Why every young leader needs to spend a decade in regional Australia
By Luke Terry
Just on a decade ago, Gosia and I took the plunge and moved from London to regional Australia and today we move on with a lot more than what we arrived with (not just three children and a dog). At the ripe age of just over 28, Gosia and I wanted to move to somewhere in regional Australia and bring up our children. I had the aspiration of doing more work in the mental health employment space and learning more about leadership. We took a role with the Toowoomba Clubhouse as CEO of a small non profit mental health centre with five staff and an aspiration to do something in the social enterprise space.
Having lived before in cities ranging from Sydney to London I’m continually amazed at what Toowoomba has taught me.
Name me a city where you can have coffee with federal and state ministers on a regular basis or go to a free boot camp to get fit for local community leaders, run by a local councillor. If the mayor doesn’t return your call that’s OK, you can bump into his wife in the Woolworth's chicken isle and raise a gentle reminder.
The schools are built on a foundation of community, and, when the ‘unfloodable’ town flooded in 2011 we saw a ground-up community approach.
I surprisingly arrived not being able to speak publicly and absolutely no comfort with the media. Well it’s fair to say that there are more opportunities to practice on this in regional towns with reporters that you will also bump into at the deli (that doesn’t mean they go easy on you) and wont hesitate to tell you how it really is.
People often say young people move to big cities for more opportunities, but I beg to differ. Regional Australia is where its at for young leaders wanting to build the skills, networks and opportunities to go to that next level.
The incredible support I have had from community business leaders in a quiet, humble and unnamed fashion has helped our town become a spotlight of Australia’s social enterprise innovation. This behaviour is just a second nature for regional Australia and a place where ideas can become reality.
I would always say to Gosia, ‘I love this town’. And when asked ‘why?’, I would say, ‘I feel like if I dropped dead on the pavement anywhere in town someone would know me’.’
I never felt like that in London or Sydney.
I arrived fragile, nervous, naive and full of ideas and I think I leave grounded, confident and thankful to Toowoomba. We will always continue to be a part of this wonderful community and will return for many years to come.
If you’re a young leader reading this looking at where life is taking you next, please consider regional Australia. You won’t regret it and we need you! You can also afford to live in Toowoomba compared to the cities and the food has gotten much better over the last ten years!
This article was originally published on Linked In on 14 July. Luke Terry is the Founder and Managing Director of Vanguard Laundry Services .
(VLS) is a $7m world-class social enterprise commercial laundry based in Toowoomba QLD, purpose built to provide jobs and career opportunities for people with an experience of mental illness who struggle to secure work.
Luke and his family now live in Brisbane.