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A letter to Adelaide's youth – stay or go?

By Malcolm King - posted Thursday, 10 November 2016

Sous les paves, la plage!

It took me more than 25 years after the great Sturt player Tony 'Doc' Clarkson pulled me bawling in the world, to realise that if I was going to be a writer and journalist, then I'd have to leave Adelaide. It's a familiar story in South Australia.

I headed to Melbourne and overseas and returned more than 20 years later to help my wife look after her ageing parents. I found Adelaide a fearful and parochial city, completely at odds with a modern city of the Commonwealth.


This story is for Adelaide's young people.

Your questions about the future were mine 30 years ago. I was a labourer and forklift driver in the early 1980s. Since leaving Adelaide, I have worked as a journalist, academic and employment adviser in Melbourne and Canberra.

Should you stay in Adelaide or go? Working or studying interstate or overseas isn't for everybody. You leave your friends and family but in doing so, you get new skills and capabilities that others can only dream of.

This makes you 'dangerous' because when you return – if you return and you should – you've acquired national or international standards, making you more qualified than those doing the hiring. Adelaide will need your experience in the years to come and here is why.

The following statistics are 'spin free'. The Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) under utilisation of labour rate adds the number of unemployed and the under employed people. In SA, that's about 17.9 per cent (trend) or 156,000 people of the 815,000 people in the state's labour force. This figure is rising. The number of hidden unemployed – those who have given up looking for work - is around 30,000 people, mostly males. This is an economic disaster unparalleled in the state's history.

For 30 years Liberal and Labor governments in SA did nothing to educate the public on why and how the economy needed to change. Every government lie, every contorted truth, is being visited upon a confused and increasingly angry citizenry, who have found a flimsy shelter in parochialism.


The front bench of the state's Liberal and Labor parties make Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Russ Hinze look like Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein. To make matters worse, the current government is creating a police state with the tools to spy on and apprehend people at will. That's reason enough to go.

According to the ABS, about 5000 people leave SA per year over those who arrive. The real annual interstate exodus rate is around 7000 people. This 'debiting' of local brains has been going on since the early 1980s and it has compromised the state's ability to solve complex problems.

Our three publicly funded universities are lowering course entry scores as domestic applications of merit dwindle. If you're a big game player, they've got you running around in the colts.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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