The difficulty in keeping young professionals in the Northern Territory has been identified as one of Katherine’s biggest problems.
Many big professions such as teaching, law and health have enormous problems attracting staff and then keeping them.
Generous salaries and even subsidised accommodation have not solved the problem.
One study has found half of the staff working in a remote NT healthcare clinic leave after four months on the job and two-thirds leave remote work altogether every year.
This week the Katherine Times begins a series of special reports examining our disastrous population churn which has seen Katherine suffering the highest turnover of teachers in the NT.
Many Katherine students complete their school year with multiple class teachers.
Mayor Fay Miller said many young professionals move to Katherine to get a jump start in their careers before moving to the next place.
“It is a serious problem here, even more so than in other parts of Australia,” Mayor Miller said.
“There is a high turnover, especially with government agencies, teachers and health professionals.
“Year on year I can go to a meeting and only recognise half of the staff. We need that continuity.” she said.
Mayor Miller said focus should be placed locking young people down for two years.
NT Police Association president Paul McCue said police posted to Katherine have a minimum tenure of two years.
“I think it is a good amount of time to establish yourself and see if you want to make it your long term home,” Mr McCue said.
“It helps because you want that stability, experience and knowledge.”
“A lot of police go to Katherine when they are quite young. Some of them do see it as a stepping stone to larger areas of the NT or towards remote policing.
“Katherine has its fair share of supporters. I think it is one of those towns where you love it or you don’t.”
Katherine MLA Sandra Nelson agreed that two year contracts are key to retaining professionals.
“Continuity and consistency always has an impact on the quality of services you are providing,” Ms Nelson said.
“If you put someone on a six month contract, you are going to see that turnover of staff. Instead of six month contracts there should be a minimum of two years.
Ms Nelson said it is hard for Katherine to compete with the opportunities afforded in metropolitan Australia.
“I think it is a problem in regional towns around Australia, not just Katherine specific,” Ms Nelson said.
“It is difficult to recruit people to regional and remote areas. High salaries and good holiday entitlements can only go so far.”
Tomorrow’s first instalment – teachers are impossible to keep.