Should I stay or should I go? Giving young people a new reason to stay, or come back to outback Queensland
Kristine Arnold from RAPAD is encouraging startups in one of the most sparsely populated and remote regions in the state.
Young people are either leaving outback Queensland for the city, or staying and struggling to find work. But what if they could create their own jobs?
“We realise that at the moment the biggest export out of our region is probably our young people,” says Kristine Arnold from Central Western Queensland organisation RAPAD.
“They go away to boarding school, or they go away to university, and it’s not because they finish on the last day of school and want to leave. It’s that they have to go away in a lot of instances to secure study or a career,” she says.
Kristine says this is why they have set up an innovation program in the remote region.
“One of the things that we really want to have come out of our innovation program is that we have that ability to say well it doesn’t matter where you live, you can pursue your career of choice from out here,” Kristine says.
A collaboration between seven local Councils of Central Western Queensland, RAPAD works on projects, like their innovation program, that individual Councils may not have the resources to focus on.
They are setting up co-working spaces, exploring scale up and startup mentoring programs and are planning events like startup weekends; to help connect local innovators.
Their co-working space in Longreach, The ROXY, is just in its infancy but already hosts the ARTLife app team, a photo organising startup who recently won QUT Creative Enterprise Australia’s Startup Weekend, who Kristine is also a part of. RAPAD are on the hunt for a second space in Barcaldine.
Co-working spaces, with reliable internet and video conferencing capability, are helping locals overcome difficulties with connectivity.
“One of our staff headed out to Windorah yesterday, and I was quite surprised when I received a text message when he arrived, but then I realised in the last month they have actually got mobile coverage out there. That’s the sort of thing we are battling in our region. What people in metropolitan areas take for granted,” explains Kristine.
“Connectivity is the biggest thing. We are fairly resilient and we’re innovative people out here. We are trying to provide the infrastructure, the work space and the connectivity for people,” she says.
Earlier this year Kristine was supported by Advance Queensland to go to Silicon Valley on the Leaders Mission. She came back to Longreach full of ideas to develop their co-working spaces.
She also attended Myriad, Queensland’s landmark innovation and investment summit in March, using the opportunity to connect with other regional innovators. Unfortunately ex-cyclone Debbie hit Brisbane that the same weekend.
“I’ve never been to an event that had the potential to be completely annihilated by a weather event that was just so resilient and back up and running. Everybody just went, oh well, we’ll be back tomorrow,” says Kristine.
Kristine thinks there is huge value in regional Queenslanders attending Myriad to develop new connections and strengthen existing relationships.
“One of the things with being so geographically isolated is that, you know people from Brisbane who might go to those events may meet up at other things around, whereas for us it is potentially an $800 dollar airfare and accommodation to meet up. Myriad is great bang-for-buck; everybody is there,” she says.
She also sees potential for regional leaders and influencers, from mayors and local councillors to school and student leaders, to gain inspiration by attending Myriad.
“I don’t think there are any limitations, anyone who attends Myriad would get something out of it,” says Kristine.
Kristine is excited about RAPAD’s agenda for the future, including engaging an entrepreneur in residence.
“Somebody who will travel our region and work with anybody and everybody on business mentoring and acumen but also innovation and opening our regions eyes up to opportunities and global connections,” she says.
“We’ve got some really innovative things happening, we’re lucky we’ve got a really progressive board, our Councils are supportive and progressive and there’s a lot happening.”
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