Treechangers despair at rural life

19 Apr, 2009 03:23 PM

FRAZZLED treechangers are disappointed by the stress of rural life and not being made welcome by the locals.

A majority of those who moved from Sydney to the bush faced more negatives than positives in their move, a new study has found.

And about 90 per cent of them are so disenchanted they plan to move on - to another town, the coast or back to the city - within five years.

Many said they felt "deeply disappointed" at the cool greeting they received, said study leader Angela Ragusa, a sociologist at Bathurst's Charles Sturt University.

"About 50pc felt they didn't fit into the community, that there was a sense they had to have several generations born and buried in the area to be a local.

"They didn't know how to connect with locals and some didn't try, they didn't know where to start - so they moved out or stayed in their new house and then felt isolated.

"Many would like to move back to the city, but can no longer afford it and become quite disgruntled about that."

Dr Ragusa said city residents had to cope with poor health care, poor road quality, fewer work opportunities, expensive food, lack of entertainment, obesity, lack of ethnic diversity, difficulty making friends, conservatism and narrow-mindedness.

She interviewed 50 treechangers in NSW and north-eastern Victoria and found many had a romantic and optimistic view that life in the country offered a better lifestyle than metropolitan Australia.

"These people didn't do enough research before they moved," she said.

Only 2pc researched their new locale before moving from the city. Many subsequently discovered living costs were higher than expected, complaining of a lack of cheap rental housing, overpriced properties and expensive food and petrol.

Monash University Centre for Population and Urban Research director Bob Birrell said the economic downturn will force people to keep fleeing Sydney in search of a better lifestyle.

He said Sydney has had a net exodus of more than 20,000 people a year. Yet, Dr Birrell said, while the treechange phenomenon is a "nice aspiration", it is impractical for people who need to find employment.

Retired treechangers were more able to find contentment with country life than people who were still trying to work, Dr Ragusa said.

"People who still wanted career progression were particularly disappointed by their treechange. Those that didn't want to climb the career ladder were more likely to be happy," she said.

In Dungog, 2½ hours north of Sydney, McElwaine Property principal Natasha McElwaine said 90pc of buyers were from the city and wanted to find a weekend retreat or permanent home surrounded by space and a rural lifestyle.

"Once upon a time, our buyers wanted 1000 acres, but then they realised how much work it was to run such a large property, so now 55- to 100-acre parcels are more popular," she said.

SQM Research analyst Louis Christopher said it was vital that people researched the town and check whether population statistics were growing or declining.

"A successful move to the country means moving to a town with a diverse economic base - either in commodities like gold or soft commodities like cattle - and a growing or stable population base."

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19/04/2009 5:10:05 PM

Some of these people must wander the earth with blind folds on. Living in rural Australia is hardwork, it's not a matter of buying your plot, a couple of animals and thinking everything's going to be beer and skittles. Rural Australia has only been trying to get conditions resembling the cities, (doctors nurses, public transport etc) for I don't know, as long as I can remember. With these tree changers becoming disgruntled and upset it's only a matter of time before they start lobbying their local councils to put bans on such things as machinery operations after certain hours, burning off, chemical use and the like. Won't this endear them to the local communities who rely on these things to make a living. People need to spend a little bit more time and effort looking into the decisions they make not only in this case but many other areas of life that people think should be the way they dreamed it.
19/04/2009 6:08:23 PM

This is really sad that urban people can be so insulated from the real world, and when confronted by it, run back to their city security blanket. A real insight into the rural-city polarisation this country has invested so heavily in.
20/04/2009 3:36:45 AM

People wonder why others are not accepted & it's no wonder when they have been branded a certain type of person. Investors are not the original kind of cocky & investors are just that, "investors". There are real people who make the farming life what it once was, the way of life & there are people who make it less than friendly, or should I say less realistic.
20/04/2009 5:26:06 AM

I have recently moved onto the land near a small village and I love it. I have spent most of my life living in country towns so for me it is great to get closer to the gum trees. I love country living and have no problem moving from town to town because the bush is my home rather than a particular town. Country living - it is not for everyone. My advice to meet people is sport - footy, cricket, lawn bowls etc. The all need players, administrators, fund raisers and volunteers.
20/04/2009 5:41:20 AM

I know only too well the feeling. Moved to a country town where my grandparents and mother originally came from. I have given up trying to make friends. I support all the locals in business and offer work to the locals first. They either don't want the job, don't turn up or don't want to give a tax invoice. Or want sexual favours in return for a job done. I am now down to two people who are willing to do a few hours work honestly. Of course the drought etc does not help. If only locals realised that new blood and new ideas are needed for every local area to survive. I will be moving back closer to the city to a different area, and am already making arrangements to do so. Where the neighbours are much more friendly and do not look upon your with suspicion.
20/04/2009 7:15:06 AM

When, for health reasons, we were forced to move out of the city many years ago, I thought that my world had come to an end. I had just gotten the job that I had been working so hard to get for a number of years, we had finally paid off our mortgage, kids were nearly off our hands and life was good. That was changed in and instant when a serious health problem was diagnosed for my husband and we were forced to move to a cooler climate away from the tropics and out of the city. We bought a large property in the middle of woop woop in Southern Qld and for the first two years I thought that I would die of loneliness and boredom. However, as I had no choice but to make the best of, for me at that time, a bad situation, I accepted it and got on with life. At first the local people were wary of us, especially as my husband is an immigrant, with a funny accent. I thought the same thing as another correspondant, that one had to be born in a family that had lived for several generations in the area. However, with time, we got to know the local people and we found work to do on our property breeding animals and one day, we realised that we were a part of the community and were loving the life in the bush. We don't need to pay people to help us on the property, because in our local community, when we have a job to do that we as a couple can't handle, our friends lend us a hand. Whether it be burning off, mustering cattle, drenching stock or whatever, they are there to help - as we are for them. My advice to other tree changers - give it time. Join in community activities, find out who your neighbours are and give them a call (after 7 p.m. and before as they are probably working on the property during the day and go to bed early because they get up with the birds) and invite them for a cuppa. It takes time to get to know bush folk, but believe me, unlike the city, if you are ever in trouble they will be there to give you a hand and they won't expect to much thanks for it, because that's just what you do in the bush, where the spirit of mateship does still exist. Go back to the city? Wouldn't do it for quids. Barbara.
Loving Life
20/04/2009 7:20:45 AM

How sad to hear this. I lived in Sydney for 62 years, and never experienced country life at all. A year ago I bought a 300 acre property near Dorrigo, and I think it was the best move I ever made. I am lucky that I have retired, so don't need to find work. But the main issue here is the wonderful warm welcome I received from everyone I have met. And it's not only me. My sister moved up here about the same time, and totted up the list of new friends she'd made in her first 6 months - her list came to 70. She reckons that in her 55 years in Sydney she couldn't have made that many friends. Others we have met who've moved here from other places have the same comment.
20/04/2009 7:41:47 AM

Isn't it interesting that people want to come from the city to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the country. Well, when they find it let me know! What do city people think we do all day, sit back on our rocking chairs on the back verandah and watch the world go by - yeah, right! Country people virtually have to fight for everything they have put their life into and lately the majority of us have been watching that slowly slip away due to fire, floods and drought. The only peace of mind that we get is being able to talk to others within the community that are going through the same ordeal. When someone from the city comes along with big and wonderful ideas and wondering why we haven't done this before, it's because we are all too busy treading water and trying to keep our heads above the financial tide that seems to be getting deeper each day. Like one person said, if you are going to come out to the country, involve yourself in sport and other community committees and events. The more you are involved, the more you will become accepted, however this process can take at least three years, unless you are already known by the locals.
the lorax
20/04/2009 7:51:14 AM

What do you think is going to happen when a heap of left wing greenies move into the conservative country. The loss or changing identity of the country folk must be confronting, made all the worse by the treechangers expecting to be immediately accepted. You need to prove your worth in the country. What I object to but understand is the bogan element in the country, the feral that actively punishes the tree changers for being new or diffferent. I moved to a medium sized town and was abused by a local - because I had moved into town and was not a local. Never mind I had moved form a town of 300 several hours further into the country to a big town, I was still not a local (I understand that) but I was also a townie. Never mind I had spent most of my life on cattle and sheep stations, I was not country enough for this sedan driving bogan who had never left thier 1/4 of an acre. I was ashamed for all country people. If this is what you dish up, and I have seen it time and time again, uneducated feral country folk who think they own the place. I wonder how you would feel if you were treated the same when you go into town. A note of advice for the tree changers - get involved - join the RFS or CFA, join the footy club and the netball club. Country towns work because people put in. The country cannot survive if tree changers come and think that everything will be delievered on a plate like in the city, join the ag society, join rotary or the lions, join the school board, you must give before you take.
20/04/2009 7:56:12 AM

This is a good discussion. I moved with my family to a rural/regional area two and a half years ago. We now live in a town of about 2,000, about 30 mins away from a town of 10,000. For the first two years I worked from home, which was great, but I recently lost that job and now have to commute to a major city and stay with relatives, only coming home for the weekends. So I regularly get to expereince the difference between the two 'worlds'. I think people coming from the city do have to work through their 'expectations' of rural/regional life. I think a lot of those expectations are inaccurate and based on romanticised ideas. Having said that I think that rural/regional people also have negative prejudices about city folk. On the plus side, city folk bring new ideas and fresh blood to an area. The locals offer solid and reliable social networks that they have developed in order to survive and (hopefully) thrive in a tough environment. With a bit of give and take from both sides, I think the tree change phenomenon can be the catalyst for rejuvenation in many areas that are clearly doing it tough. At the end of the day there are many thing locals and treechangers want in common. Let's find out what those things are.
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