Northern Rivers' residents ‘satisfied’ according to survey

CONTENT: Northern Rivers Community Food Bank volunteer Carol Johnston finds joy in volunteering.
CONTENT: Northern Rivers Community Food Bank volunteer Carol Johnston finds joy in volunteering. Marc Stapelberg

THE results are in on a study to measure how people in the Northern Rivers feel about their quality of life and it seems, on the whole, we are satisfied with our lot.

Randomised telephone surveys and an online/paper sample resulted in more than 1000 people across seven local government areas responding to the survey. The sample was weighted to reflect the age and demographic profile of the region so results could be extrapolated to the whole population.

The comprehensive research project was undertaken by Regional Development Australia Northern Rivers (RDANR) and the Northern Rivers Social Development Council (NRSDC) as a way to highlight current social conditions and provide a baseline that can be monitored over time.

It is part of the Northern Rivers Social Profile and uses tools to measure our level of satisfaction across a range of areas including; standard of living, achievements, personal relationships, safety, feeling part of the community and future financial security.

The 31-page document tells us most people are 'satisfied' or 'highly satisfied' with their life as a whole, with some exceptions.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were less satisfied with their standard of living and not satisfied with their future financial security;

Unemployed people were not very satisfied with their future financial security and;

People aged 18-24 years were less satisfied with feeling part of their community.

Almost everybody seems satisfied with their personal relationship and safety.

The survey also provides a snapshot of the level of participation in arts and cultural activities, participation in sport and recreation and whether people feel they have a say on issues that are important to them.

RDANR CEO Kimmaree Thompson said the Community Wellbeing Survey would prove to be a useful indicator to measure whether things were improving over time.

"Much of the region is close to the bottom of the state in terms of (economic) growth. We would expect to see some improvement as we attract jobs and as household incomes increase, so it's another feedback mechanism," she said.


Happy to help

PEOPLE in the Northern Rivers are generally a happy lot who feel connected to their community, despite lower than average income levels.

That's the thrust of the findings in a new Community Wellbeing Survey that tries to quantify the level of satisfaction and participation experienced by people living in the region.

One of the findings is that 41% of people volunteer with a local group, which is above the national average of 36%.

It also found that 44% of respondents feel valued by society and 90% of people feel they can get help from family and friends if needed.

Northern Rivers Social Development Council CEO Tony Davies said participation in community groups was "the lifeblood of the community".

"It creates a sense of community and contributes to wellbeing. There is quite a body of research about the factors that create resilience in the community, and although we have some areas out west where household incomes are very low by state standards, people are not doing as badly as otherwise might be expected," he said.

"Volunteer participation in a whole range of areas ... it's one of the things that creates resilience despite disadvantage."

Carol Johnston has been volunteering with the Northern Rivers Community Gateway (formerly the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre) for the past six years.

She coordinates the food bank program there, preparing food parcels for those in need.

"I just love my job," Carol said. She volunteers two days per week, ordering and packing food. She said she would see eight to 20 people a week; from families struggling to make ends meet to those sleeping rough.

Volunteer coordinator at the Northern Rivers Community Gateway, Michael Young, said the organisation couldn't function without its volunteers.

"There is a sense of altruism, that you can make a difference to someone's life."

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