What a big place, Australia is. It’s huge. With a land mass of over 7,000,000 square kilometres and over 34,000 kilometres of coastline and with a population of only 21,000,000 people, there is a lot of space. A lot of space. In comparison, the USA has a land mass of just over 9,000,000 square kilometres which is about 22% bigger than Australia, but with a population of over 300,000,000, more than 15 times more than Australia.
The Commonwealth of Australia has 6 states (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia) and 2 territories (Northern Territory and The Australian Capital Territory) of which each has a capital city. In between these capital cities there is hundreds or thousands of kilometres of road. Along each road is dotted with small communities, which in Australia we call towns. Don’t be fooled. It is these towns that are the life blood of Australia as they are the ones with the primary industries that support the people in the big cities.
When you compare the population and land masses between Australia and the USA you begin to appreciate the massive distances between towns. It is huge. It is not uncommon for people to drive 10 hours each way to visit a specialist because their local doctors are just general practitioners and the expertise required is over 1,000 kilometres away in the bigger hospitals. In case of emergencies, rural Australian’s must rely on The Royal Flying Doctor Service to fly them to help. The RFDS is a not for profit organisation which doesn’t charge for its services and relies on the government and the community to keep its 50 odd planes in the air. In fact, without the community the RFDS would probably struggle to stay in the air and peoples’ lives would be in jeopardy.
So community is very important to rural Australia. It is not uncommon to see fundraising events like quiz nights, bachelor and spinster balls, BBQ’s, bingo nights, chook raffles etc which all raise funds for worthy causes, like the RFDS.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of communities supporting each other was during the horrific Black Saturday bushfires which ravaged the Victorian rural countryside on February 7, 2009. 173 people died with scores more injured and thousands of homes lost. It was the worst natural disaster in Australian history. Yet from the ashes the community banded together. The world renowned Aussie mateship came to the fore and strangers helped people like never before. The country rallied. The call went out and millions of dollars was raised to assist those devastated by the fires. It wasn’t just people in the bush who contributed. People from the cities gave by the bucket loads. Many hopped in their cars and drove thousands of kilometres to assist the people to start the process of rebuilding. Volunteer fire fighters from around the country, left their desks at their normal jobs, kissed their spouses and kids goodbye, pulled on their yellow protective suits and headed to the inferno to assist people they had never met. It is fair to say that these brave men and women along with members of the SES (State Emergency Service) and all volunteers show what the true meaning of community is. It’s about helping your mates. It’s about helping your neighbours. It’s about helping your fellow man.
So next time you see a donation tin at the local shops, or see a sausage sizzle to support the local SES or RFB, dig deep and support where you can. Whether it is volunteering for Meals on Wheels, or at the local hospital reading to the elderly or playing with sick kids, it is assisting your local community.
Australia is a big place and it is filled of thousands of little communities. Each community is unique and has their own way of doing things. The outback towns of North Queensland to the small communities in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia, to the small dairy communities of Tasmania all differ but one thing is common. They support each other.
It is safe to say that without the little communities then Australia would cease to function as I am sure would most countries around the world if their own communities stopped working together. So join in and contribute and make your community the best it can be.
I recently became aware of a little community in the United States, called Grand Rapids in Michigan. They have a great little network of citizens who meet and network to promote their own town. I believe that a lot of Australian towns could benefit from a structured and combined effort to promote their own community and if they use Grand Rapids as an example, then business could boom. Click here for a link to their website.
So tell me about your community. What makes it so special? What do you do to promote your community not only locally but nationally and internationally? What is your community renowned for?