Young people in rural and regional areas are using new technologies to link with others and to gather and share information.

Story By Freda Nicholls

Networking is important for any business, though in the bush the opportunities have historically been limited by distance and lack of direct interaction. But in this era of social media and improved communication, rural and regional youth are reaching out of their immediate areas to network with other like-minded individuals. Many people around the country are streamlining their rural networks, gaining information and having their say via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the now ‘old school’ email.
“We use Facebook predominantly for communication outside of traditional forms,” says Georgie Aley, who at 26 holds a senior position with Grain Growers Limited and is chair of the national youth group Future Farmers Network (FFN). “We’ve also started using YouTube and the email system we use at FFN for members is one of a kind.”
At age 22 Georgie attended a conference on behalf of GrainGrowers. She looked around and realised that most of the other participants were about 20 years her senior and there were very few women. “It just sparked something in me,” she says. “We can’t ask young people to form an opinion or form policy without providing relevant information to them along the way. Often it’s their mum and dads who are the ones dealing with the banks and marketing their products. So how do we get these rural youth to enter a forum where there is information and discussion?” As a result, on behalf of GrainGrowers, Georgie established the Innovation Generation conference specifically designed to educate and engage those aged under 40 working in the grains-industry supply chain.
FFN was started in 2002 as a non-profit organisation run by a board of directors aged between 18 and 35. The annual general meeting is held online over two days, with emails containing minutes and agendas being distributed to the network’s membership, and voting and all other business occurring once a quorum has been established again via email, allowing all members – including those isolated by distance – to participate.
FFN operates primarily online, providing members with monthly emails, webinars, online discussions and forums, and a website focusing on career and training opportunities as well as opportunities for members to have their say on issues relevant to agriculture and themselves.

This story excerpt is from Issue #82

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2012