THE COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a regional Australia renaissance if governments, businesses and communities work together, regional advocates say.
The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) held a webinar to discuss how rural and regional parts of the country could bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.
Regional Health and Communications Minister Mark Coulton said there was definitely an opportunity to turn the pandemic into an positive by encouraging more people to the regions.
"I think [post-pandemic] a lot of people will be looking at a town where they can buy my own house, where the kids can walk to school, walk to sport, and not be paying a mortgage off for the rest of their life," Mr Coulton said.
"I'm a great silver-lining person. I think the silver lining of this terrible pandemic is that the regions are going to come out of this stronger than their city cousins."
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank managing director Marnie Baker said the social distancing rules had stripped away one of the biggest barriers people faced when considering a tree change - their career.
"It's really clear to me that you don't have to live where you work anymore, you can live where you love," Ms Baker said.
"Big careers and big businesses don't have to revolve around big offices in big cities.
"That's never been more evident than in the past few months since the onset of social distancing, with increasing numbers of people working from home."
Ms Baker wants more of the nation's biggest companies to encourage their employees to live and work outside of the major cities.
"We need more businesses that should be encouraged to move or establish a presence in regional communities," she said.
"COVID has exposed an inherent weakness of basing 40 per cent of the country's population in two capital cities.
"So reinvesting into regions, making them more accessible, more attractive and productive places to live and work, it's going to be really important as a national step."
RAI chief executive Liz Ritchie said last year her organisation published a paper which recommended a national awareness campaign, "to promote the opportunities in regional Australia to live, work and invest".
Mr Coulton one of the reasons people don't move to the bush was due to "the message we give them".
"I live within 50 kilometers of where I grew up, in a town of 1200 people and I love it, I wouldn't live anywhere else," Mr Coulton said.
"But when the folks from cities turn on the TV, for the last couple of years they've seen piles of dead fish, empty rivers, bushfires and drought.
"They're issues that we deal with and they're issues that have been difficult, but they don't define who we are.
"If we want the bush to grow and prosper, we've got to stop talking it down. We've got to talk about the opportunities that are here."
Ms Baker agreed the language around regional and rural Australia needed to be reframed - such as the term decentralisation.
"That's quite a negative word, because you're taking something away to put it somewhere else," Ms Baker said.
She prefers the term 'regionalisation'.
"It's interesting what happens when you do change the frame of your wording," Ms Baker said.
"Living and working in regional Australia is a huge advantage. It's not a second class thing and we shouldn't be thinking about it like being second class."
The story Pandemic could cause regional Australia renaissance first appeared on Farm Online.