The first episode of the new season of the ABC TV's Gruen Nation saw two-thirds of Australia's rural people inexplicably unaccounted for.
Otherwise accurate in absolutely every respect, the show saw urbane host Will Anderson - a proud country boy - suggesting that regional Australia accounts for 11 per cent of the population.
In fact, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 31 per cent of Australians live outside the capital cities in rural, regional and remote areas.
As with the rest of the nation, most of the jobs in rural, regional and remote Australia are in the services, health, education and infrastructure sectors. However when it comes to Australia's export income - as John Hewson knows - rural and remote areas still rule the roost. The resources and agricultural sectors earned over 60 per cent of Australia’s exports in 2009-10, with the top three being iron ore and concentrates, coal and gold.
Anyone interested in biodiversity, climate change, renewable energy, the water economy, Indigenous culture, Indigenous economic development, food security or creative and resilient communities should be watching rural and remote area with close interest.
The National Rural Health Alliance is certainly doing that. Its major concern is to support rural communities and governments in action to reduce the inequities between country and city in health status and access to health-related services.
Life expectancy for a white man born in a rural area is lower than for his cousin born in the city. And if they are born respectively in a disadvantaged rural area and an affluent city suburb, the difference is as much as 11 years.
Despite this statistical reality, the people of rural and remote areas report greater happiness than those in the major cities. They display continued resilience, are proud of the sense of community they share and, in the health sector, are leading the way in service innovation and inter-professional teamwork.
So if you're looking for a great place in which to live and use your skills, join the 31 per cent who are already in country areas.
Useful stats and other information on rural areas, including the health of their people, are at www.ruralhealth.org.au
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660