When Alex Ho was weighing up his options in his final year of high school, he didn’t expect he would soon be almost 2000km away driving tractors, playing Aussie rules and donning three blankets in a South Australian winter.
Mr Ho is one of many Australians enjoying a new life in the country and the Regional Australia Institute hopes stories such as his will convince city dwellers to take advantage of the 91,000 jobs available.
A study by the institute found nearly half of urban workers would move to regional Australia for a better salary.
Mr Ho grew up in Brisbane, but has been working on a mixed grain and sheep farm in Cummins on the Eyre Peninsula, about 275km from Adelaide, since finishing school.
“(I’m) really enjoying my time here learning something new every day,” he told AAP.
His learning wasn’t limited to the farm, either, with Mr Ho joining the local footy team.
“I was really hesitant to join because I’ve never played before and I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” he said.
It became a great way to meet friends and he was surprised he enjoyed the code after dabbling with rugby union in high school.
He plans to work in agriculture for a few years before studying in the industry and can see himself settling in the country.
A recent trip home to Brisbane to visit family had solidified his decision to move.
“I spent a week there and I was like, the traffic and the noise, the honking… no one’s really saying g’day,” he said.
“I compare that to the town I’m in now and it’s like everyone’s taking it easy and you’re more or less on a first name basis with everybody.”
But the climate has taken a bit of adjusting to.
“It’s six degrees and I’m absolutely freezing, I’ve got the heater on, the fire going and just three blankets on my bed, so that’s not too pleasant.”
Lifelong Melburnian Angela Durston-Ryan was in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic when she asked her employer for a transfer to Shepparton in northern Victoria.
The civil engineer now owns a house in the regional hub and loves being closer to the snow, but also not too far from the city.
“The community is probably the biggest thing that I love,” Ms Durston Ryan told AAP.
“Everyone’s involved and everyone looks out for you.”
RAI chief executive Liz Ritchie said the demand for regional workers was at an all time high as available jobs in capital cities declined.
“This year regional migration is up 17 per cent and it’s continuing to grow as the economic downturn prompts Australians to search for a more affordable lifestyle,” Ms Ritchie said.
She said while these figures were encouraging, many regions were playing catch-up when it came to infrastructure, services and housing.
Master Builders chief executive Denita Wawn said regional Australia offered tradies an opportunity to tap into high housing and infrastructure demand.
“Tradies who move to the regions will play a vital role in building the communities of tomorrow and contributing to the economic growth this country desperately needs,” Ms Wawn said.
National Farmers Federation boss Tony Mahar said the agriculture industry was calling out for workers.
“The career opportunities in agriculture are limitless,” Mr Mahar said.
“There is a job for everyone and every skill set right now in our farm sector.”
(Australian Associated Press)