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Are we still proud?

Saturday, 12th December, 2015

By Darrin Manuel

The return of the ‘Broken Hill Proud’ campaign was nostalgic for many locals, but is our sense of community as strong as it was?

 

The classic campaign from the 1990s was brought back to life by Regional Development Australia Far West in August this year, offering membership and a range of merchandise.

 

Local businesses showed plenty of early enthusiasm for the campaign but RDA Far West CEO Michael Williams said individuals had shown less interest over time.

 

“It started out very positively but it probably didn’t go as far as we’d hoped,” he said.

 

“A lot of people were glad that it was back, and had fond memories of it, but it didn’t build like we wanted.”

The tepid response led Mr Williams to ponder how the community’s views and values have changed over the last few decades.

Broken Hill has traditionally been a very proud city, with an emphasis on independence and self-sufficiency.

Its isolation and hard lifestyle gave rise to an “us and them” mentality, with locals fiercely protective of their beloved city.

But the advent of technology, greater transport options, and a dwindling population has arguably brought about a change in direction.

People often look outside the city when making major purchases, while generations of teens move interstate for better work and education opportunities.

Mr Williams said it was up to locals to try and build a better future for our children, and for the city itself.

“Out here we have big back yards, clear skies, good education and excellent sporting clubs. We have a lot to be grateful for. What’s holding us back?” he asked.

“We’ve become a bit reliant on someone else fixing our problems for us, or providing us with things.

“There’s so much negativity; that glass half full attitude; ‘there’s no water, the lead levels are too high’ or whatever the problem may be.

“A lot of people are satisfied to just say ‘oh, our population is declining’. Well, why can’t we raise the population again?”

One area where the city could find rejuvenation is by marketing itself as a lifestyle destination, said Mr Williams.

He said there would have to be a demographic of home owners in major cities who would appreciate a change of pace, and also the extra cash that would be gained by selling up and moving to the bush.

“Orange, Bathurst, Dubbo - they all push themselves as places to live, and it’s something we should be looking into.

“The mums and dads in Sydney, they’re stuck in traffic for hours, they’ve got a mortgage they’ll never pay off, they’ve got no room to kick a footy, they can’t have a dog because it will have to live inside.

“A lot of these people are asset-rich and cash-poor. They’d have to be thinking ‘there’s a better way of doing things’ and there is.”

While boosting the city’s population would be ideal as a long term strategy, Mr Williams encouraged locals to show their support in the meantime by buying local where possible.

He said online retailers and shops in neighbouring cities put nothing back into the city, while every dollar spent locally was critical for Broken Hill’s economy.

“We want people to buy locally and build a future for our kids and create jobs for them.

“And to have real pride in their community and demonstrate how proud we are of where we live.

“Because honestly, we all love it here, we love the place. If we didn’t love it we’d just pack up and leave.”

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