures at the institute’s national Regions Rising conference, held in Bunbury on Friday.

Attended by hundreds of community and civic leaders, business owners and key stakeholders, the event was simulcast live to a national audience focused on improving opportunities for people living in regional Australia.

Regional Development Minister Don Punch gave the keynote address at the Regions Rising conference in Bunbury on March 10.
Camera IconRegional Development Minister Don Punch gave the keynote address at the Regions Rising conference in Bunbury on March 10. Credit: Jacinta Cantatore

In a bid to tackle the over-subscribed housing, health and childcare services right across regional Australian, Ms Ritchie used the event to launch the institute’s Regional Ambition 2032.

The plan is aimed at closing the divide between city and country and putting regional Australians on a more level playing field.

Speaking at the event, Regional Development Minister Don Punch said regional growth needed to focus equally on creating economic and social opportunities for people.

“We can put in as much investment as we like, but unless people have a sense of opportunity and where they might fit, it was a real struggle,” he said.

“But equally, you could go into communities which were so prosperous but had no sense of community, no sense of engagement — (but they) equally had a soulless sense to them, a loss of vibe.

“When we think about regions, we need to think strategically about how we connect social, economic, and recognise the enviromental perspective that those regions live in.”

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