'Community pride': Residents urged to change region culture

EVERY Gladstone resident has a role to play to encourage teens to choose to stay in the region or to return to start a family or their career.

With the region's population expected to grow by a slim two per cent between 2017-2030, leading demographer Bernard Salt has challenged Gladstone residents to make an effort to change the area's culture.

Mr Salt told The Observer the region must champion local success stories to change young people's attitudes towards the Port City.

He said the solution to retain youth was bigger than blaming politicians, businesses or universities for not offering enough training, employment or educational opportunities.

"I would think that there is a culture of people citing people who used to live there and saying 'that person who is a famous sportsperson used to live here'," Mr Salt said.

"What you're actually doing when you showcase and remark upon people who are famous and used to live here is you're sending a subliminal message to every 16-year-old that success is measured by success somewhere else.

"Whereas you should be saying 'look at that 28-year-old he plays footy on the weekend or she plays netball on a weekend, they had started a business, employed two apprentices and they make a contribution to the local community - isn't that terrific'.


Bernard Salt.
NUMBERS: Bernard Salt. Contributed

"I think anything we can do to cultivate community pride is a good thing."

Mr Salt's analysis of Queensland Government projections found Gladstone lost its teen cohort straight out of high school.

"The issue is do they come back in their late 40s or their early-to-mid 30s?" he said.

"What everyone can do is talk the place up, be positive and show young people there is a range of things you can do locally.

"If you need to go to Brisbane, that's fine, but come back.

"And if you don't go to Brisbane, terrific, you can start a business here, start a family here, you can afford to buy a home here, you can get a university education here, you can do whatever you want to do and (Gladstone) can deliver it and everyone can do that.

"You need to show there is a pathway to success locally.

"What you say as a 30, 40, 50-year-old is absorbed by that next generation.

"It behoves the middle generation to set the agenda and to subliminally show the next generation pathways to local success that doesn't involve leaving.

"That's a soft cultural shift I think you can embrace, which requires everyone to do something."

Mr Salt said regions could reduce the outflow by improving access to tertiary education and providing more courses and training opportunities locally.

During The Observer's Future CQ forum in March CQUniversity associate vice-chancellor Gladstone Region Owen Nevin said the area needed to offer more diverse training and education pathways to retain young people.

"If there was a greater diversity for employment maybe young people could do something different to what their mum and dad do ... something that isn't a traditional Gladstone job," he said.

"Young people are moving away from Gladstone for technology start-up opportunities."

Prof Nevin said the region also needed to celebrate the opportunities it already had.

Mr Salt's analysis found Agnes Water experienced an increase in small business enterprises during the time it was connected to the National Broadband Network.

"That ability to be able to work within the region, and the lifestyle you'd get working from Agnes Water, is a great attraction," Prof Nevin said.

Fellow panellist Roseberry Queensland general manager Colleen Tribe said the region needed to offer more youth support.

She said there needed to be a change to how the region approached education, to address the increasing number of young people leaving school in Year 9-10.

"We need to think more futuristic in how we provide education services and consider alternative services for these young people who can't cope in the mainstream education system," Ms Tribe said.

Ms Tribe said Roseberry's alternative learning services was full and had a waiting list.

"We need to look at what does education look like for these students because it's not sitting at a desk in a classroom like traditional education," she said.