OPINION: Adelaide is about the stories we tell ourselves

IS Adelaide slowly shaking off its big country town mentality and starting to believe that, as a mid-sized global city, we have enormous potential in the new economy?

Visiting Thinker in Residence Allyson Hewitt, a social entrepreneur expert from Toronto, is starting to think so.

She says she has noticed a change in Adelaide since her first visit earlier this year; a sense of optimism that wasn’t apparent when she first met with business and community groups.

While there has been no major shift in our economy to warrant this, she wonders whether the stories we’re telling ourselves may be contributing to this renewed hope.

In Adelaide, we tend to think of ourselves as a small city and if a person wants to succeed, there is almost an expectation that this means moving elsewhere.

Yet Deloitte, in its Make It Adelaide research, has been highlighting how ridiculous this is, pointing out that with 1.7 million people living in SA and an economy of $100 billion, we’re hardly small. In fact, plonk us in the United States and we’d be one of their top 10 largest cities.

We also have enormous potential for growth. PWC’s recent report into naval shipbuilding shows this industry alone will reap $134.4 billion for our state.

Couple this with the fact that global entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Sanjeev Gupta have arrived on our doorstep to make significant investments, it’s clear that Adelaide is starting to make the global shopping list.

Then there are the people who could live anywhere in the world but have chosen Adelaide, such as the Committee for Adelaide’s outgoing Chair Colin Goodall, originally from the UK but with a global career, and our new Chair James Blackburn from Melbourne.

There’s no doubt South Australia faces major challenges and there are tough times ahead. Electricity prices are crippling, homeless rates continue to cause concern and we still have far too many unemployed.

We don’t have enough head offices, some regional towns are shrinking and overall population growth is low.

But it’s telling that the closure of Holdens, something too horrible to contemplate just a few years ago, did not become a black day of mourning on our state’s calendar but a celebration of achievement by a proud workforce and close-knit community.

The stories we tell ourselves matter.

Sure, too many people leave our state often due to lack of opportunity but rather than celebrating the success of those we know in Sydney/London/New York, let’s also celebrate the success of people at home who are building careers and creating their own opportunities in our mid-sized global city.

After all, it’s only when we start changing our narrative that a new chapter for our state can begin.

Originally published in The Advertiser on 17 November 2017. Click here for the article.

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