It's time 'country town' Perth stopped talking itself down

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When I first arrived in Perth from London 20 years ago with two little boys under five, I couldn’t believe my luck.

The skies were enormous and blue. The iridescent light had me at hello! The sun seemed to constantly shine. There were pristine white sand beaches - 20 minutes from the CBD - which never seemed crowded.

I left behind a fantastic career and a happy, but grey and rainy, life in London – and I’ve never looked back.

My love affair with Perth has just deepened ever since. But I just don’t understand why there aren’t more people shouting about what a truly incredible place it is. It’s healthy, it’s wealthy and spectacularly beautiful. It’s a place where great careers can and do blossom.

Now the prestigious Economist Intelligence Unit has declared Perth is in the top dozen cities in the world to live – and I couldn’t agree more.

But I feel like I hear too many people talking this town down.

“Perth’s just a big country town,” people grumble to me. To that I say, Perth is a city of more than two million people.

I come from Dublin, home to 1.2 million people. But do you hear Dubliners talking down their city as just a small town? Dublin is like my Jack Russell terrier strutting his stuff around the park thinking he is a big dog, never a small one!

“Perth’s the most isolated city in the world,” I am frequently told. When I hear that, I’m quick to point out that Perth is connected with and in the same time zone as 60 per cent of the world’s population, including in China, Russia, Singapore and Indonesia. We have direct flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Rome, Auckland, Johannesburg and more coming on tap soon. That does not sound isolated – it feels like we have the best of both worlds with global connection and lots of space!

“Perth’s just a mining town.” Not just, I always reply. We also produce top tech entrepreneurs, stage the third-biggest fringe festival in the world and have one of the globe’s great wine regions on our doorstep.

We have a laid-back lifestyle in some of the country’s most affordable housing and a quicker commute to work than most other Australian cities.

I’m not sure why we don’t brag enough about our enviable lifestyle. Are we too complacent? Have we got a chip on our shoulders or an inferiority complex? Did we get too used to being an island within an island in our pandemic sanctuary? Or, as I often hear, do we want to “keep it a secret”?

I think we need a “Positive Perth” movement, where we challenge those who trot out the tired old negative cliches and complain about what we don’t have.

Let’s celebrate what we do have. Let’s be positive about Perth.

Paula Rogers
CEO, Committee for Perth

Published in The West Australian, 27 June 2023

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.