We're poor but we're happy, study reveals

A NEW statistical snapshot of the region has been launched that shows despite earning less and having less access to services than other parts of the state, we are generally a happy lot.

Casino locals Ben and Kate Mayo were born and raised in the Northern Rivers and after stints living in Queensland and overseas have opted to return home.

HAPPY FAMILY: Casino locals Ben and Kate Mayo with son Clay, 2.
HAPPY FAMILY: Casino locals Ben and Kate Mayo with son Clay, 2. Hamish Broome

Their feelings about living in the region echo much of what the social profile suggests - the weather, natural beauty and relaxed Northern Rivers lifestyle more than compensates for the lesser number of services and well-paid jobs.

"I like to live here for the natural beauty - you've got the beach and the bush within close proximity - it's the best of both worlds," Ms Mayo said.

"People are more laid back here too," Mr Mayo added.

Regional Development Australia Northern Rivers (RDANR) has compiled a range of existing data and also conducted a wellbeing survey across the entire region (Tweed to Clarence).

Information is presented in five "domain" groupings and CEO Katrina Luckie said the methodology is recognised as world's best practice for gauging social and community indicators.

"In trying to develop a regional social plan, we need a good evidence base to identify priority areas to focus on," she said.

Ms Luckie said the information would be useful for anyone working in the field of community development, such as not-for-profit organisations and government departments who need to access the latest reliable data.

"And as it's the first time we have used the indicator models, we now have a baseline and can track trends over time," she said.

NOROC president Jenny Dowell said while much of the data is not new, it's good to have it collated in one place.

"To have it in one spot, in an easy to read format online, is fantastic... It's great for councils applying for grants to have all that statistical information," she said.

Both women said that while the report identified a number of challenges for the region including school retention rates, domestic violence and homelessness, they were pleasantly surprised to see that people really value living here.

"I was pleased about the social connectedness responses, that people feel a sense of belonging, which helps in the good times but particularly in times of stress and disaster," Cr Dowell said.

Ms Luckie said there were some surprising statistics for Aboriginal people which showed the incomes were on par with the non-indigenous population, although this could be attributed to the high proportion of non-indigenous people on Centrelink payments.

The level of post-secondary education for Aboriginal people is also high, yet the unemployment rate for Aboriginal people is 20%, compared with 6.3% for the region overall.

"That kind of makes sense because everybody who works in the area of employment training always tells us there is no shortage of training available (for Aboriginal people) but there is never acareer pathway linked.

"That figure (20%) could relate to a whole host of things; discrimination, generational issues, role modelling, they might get certificates but might not understand work readiness, or it could be as simple as access to transport and not being able to get to work."


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