Our kids among ‘most vulnerable’
THE Southern Downs has been ranked among the lowest areas in the country for having too many developmentally vulnerable children.
Figures show almost half of the region's children are developmentally vulnerable across a range educational and social factors, putting the region in the bottom 10% of the country.
The Regional Australia Institute has ranked the Southern Downs against other local government areas in Australia in themes including infrastructure and services, demography, business, labour force, natural resources and innovation. The rankings are part new online research tool Insight.
Data from a survey of five year olds in their first year of school show 47.4% of the children are developmentally vulnerable, which ranked the area 528 out of a total 563 local government areas in Australia - with 563 being the worst.
RAI deputy chief Jack Archer said more focus was needed on helping the next generation.
"I think that suggests for that region we just need to look at those fundamentals for the next generation in particular to make sure we lift that up to ensure kids get a good start," he said.
"We rely on our kids for the next generation and we want to make sure they get the best start they can."
Mr Archer said the region could use its strengths in educational infrastructure to address this problematic area.
He said it was pleasing the Southern Downs recorded a good infrastructure ranking of 125 out of 563.
Access to primary, secondary and tertiary education was ranked about mid-range, which Mr Archer said was good for a rural area.
"That is really about a broad strength," he said.
"That is a good base."
He also said another strong-performing area in the Southern Downs was in natural resources.
It was ranked within the top 10 local government areas for having a high number of people employed in agriculture - 13.5% of the population.
Nominated supervisor for the Warwick Community Kindergarten Jenny Drewett said the results were alarming.
"That's a pretty poor result... it's a big part of the reason why the Queensland Government has put such a push on getting children to go to university," she said.
"Since prep was introduced full time and the national curriculum expects so much more it's really important we prepare kids in kindergarten for a full time school load."
Despite the findings, Ms Drewett doesn't believe the findings are an accurate representation of the children she works with every day.
"The parents that send their children to us made the conscious decision to prepare their children for school in an environment with university educated teachers," she said.
"The findings are really frustrating because we have wonderful services here in Warwick from BUSHKids, to the Red Cross, and the early development program at West State School... we have lots of services right here designed to help children and parents.
"It's very disappointing and worrying."
- 5.2% of population unemployed
- 9.9% people aged 15-24 years old unemployed
- 26.1% of residents rely on welfare payments
- For every 10 working aged people there are about three seniors aged 65+
- Population grew by 1.1% between 2012 and 2013
- 0.3% of population employed in mineral and energy
- Average travel distance to airport 128.5km
- Average distance to medical facility 8.4km
Region encouraged to aim for diversity
AN area the Southern Downs could strive for is to improve diversity, which a regional Australia expert says is vital for any region.
The Regional Australia Institute ranked the Southern Downs around the middle when it came to comparing its economic diversification to the rest of Australia.
The Southern Downs ranked 277 out of 563 for having diverse employment options.
RAI deputy chief Jack Archer said diversity made regions more resilient.
"It gives you options," he said. "If you've only got one string to your bow, then you're very much tied to riding the ups and downs of that."
Mr Archer said it was not about labelling regions the "worst" in the country.
He said all the themes under the rankings, including infrastructure, demography, innovation, labour force, institutions and business sophistication, were all different.
"We want people to engage in diversity and look at other strengths and weaknesses in their areas," Mr Archer said.
"The ranking helps you understand where you sit relatively to others and what you do with that makes you the best or the worst."
What do you think? Is our region pretty diverse as it is or what would you like to see more of to make our region boom? And do these academics know what they're on about? Have your say on our Facebook page.