Poor old Ararat. The town built on gold and highly profitable sheep farming has often borne the reputational scorn of its neighbours and the wider populace.
The place has been home to lunatic asylums, prisons for the highly undesirable and weathered its own share of economic downturns and misfortunes.
Now it will again appear in the national spotlight, and probably not for the reasons a tourist brochure is likely to trumpet.
Ararat has a well publicised major health problem and a TV show is going to fix it.
The general calibre of trashy reality TV and the voracious indifference of production companies to use up and discard its all-too-willing subjects would lead the cynic to believe that this is a front for yet another freak show.
But before the snide fingers are pointed, it is worth highlighting that Ararat’s problems are the problems of a multitude of regional towns – indeed the health problems that are ringing medical alarm bells right across the nation.
The causes of high rates of obesity and its attendant poor health outcomes are many and complex; from socio-economic demographics to the ready availability and promotion of cheap junk food, poor nutritional education and models, to the simple old chestnut of increasingly indolent lifestyles.
None of these are the trademark or propriety of Ararat. There are parts of Ballarat, Melbourne and most of the major cities in the Western world where the same combination of factors are culminating in the unwelcome gift of affluence and superfluity: having too much to eat.
Quite the reverse from targeting one regional Western Victorian town, the gravity of the problem is sufficient that we all look in our own backyards and act accordingly.
To Ararat’s great credit, TV show or not, it is literally refusing to meet the problem lying down and has already embarked on a number of infrastructure and behavioural changes that one can only hope will have lasting benefit. If community action has shown to slothful higher levels of government just how readily you can bring about change, this is one more example of ‘grass-roots’ initiatives that must be backed up with targeted funding and legislative changes from those higher powers.
Countless health experts have advocated the efficacy and lasting investment of preventative measures. A bloated and profit-driven industry cannot be allowed to stand in the way.