What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “rural Australia”? Maybe it’s huge cattle stations, farm land, small communities, women’s or sports clubs? The Farmer Wants a Wife? Or boredom, decline, depression and drought?
The Australian National University conducted a survey in 2009 on this exact topic – the perception the general public has of rural Australia. According to this survey, Australian’s appear to have a fairly solid perception of what ‘rural Australia’ is, with the majority being able to correctly answer basic questions about the rural community (you can try for yourself below and see how you rate!). The survey also found that public opinion was divided about the accuracy of the portrayal of rural life in TV dramas. Apparently, McLeod’s Daughters is pretty realistic for some people.
Sounds like we’re a pretty cluey bunch.
However, only 1, 200 people were surveyed. Although the response rate was really high (40.3%), from a population of over 22 million (in 2009) that equates to only 0.0054% of the population. Which isn’t exactly a true representation of the Australian population.
So how accurate is the survey? How do Australian’s really perceive life in the rural community?
At the 2011 Annual Forum of the Grower Group Alliance, Cathy Bolt (the CBH Group media contact) introduced the idea of branding and how agriculture as a whole needs “rebranding”. The most important aspect stressed was the fact that a brand is not just a logo; your brand is your product, your service, everything that you say or do, all of the time (not just when you feel like it). Everybody in the company, sector, etc., needs to be “living the brand”. In other words, you have to live the perception you want people to have about you. Unfortunately, the general perception of ‘urbanites’ is that agriculture and the rural community is in decline. This is simply not true and means that we need to challenge the myths currently held by the public.
Professor Matthew Tonts, from The University of Western Australia, discussed the economics and social dynamics of rural communities. It was interesting to discover during the forum that agricultural regions are in fact not declining; that they are only changing and undergoing a restructure. As larger farms are more profitable, “sponge” towns or communities have been created. This basically means that some (more profitable) towns are “swallowing” others, forming larger towns and causing a shift in the location of the rural population. Please note. Change; not decline.
But change is often the hardest thing to face. The shifting Australian deomographic (i.e. rapid growth of the 70-plus cohort and the exodus of the 15 – 35 age bracket) doesn’t help.
So how do you think we can “rebrand” agriculture? Even if you aren’t in the industry, how do you view agriculture? What ideas do you have?
Questionnaire: Rate your ag knowledge! True or false?
- More than one in five Australian workers are working on farms.
- Most of Australia’s exports are farm products
- Australian farmers produce more than three times as much food and fibre as Australia consumes.
- The average age of Australian farmers is approximately 35.
- Australia is the one of the most urbanised countries in the world