The drain of professionals from many of the State’s regional areas is placing a heavy burden on those who remain and the communities they work in. The Goldfields-Esperance Development Commission is fighting back, with an $80,000 marketing strategy and broad-based approach.

p Catie Low

A CRITICAL shortage of professionals in regional WA has prompted the Goldfields-Esperance Development Commission to establish a regional approach to market the area.

The GEDC was established by the State Government in 1993 to encourage and promote economic and social activity in the Goldfields-Esperance region of WA.

The strategy utilises a business-case approach to marketing the region targeted at professionals across all industries, including doctors, dentists, teachers, lawyers, nurses and service industry professionals.

Regional towns are suffering as a result of the lack of professional services, meaning many people have to travel vast distances to get to a doctor or even school.

It’s difficult for the regions to compete with the salary packages offered in the cities and the appeal of an urban lifestyle.

Kalgoorlie Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Hugh

Gallagher said that, in the past 10 years there had been a quantum shift in the number of professionals in the area.

“It’s a disturbing trend,” Mr Gallagher said.

“But it’s not just regional WA, it’s regional Australia, and I think the rest of Australia thinks of Perth as a bit of a regional centre in Australia.

“It really is across the board, from health through education.

“It’s interesting because I’d say, 10 years ago without a doubt, Kalgoorlie had no problems with professionals in health.

“It was commonplace for mothers to come to Kalgoorlie for difficult births because there were professionals here to take care of it.

“From the other side, looking at lawyers and accountants, it has always been a challenge getting enough legal practitioners.

“And I’d say that probably applies to many major regional centres.”

A number of the major mining companies have moved out of Kalgoorlie in the past decade, taking their offices to Perth or the major cities on the east coast.

And with them go the supporting professionals, including lawyers and accountants.

“Kalgoorlie is corporate driven, it’s very different to Geraldton, Bunbury or Albany,” Mr Gallagher said.

“Mining is a corporate business, it’s a global business, and a lot of mining companies have moved out of Kalgoorlie now to operate out of the major cities.

“In the past five years two big legal practices have left and moved to Perth … the legal practices left are like general practice doctors – they have to do everything.

“There have been attempts to have corporate legal practices in Kalgoorlie but they haven’t worked because they haven’t been able to attract the professionals here.

“It’s (Kalgoorlie) a terrific place to make inroads into the corporate marketplace. “And it’s a community issue. You can’t just say it’s a business issue.

“It’s rather sad … we have such a challenge on our hands.”

Goldfields-Esperance Development Commission chief executive officer Colin Purcell said people didn’t realise there’s a fair bit more to Kalgoorlie than beer and brothels.

It’s a matter of educating people on the appeal of this broad area of the State.

The Australia Unlimited Taskforce has been set up by volunteers in the region to position the Goldfields-Esperance area as a region of “unlimited opportunities”.

“The basis for this came out of a funded marketing strategy,” Mr Purcell said.

“The $80,000 strategy listed a series of things to promote and market the region.

“We’ve produced an 11-minute video that captures the essence of the region.

“It outlines the natural and built assets of the region and companies are using it to attract people from overseas, Perth and interstate.

“We’ve pushed the video at every opportunity we’ve had.”

The Development Commission also has arranged a promotional seminar in Perth, to be held in November, aimed at people considering a lifestyle change and those wanting to know more about the region.

A professional attraction and retention project was started last year to support professionals who move to the area.

The lack of professionals in the Kalgoorlie region creates a situation where individuals who choose to move to the regions may have to grapple with a heavy workload.

“It’s a competitive world and doctors up here are on call 24 hours a day seven days a week,” Mr Purcell said.

“So if numbers fall beyond a certain level the pressure mounts and you burn them out.”

The video has been designed so individual government departments can add their own top and tail to the vision, allowing government departments and even mining companies to customise it to suit their audience.

“It’s an innovative approach and we don’t think it’s been done before on this scale,” Mr Purcell said.

“We believe we’ll get some outcomes.”

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