By Stuart Shepherd, ECD, Redhanded

Since the very first days of settlement, farming has been the lifeblood of this country. Other than mining, farming has been one of the most important contributors to the ongoing growth and success of the nation. So why don’t most Australians recognise the people living in regional and rural Australia as innovators?

An article published by the National Farmers’ Federation back in 2017, found that 83 per cent of Australians describe their connection with farming as “distant” or “non-existent”. Despite this cultural barrier, people living outside the concrete jungle are ‘getting on with it’, using the power of creativity as the catalyst. I am constantly amazed at what is being done in regional Australia to spark growth and a new exciting era of prosperity.

The traditional rhetoric around growing up in country Australia is that the ‘creative / innovative types’ have to escape to the city the first chance they get if they want to pursue their passions. This self-perpetuating idea has been responsible for a bleeding of talent and a shrinking youth population in these communities. Leaving much of the media to paint a drab and inaccurate picture of what regional Australia is like. Slow, downtrodden, unsophisticated and lacking imagination and creativity. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

While innovation has always been central to the way isolated communities continue to progress, increasing digital accessibility has meant more of the outside world is now also influencing and driving creativity. This appetite for innovation, paired with unprecedented access to influence and information, has allowed individuals to think beyond what a metro-centric world has previously deemed them capable of.

What we have seen over the past few years is undeniable, rural and regional Australia is becoming increasingly understood as a cultural and artistic place. With these communities fostering the arts in unprecedented ways – a necessity that enriches the lives of those living in these areas and strengthening communities. And we have seen time and time again, when communities prosper culturally, they inevitably prosper economically.

Studies conducted by the government body, the Australia Council for the Arts, show a marked increase in the recognition in regional Australia of the positive impacts of the arts on their daily lives and communities.
And we’re seeing these findings coming to life through programs and community funded art and cultural initiatives.

From the community funded Silo Art throughout Victoria and South Australia, to programs such as Dreaming Big for Little Girls, we’re teaching young people that their communities support them, value their talents and artistic endeavours, and ultimately, that this is where they belong. This extends to many facets of belonging. We have seen greater engagement in indigenous Australian art and culture in recent years, as well as extending interpretations of the arts to reflect the cultural diversity of Australia – especially as migrant communities in regional areas continue to grow. These spaces become a focus for learning and celebration of both our differences and what brings us together.

From the farmers looking to find additional streams of income by introducing on-farm eco accommodation and farm experiences, to the wineries, cafes, restaurants and breweries enticing you in by the way they celebrate and embrace their local produce or the international art exhibitions, trails and music festivals. Regional Australia draws you in with its cultural influence, inclusiveness and creativity that continues to cross the great divide.

We want to ensure that those who are in rural and regional areas are offered the same opportunities as those living in the nation’s capital cities. By creating industry specific opportunities for a regionally placed workforce, we will see a myriad of benefits. These regional communities will benefit economically and culturally, individuals will have freedom to choose the lifestyle that works for them. Least of which, a more diverse workforce – one with varying backgrounds, understandings and influences. For an industry such as advertising, where success is contingent on understanding those you’re hoping to communicate with, it is almost unfathomable that we have not looked to rural and regional Australia for talent until now.

AWARD School is one of the leading creative courses in Australia. For over 35 years it has been providing aspiring creatives, copywriters and art directors in Australia with an opportunity to start fulfilling careers in advertising and communications.

For the first time this premier creative course will be open to those living in regional Victoria. The Communications Council is partnering with Redhanded, to bring the Regional Victoria AWARD School to life.

The regional course will be run over 12 weeks. Students based in regional areas will use video streaming to attend lectures on Tuesday nights and tutorials on Thursday nights. Successful applicants will be covering 10 briefs, inspiring idea generation across a range of different mediums, with focus on the many new digital opportunities available to advertising professionals.

An exciting initiative driven by Redhanded, an advertising agency who specialise in communicating to regional and rural audiences in both Australia and NZ. We want to find the voices that represent more of Australia, creating a future where these voices are invited to create and communicate throughout the country.