The strengths of our city are not easily found in a survey

BALLARAT not family friendly? Please, give us a break.

The release of a study by a private bank yesterday that ranked Australia’s 30 largest cities according to a range of social factors was hardly effusive about Ballarat.

The survey methodology is vague, at best.

On its website the bank says the data “was gathered from a combination of official government sources including the 2011 National Census, Australian Bureau of Statistics, state police crime statistics and the Public Health Information Development Unit”.

It’s true that Ballarat faces some challenges.

Crime is higher than community expectations, unemployment is at levels which are unacceptable, and income is poor compared to our regional cousins.

Yet our education facilities match it with the best in the nation. Our health care system is first rate. Our recreational choices and opportunities are top class.

Our community is often outspoken about its problems and highly critical of those employed to solve them.

Yet there is an underlying feeling that there are unique aspects of the city that make us the envy of others. It’s the intangible measure that a survey carried out for media mileage can’t capture.

The majority of Ballarat residents understand that our city faces challenges, yet few would say our city is unsafe.

Considerable work has been done to patrol Ballarat’s streets and to implement measures such as CCTV to reduce crime. It’s having an effect.

Indeed, thousands of people every year are moving to Ballarat, many to raise families because of the great access to services at an affordable price.

The reaction to the report yesterday on The Courier’s website is an indication that the study results are out of step with the feelings of the residents who are happy calling Ballarat home. 

This comment was a personal favourite: “Ballarat is family friendly enough for me ... maybe it helps that I have a friendly family.”

The one category where Ballarat did score highly – a sense of community – is symbolic of that reaction. It’s the vibe you can’t derive from statistics that makes our city most liveable.

Maybe this report is just another reason why people are eternally sceptical about banks – the numbers simply don’t add up.

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