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‘Super Boomer’ women make their mark in regional Australia

25 July 2014

regional Australia map ageing

As a nation we’re used to discussing our ageing population in terms of a ‘challenge to be overcome’. Regional Australia Institute (RAI) research suggests we should now be appreciating the resources the Boomer generation provides to its communities.

“The different characteristics and contributions of Super Boomers will significantly influence the future of regions and change their development opportunities as well as building a unique quality of life and experience for Boomers themselves,” RAI Chief Executive and Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awardee, Su McCluskey, says.

“I myself am a Baby Boomer, and I know that I’m part of a unique generation - many of whom have chosen to base their lives and contributions in our regions,” says Su.

Pam Delahunty (below), a teacher and librarian works four days a week at St Patricks College in the regional Victorian city of Ballarat, and she agrees that framing the contribution of her generation of women is important.

Pam Delahunty at home in regional Australia

‘I’ve certainly never seen my own efforts as ‘Super’, but I suppose as a generation we’re ageing very differently to our parents,’ she says.

‘I reaped the benefits of accepted workforce participation for women, and equal pay came in just as I started teaching.’

Pam and her husband Mick have called the small town of Dereel, just 40 kilometres outside of Ballarat, home since 1991.

Born in 1950 in Melbourne’s north, Pam grew up in the suburb of Rosanna, and attended the large, urban school Methodist Ladies’ College.

‘Career paths for women were still limited to teaching, nursing or perhaps work as a legal secretary then,’ Pam says.

So she completed her training at Coburg Teacher’s College in 1971, and quickly embraced the first in a succession of primary school teaching posts in regional towns.

‘My first teaching role was in Munro – near Sale – in my early twenties. I was quite green in terms of country living, but I had a natural love for the space and peace,’ she says.

‘I stayed in regional primary schools, from Poowong in South Gippsland to the one-teacher school of Doreen, not far from Melbourne’s outskirts.’

A taste for new challenges, and the opening up of the National Parks Service to women, saw a career change as Pam became just the second female ranger in Victoria.

It’s also where she met and fell in love with her husband.

‘Mick and I met where I worked at King Lake National Park, but he did feral animal control, and was just passing through, so when we married, we kept moving. We lived in Portland after his secondment to work on building the Princess Margaret Rose Caves Visitor Centre, and then we were off to Taggarty.’

Here, the first of two daughters was born, with the family eventually deciding to settle down in Yarra Glen – a ‘horsey, hobby farm’ community not far from Melbourne.

‘Mick was working as a builder then, but the early nineties saw a very depressed market and economy, so he returned to rabbit shooting,’ Pam explains.

‘We decided to look for a home somewhere within two hours of Melbourne, and not too far from a regional centre,’ she says.

Settling on a few acres, surrounded by farmland, Pam soon combined the work of raising two children with that of running the ‘growing concern’ that came with the property they had purchased.

‘I took on the work of feeding and caring for about 500 pigeons, which we processed and sold to the restaurant market,’ Pam explains.

‘It was unusual, hard work,’ she laughs.

The digital age turned out to be the push Pam needed to return to studies, undertaking a library technician’s course through TAFE in Ballarat.

‘I’m like many of my demographic; still working. Many are financially comfortable, and some have a quality of life they wish to continue and have to work towards,’ she says.

‘I’m lucky to work in a very caring school community, with a mix of boys from urban Ballarat, to farming kids in the boarding community and Indigenous students from Timber Creek,’ Pam says.

A busy, dynamic woman still contributing to her regional economy, and investing in the future of the students she works with, Pam is one of many Super Boomers who may not realise just how suited they are to the title.

‘Super Boomers’, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), are an underestimated and under-acknowledged force. Super Boomers are set to play a critical role in the future of many regional Australian communities.

The Baby Boomer generation is unique not just for its diversity, high levels of education, wealth, health and experience, but because of the thousands of women within its ranks enjoying lifestyles and careers the likes of which their mothers did not.

Female baby boomers have had many more opportunities available to them, creating a generation with overall higher levels of engagement in the workforce and greater independence.

In Regional Australia, the rise of the Super Boomer is crucial, with the demographic making up 39 percent of the workforce.

Many of the roles Super Boomers are playing (and are predicted to play in the future) are vital for regional development. Regions are also perfect places for Super Boomers to make the most of their next stage of life.

Find out more about the RAI’s Super Boomer research and how Australia as a whole can learn from the example set by these unique regions at www.regionalaustralia.org.au

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