Why Gympie’s children are dwindling and what will stop it

WANT to solve the problem of Gympie’s dwindling child numbers?

The answer is jobs, agriculture and the return of manufacturing.

It is not a matter of putting young children to work, thankfully, but rather encouraging their parents back to the region for it.

Queensland Government data reveals the region’s 0-9 age demographic is expected to drop from 6084 in 2016, to 5688 in 2026.

It is forecast to climb back to 5861 by 2036, but this is all at a time when the region’s total population is expected to soar from just over 50,000 to 58,000.

Demographer Simon Kuestenmacher says the region needs to attract 25-40-year-olds if it wants to reverse this trend, and the best way to do this is with jobs.
Demographer Simon Kuestenmacher says the region needs to attract 25-40-year-olds if it wants to reverse this trend, and the best way to do this is with jobs.

Demographics Group director of research and co-founder Simon Kuestenmacher said it was “always the same story” for regional towns, and to fix it would require tracing the dominoes backward.

“If you want more 0-4 and 0-9-year-olds, you need 25-40-year-olds,” Mr Kuestenmacher said.

To do this one thing was needed: jobs.

Mr Kuestenmacher said couples and families in the latter demographic routinely put employment at the top the list when making decisions about where they lived.

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It was here Gympie could play to its strengths as an agricultural hub, especially in the post COVID-era, when it would more likely be attractive for work than solely as a “lifestyle refuge”.

The region’s already strong agricultural background is a key foundation it can improve on. PICTURE: ZOE PHILLIPS
The region’s already strong agricultural background is a key foundation it can improve on. PICTURE: ZOE PHILLIPS

The region coul deasily escalate that growth by not just embracing agricutlural foundations but value-adding through enterprises like packing and slaughtering.

“If we do go down this route … Gympie will go ahead,’ Mr Kuestenmacher said.

This could also be applied to manufacturing, which would not only provide jobs for the middle class but enhance the country’s economic security and supply.

Gympie did need to make sure it could provide the workers for these jobs, though.

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Mr Kuestenmacher said many manufacturers “struggle to find qualified workers … it’s a real challenge”.

Not to mention the mental health benefits gained by avoiding city congestion.

“The part of your life that is the most miserable is spent when sitting in your car,” Mr Kuestenmacher said.

Simon Kuestenmacher says living in regional areas like Gympie improve mental health simply by eliminating the daily frustration of driving in traffic.
Simon Kuestenmacher says living in regional areas like Gympie improve mental health simply by eliminating the daily frustration of driving in traffic.

This was caused by the disconnect of a car that could theoretically hit speeds of 200km/h, but most of the time managed no more than 12km/h.

“That doesn’t happen in a country town,” he said, noting that more often than not commuters spent their days travelling at the speed limit.

And if it wanted to put itself on Australia’s most desirable map “a town like Gympie must be loud and proud”.

“Really push your agenda and the positive stories,” Mr Kuestenmacher said.

Gympie Times


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