In a time when small towns are struggling to retain residents, one Riverina town is defying the odds.
Ariah Park seems to be in the midst of a younger population boom with the increase being seen in the town’s preschool and kindergarten enrolments.
Phil Davey grew up in Ariah Park, only leaving for a short period of time to attend boarding school.
He moved back to town and has been farming on the family’s property five kilometres outside of Ariah Park ever since.
It is where he is now raising his children – Jobe, 5, Fletcher, 2, and Isla, eight months – with his wife Kristen.
“I couldn’t imagine growing up anywhere else … and now they are experiencing the same environment I had,” he said.
Mr Davey has noticed an increase of people his age, in the 30 to 40 years old range, coming back to the town to start and raise their families.
In the past five years, there has been an average of 25 students at the preschool and nine or 10 that went into kindergarten each year.
There were 33 to 35 preschool pupils this year with 14 going to kindergarten next year.
The preschool is now fully booked for 2016 and will open three days a week instead of one-and-a-half as before.
“There is definitely a noticeable increase,” Mr Davey said.
“A lot of people comment that wherever there is a function in town there seems to be a lot of kids.
“Without that younger generation coming through, there’s less people to fill committees and take on those roles.”
Gerard O’Brien teaches at Ardlethan Central School one day a week and spends the rest of his time on his family’s farm between Ariah Park and West Wyalong.
Mr O’Brien attributes the increasing number of new families and services that are making its way to the town for the boom.
The supermarket has recently been re-opened and the cafe was brought by the community almost two years ago and leased out.
“Ariah Park is going against the trend at the moment because these people are doing well and growing,” he said.
“It says a lot for the community.”
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