Figures released by a Bond University study show the Upper Lachlan Shire (ULS) to be the 10th-kindest Local Government Area (LGA) in Australia.
‘The Happiness Project’ was conducted by the Queensland tertiary institution to measure one of the major foundations for happiness: quality of life. It is easier to quantify than happiness, and the foundation of the personal factors that make up happiness.
“We hope it elevates communities doing lovely things into the spotlight, and give towns a language a voice to talk about some of the challenges,” said journalism lecturer Caroline Graham.
The ULS was the 10th-kindest LGA in Australia based on the Shire’s high number of adult volunteers, which stood at 29.7 per cent.
“The idea of country kindness is not a myth, it is there in the data,” Ms Graham said.
Upper Lachlan Shire Council general manager John Bell said the findings were “testament to our magnificent Shire and the caring and community-minded people who live here. This has confirmed what locals already know.”
The ULS scored highly in safety with 9.7 out of 10. The score was based on the latest available crime rates, from public access data from the police force.
However, education received a “mid-range” score of 4.8, based on the percentage of people who didn’t go to school, were learning at age 16, educational achievements, and trade qualifications – using the data from the last Census.
“What we found across the board was a lot of regional areas have challenges in terms of access to services. Internet access is a massive challenge [and] this has flow-on effects in jobs and income,” Ms Graham said.
The ULS received a low work-life balance score of three, based on people working more than a full-time work week, the percentage of people, and taking into account unpaid domestic work.
Contrary to what some people may think, farming communities are putting in “enormous” work hours compared with people in the city, said Ms Graham.
The idea of country kindness is not a myth.Caroline Graham
“The ULS also scored well in relation to employment and community, recording 7.3 and 7 respectively,” Mr Bell said. “Employment scores measured personal income, long-term and current unemployment rates and labour force participation and the community category analysed rates of volunteering and cultural tolerance.”
Ms Graham said she was shocked to find housing affordability was more of a challenge in regional areas, overall, although ULS was ranked as “affordable”.
The biggest factors associated with overall quality of life were education, health, then wealth.
Meanwhile, Nillumbik, Victoria was the happiest place in Australia.