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Enticing SA talent requires more than a job


South Australia has scored kudos for its approach to the coronavirus pandemic but as the State Government looks for ways to keep talented locals in the state and entice newcomers, three blow-ins discuss the incentives and challenges of SA life as an outsider.

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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has hailed Adelaide as the safest city in the safest country, saying it has led the nation in its response to the pandemic.

He says South Australia is well positioned to reverse the “brain drain” and, earlier in the year, invited locals under the age of 40 to help him develop a strategy to attract young entrepreneurs to the state as part of a program called ForceForty.

For new South Australian Toni-Anne Munn, the State’s attraction was not only the prospect of a job – but a career, which she felt was worth uprooting her life in Melbourne and moving interstate for.

She relocated to Adelaide in 2018 to take up a role as the Project Manager for BAE Systems Australia Hunter Frigate Program.

Munn is part of a boom for the company which expects to recruit a further 1000 people from across the country into all aspects of the business in 2021.

“I moved into shipbuilding in October 2018 and we were mobilising the program then,” Munn said.

“I took a more active role in setting up and establishing ASC shipbuilding as a business and then I moved into the Hunter Class program, in the operations team. So, with that came a move, a relocation.”

Munn said she was enticed to South Australia by the project itself and was made to feel welcome by the business’ approach to ensuring the move was smooth and hassle-free.

“That whole experience of the move itself and that first impression of how you get from where you are to where you end up in the state, and how your family is accommodated for, and how they help you to get into schools and all of those things are really important,” Munn said.

“Because it’s not this big dramatic thing where you feel out of sorts and you’re frustrated when you get here if those things are managed well.”

But if South Australia is seeking not only to draw young professionals into the state – but keep them – convenient living will need to become ingrained in the culture, Munn said.

“If we think of our industry, which is going to start ramping up and getting more and more people employed, then convenience becomes more important – because sometimes you can’t get out of the office by 6pm to race to the shops,” she said.

“Sometimes they’re open until 9pm but again you have to go find them.

“If you were to go to the furniture store the hours are quite different and I feel like I have to be more organised to maintain things like more milk in the fridge.

“Even around Henley Beach the restaurants are shut on Sunday nights, so I am finding that a bit of an adjustment.”

Fellow South Australian newcomer Eleanor Eastoe said she’d also struggled to adjust to the limited shop opening hours after moving from Hobart in February.

“I work a lot of weekends and shift-work and having the convenience of begin able to go to stores out of hours … so it’s not always easy to access things,” she said.

After finishing university in Tasmania, Eastoe had worked in a hospital in Hobart. Wanting to leave the state, she applied and was offered jobs with health networks in Queensland and South Australia.

Eastoe said it was Adelaide’s climate and “small-town vibe” which tipped the scales in its favour.

She said while she knew a few people before she moved interstate, she left the bulk of her support network, family and friends in the Apple Isle.

“It was my first-time leaving Tasmania to live elsewhere and a lot of the challenges I had were around moving in general,” Eastoe said.

“You don’t have your support network and your family aren’t there, your usual friends aren’t there and I knew some people but I didn’t have the same contacts.”

Eastoe said trying to form new relationships depended on the newcomer to “put themselves out there”.

“I think it would be hard for people who are more introverted to break into, what seems to be a little bit of Adelaide cliquiness,” she said.

“But I think that’s just because people have gone to school together and know each other, and it’s a bit like that in Tasmania as well … but sometimes it’s harder for new people to break into those groups.

“I think it’s to do with the smaller population.”

For German born and raised Guido Wolter, moving to Adelaide with his wife and children three years ago was with the promise of affordable housing and “a safe and beautiful environment” to raise a family.

Wolter said he and his wife had fallen in love with Australia years before while living in Sydney.

With the arrival of the first of his two children, Matilda, Wolter said he and his wife decided to move to London to be close to their families in Europe.

“London turned out to be a very hard place to be as a young family and we were yearning for the opportunities, the beach, the weather and nature of Australia,” he said.

“Rising Sun Pictures reached out to me and offered and me a role as Compositing Supervisor …  so, Adelaide was suddenly on the map.

“I was wrapping up my nearly two years of work on the Star Wars – The Last Jedi before I came to Adelaide.”

He said he’d found the quick commute to his children’s schools and work, as well as the beautiful environment as highlights.

“SA has an incredible array of national parks, beaches and nature reserves. The diversity, and ease of access, to landscapes and activities is second to none,” he said.

“Matilda’s school is a three-minute bike ride from our home and Jona my son’s day-care is a four-minute walk away from home and my commute to work takes about seven minutes on the bike.”

Wolter said while Adelaide had become the family home he’d found the cost of childcare and Australia’s approach to paid parental leave compared to European countries “quite backward and a bit embarrassing”.

“Childcare is a rort and still only really affordable for families with two high incomes,” Wolter said.

“Especially mums are being hit hard by the fact that, financially speaking, it is often not viable to put children into childcare so they have to put their careers on hold or completely stop working.

“Not enabling parents to spend time with their kids and share the most important developmental stages is hurting families and our future.”

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