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Anywhere but Sydney: why my family is leaving me for dust

My parents have already fled. My mum sold her two-bedroom apartment on the northern beaches for just over a million dollars and bought a four-bedroom house on 3.7 acres down the south coast for just under $400,000. Can’t blame her for that.

Belinda Noble ... a united family driven apart.

Belinda Noble … a united family driven apart.

My dad unlocked the value of his house and is funding his retirement with the profits of moving to the Central Coast.

So, while I spent my childhood weekends surrounded by grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncles, my children are lucky to see their extended family together once a year. They’ll be lucky if they even know their cousins who will grow up six hours’ drive away. It saddens me that they’re being denied these deep, lifetime family relationships that can contribute so much to their wellbeing.

To be born in Sydney is to win a global jackpot. It is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. And yet the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 27,400 people left in 2017-18, more than any other Australian capital. Why? Most are long-term residents on average incomes who are starting families.

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But it’s not just the cost of living. As an Infrastructure Australia report highlighted this week, the city isn’t keeping pace with its population. Quality of life is severely reduced when you spend two hours a day in traffic just to earn a crust and any green space is covered with concrete or astro turf.

No surprise then that my older children are also contemplating leaving Sydney. Life at the big universities is crowded, alienating and impersonal. I’m told you can’t get a desk at a Sydney University library unless you arrive before 9am. Students aren’t experiencing campus life and spend more time in their childhood bedrooms than making new friends and learning the important lessons of living out of home.

Then there’s the lock-out laws and the fun police conducting random strip searches at railway stations and pubs.

Sadly for me, my kids are planning to study in Canberra, or Bathurst or Armidale. Places where they’ll have freedom, open space and a few spare dollars in their pocket. Anywhere but Sydney.

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