Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Loss of Childhood- the Regional Australia Alternative

Yesterday I listened to a radio discussion on loss of childhood, the way in which the pressures of modern life have destroyed the capacity of children to be just that, children.

Originally a historian by training, I was reminded of work that I read many years ago on the discovery of childhood. This work argued that childhood as such was a modern concept, dating from the days when incomes in European countries at last increased to the point that children no longer had to work from an early age. Prior to that there were essentially infants and then young adults so far the bulk of the population was concerned.

Today, the commentators argued, we have turned the extended schooling period into just another work phase during which we try to prepare children for competition in the later paid work phase. All from metro areas, they pointed to the travel time associated with activities as a major contributing factor.

Well, there is in fact a choice here.

In my post on Sydney or the Bush I compared life in Rosebery, a Sydney suburb with many positive features, with Armidale, a regional centre offering access to at least equivalent if not better facilities. I concluded that Sydney life involved each family member in between ten and twenty hours extra travel time per week. This was time not available to other activities.

We all make life style choices. This holds for what we want to give to our kids as well as where we want to live.

We presently live in Sydney for family reasons. Having moved here for those reasons we are locked in because it would be very disruptive for kids in late secondary school or early university if we did move. But for those with young children who can move and who want both closeness to kids and an active life with less stress, then the regional living option is potentially very attractive.

I suppose the thing that makes me saddest with my own children is that they do not know what they have missed. They are happy and appear well adjusted, and that's good. But the actual texture of life is so different, so much busier for the same activities, that the regional living experience is an alien world.

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