How the SDGs Will Help Rural Australia
Updated: Nov 4, 2018
Image credit: dutchy_42
As of 2015, just over 10% of our population lives in rural areas of Australia. As part of the promise to leave no one behind, we must ensure that we are achieving the Global Goals for all Australians, including those living in remote and rural areas. Here’s how the goals will assist those living in rural areas of Australia.
According to the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA), there is a greater percentage of the population in rural areas living below the poverty line than in cities. However, due to the greater number of people living in cities, there is a higher number of people living below the poverty line in cities.
Goal 2 includes a strong focus on sustainable agricultural practices. With many of those living in rural and remote areas engaging in farming activities, Goal 2 will have a significant impact on their lives, including increasing production, in turn increasing incomes – in fact, doubling productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers. Sustainable practices also include practices, which ensure the food produced is safe to eat, without any issues related to genetically modified food not well digested by the human body.
Statistics demonstrate that many rural Australians face greater health challenges than their urban counter parts due to access to healthcare and level of education. This does not just include physical health but mental health also.
It has also been reported by the SDA that the need for childcare institutions is greater in rural and remote areas than in city areas. This extends beyond childcare services and to educational institutions in general at the primary secondary and tertiary level, which as pointed out above, affects other goals including Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being.
Changing perceptions on gender means allowing women to enter into work of their choice without preconceived societal expectations of what work is appropriate or inappropriate for women. Traditionally, there has been a strong misapprehension that women should not engage in farming work. However, with the rise of gender equality, we have seen an increase of female farmers across remote and rural Australia.
Ensuring a sustainable supply of water to remote and rural areas is essential. Ensuring this supply of water is safe for all Australians to drink is just as important. Earlier this year, I wrote about the need to achieve Goal 6 across the country; in this article, I wrote about a young boy by the name of Lincoln Cash who lived in a remote area of Australia who tragically lost his life due to a freshwater borne disease. While these cases are rare across Australia, it is essential we put a stop to them by 2030.
Access to energy is just as important for those living in remote and rural areas. Not only that, but renewable energy in some remote and rural areas across the country is far easier to come by than in the city. It is also far easier to focus on a small area to convert to renewable energy than on a whole-state basis. Check out these 9 Aussie towns on their way to 100% renewables!
The amount of job advertisements for remote and rural Australia is astonishing – there are so many employers looking for people to work in areas outside of the city. However, many of these jobs are offering less than the same job in an urban area. With a high number of universities based in urban city areas, many young people are moving to urban areas to study with not as many returning to rural areas upon graduation. It is vital to ensure jobs in remote and rural areas are paying as much, if not more, than city jobs to encourage people to return to their hometowns, increasing the services available, including healthcare and education.
The biggest issue facing rural Australians when it comes to infrastructure is that of infrastructure to support an improved supply of fresh, safe water. There has also been an expressed concern about the sealing of frequently used roads and the extension of other roads in remote and rural areas across the country. Many people living in remote and rural communities also raise the question of their access to the internet. This is currently being addressed by the roll-out of the NBN.
A greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in remote and rural areas than in urban areas. In many of the goals and their targets, it is Indigenous people who have been most left behind. Closing the gap between the statistics on Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians in relation to the goals will be bolstered through a focus on achieving the goals in remote and rural Australia.
Target 11.a specifically references improving the links between urban, peri-urban and rural development. Coming from a small town background myself, I know the importance of community in remote and regional Australia. There are many organisations working towards this including one of our partners, the Bonnie Doon Community Group! Check out their incredible story here!
At this current point in time, we are wasting an incredible amount of food each year. Target 12.3 aims to halve per capita global food wastage at the retail and consumer levels while reducing food losses through improving efficiency along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses. This will have a phenomenal impact on farmers and pastoralists across the country.
Climate change is currently a major challenge for Australian farmers and will continue to be an increasingly difficult factor. This does not just include the increasing number of hot days and heatwaves but also the changing rainfall patterns across the country and the increase of extreme weather events. You can read a report from the Climate Council on this topic here.
When we think of rural and remote Australia, we do not frequently think of the coast. However, there are many small towns along the coast of Australia which many small-scale artisanal fishers call home. Target 14.b calls on our political leaders to provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets. It also touches on issues around overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices, which affect the livelihoods and incomes of these small-scale artisanal fishers.
Protecting the land is vitally important for many Australians living in remote and rural areas. Protecting biodiversity, eliminating alien species and protecting ecosystems and halting land degradation allows the livelihoods and farmers and pastoralists to flourish. Our ecosystem is incredibly delicate, especially in Australia given its uniqueness; therefore, it is vital that we protect it as much as possible to avoid any possible disruptions.
Ensuring those living in remote and rural areas are being heard at the political level is incredibly important in addressing the challenges listed above. The best way to do this is to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making.
These changes cannot just be made through not-for-profits or through political action. We need the involvement of large companies. One such example is that of BHP Billiton who have made an ongoing commitment to employing Indigenous Australians to close the gap. By 2020, BHP aims to have 10% of their workforce made up of Indigenous Australians to provide education, training and employment opportunities, which as discussed above, has a big impact on rural and remote communities given there is a greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in rural Australia than in urban areas. Furthermore, the development of new technologies for farming such as robotic tractors and innovative ways to monitory stock is of vital importance.
While conducting research for this article, it was remarkable the lack of information we have available on those living in rural Australia and the difficulties they face. The Global Goals Australia Campaign is committed to working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and politicians from around the country to improve the access to data and statistics on Australians living in remote and rural communities.