Collaborative Research Network (CRN)

Dr David Farrugia

Research Fellow

Federation University of Australia

David Farrugia’s work is aimed at recognising and valuing the lives of young people in regional communities.

Dr Farrugia is investigating the phenomenon, common throughout much of the Western world, in which many young people leave regional communities to work in urban centres, leading some to claim that the future of regional communities is under threat. David’s work aims to understand the strengths and capacities that continue to exist within these communities.

Throughout his academic career, which began at the Australian National University in Canberra, and then brought him to Melbourne, Dr Farrugia has taken a close interest in the affairs of young people, particularly relating to homelessness and equality. He has researched and written extensively on these subjects and is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Youth Studies Australia and a member of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA), The International Sociological Association, and TASA’s Sociology of Youth Thematic Group.

Dr Farrugia’s work focuses on Beaufort and Ararat, two towns in regional Victoria. He will be investigating the way that young people relate to their communities, especially concentrating on the opportunities and capacities that these communities offer young people.

“What we have at the moment is young people leaving country towns because they don’t feel that there are opportunities available to them,” Dr Farrugia said. “Those who don’t leave are sometimes those denied the resources required to find work or continue in higher education outside their communities.”

Dr Farrugia said that there is also the issue in Australia of geographical difficulties – the distance from urban centres. “Because of some economic and social changes in recent times, it has become much more difficult for people in regional area to access quality education, or harder for them to do well if they can access it” he said.

“It can be simply a matter of distance, the time it takes to get to school, against the ready access to high quality education that people have in larger centres. It can also be this matter of social background – we know that some young people tend to do less well at school because of their lack of resources, as well as the fact that schools are often not oriented towards their needs and perspectives.”

Dr Farrugia believes the downturn being felt in regional towns around Australia is not, as some would have it, a natural process. Rather, it is the result of policy decisions, as governments place more emphasis on efficiencies than the equitable distribution of services. This is making it harder for young people to get an education and find employment, issues that Dr Farrugia believes will only be addressed if their voices are heard by policy makers.

Dr Farrugia wants to contribute to discussions about maintaining the viability of rural communities and believes young people are key to enabling this to happen. He would like young people, particularly those in regional Victoria, to have more say in determining their future.

“Young people are talked about all the time but very rarely do politicians and policy makers go and ask them what their lives are about,” he said. “My view is that young people’s voices and their own experiences are some of the most powerful sources of information, particularly on what causes inequality, what issues inequality creates for people, and what can be done to address them. By taking these experiences and putting them into the academic and policy spheres, there is a great opportunity to influence the debate and to get better outcomes for young people.”

David can be contacted by email at d.farrugia@federation.edu.au