Read the transcript for Episode Three of the Voice of Real Australia podcast: Dungog's mountain biking boom and the impact of Telehealth's COVID-19 changes on rural health care

Tom Melville: [00:00:00] Hello, I'm Tom Melville. Welcome to Voice of Real Australia. Each episode we bring you people, places and perspectives from beyond the big cities. In this episode. [00:00:09][9.4]

Craig Stephenson: [00:00:10] In a time of such doom and gloom elsewhere, for this little town to sort of just flourish in the corresponding time frame, has just been remarkable. [00:00:17][7.5]

Tom Melville: [00:00:18] We're going mountain bike riding in Dungog, a small town in the Hunter region of New South Wales. The town is experiencing a boom after the community invested in mountain bike trails in nearby bushland. But first, have you ever used telehealth before? I have. Back in April, when I thought it was probably best to avoid going into the GP, it was quick. I decided I should see a doctor at around 9:30 at night and 40 minutes later the consultation was over. Mine was a video call done on my phone. The month before, the federal government instituted some changes to the way doctors were able to bill for digital consultations. That was to keep doctors surgeries free for vulnerable people. And since then, the number of patients using the service has skyrocketed, with nearly 30 million appointments since March. And a lot of those people are in rural and regional areas who in the past might have had patchy access to GP and other health professionals. But as we look forward to a post-COVID world, a debate is raging over the best way to make the most out of the promise of telehealth for people in the bush. [00:01:19][60.3]

Brad Rossiter: [00:01:20] Hello, my name is Brad Rossiter. [00:01:21][1.4]

Tom Melville: [00:01:22] Brad lives on the south coast of New South Wales, and while his local GP is only a few ks away because he's blind. Getting there has always been a bit of a chore. [00:01:30][8.1]

Tom Melville: [00:01:31] How long you've been using that service? [00:01:31][0.9]

Brad Rossiter: [00:01:33] It was when COVID started. [00:01:33][0.8]

Tom Melville: [00:01:34] So this is quite recent for you? [00:01:35][1.1]

Tom Melville: [00:01:36] Brad has a few chronic conditions, which mean he spends a lot of time with his GP. [00:01:40][3.5]

Brad Rossert: [00:01:41] So Before hand It was a matter of me, because I'm visually impaired I can't drive, arranging transport to the doctor's surgery, which is three or four ks away. And down here we don't have much connecting public transport. There's only one bus service that doesn't really run to the areas you want it to run to. So it was a matter of catching a taxi or getting a friend or wife to take me. [00:01:59][18.0]

Tom Melville: [00:02:00] When telehealth bulk billing expanded, Brad's life became a whole lot more straightforward overnight. [00:02:04][4.7]

Brad Rossiter: [00:02:05] For me I didn't happen to rely on basically taking me to and fro. I could have a consultation with a GP at a set time from home very easy. Which is much more easier not relying on someon taking me to and from. [00:02:17][11.7]

Tom Melville: [00:02:17] Before COVID over just a few hundred thousand patients a year, went to the doctor online or over the phone. But since March that number has jumped to nearly 30 million. However, this expansion of telehealth bulk billing is set to expire at the end of March 2021, and certain services will go back to not being covered by Medicare. And that means people like Brad might have to start making those trips to the doctor in person again. Now, the government has said it's committed to making telehealth a fixture of Australian healthcare post-COVID. The question is, how do you make sure patients receive high quality and convenient care without regional doctors losing out in the process? [00:02:52][34.6]

Jenny May: [00:02:53] I'm Professor Jenny May. I'm the director of the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health and I'm a practising GP in Tamworth, Northern New South Wales. [00:03:02][8.8]

Tom Melville: [00:03:03] Jenny May is a huge supporter of telehealth consultations. It's not just doctors, she says, but all allied health professionals who can help their patients using the service. [00:03:10][7.4]

Jenny May: [00:03:11] Really, it's become the go to because suddenly if you want to organise or treat a patient, there are now other options besides face to face consultation covered by Medicare. So the capacity to phone and have phone consultations with patients and also video obviously has been a huge boon, particularly to those who are the most vulnerable and those that we've been trying to keep away from the clinic. [00:03:39][27.6]

Tom Melville: [00:03:39] Some estimates suggest 40 per cent of all consultations could be done remotely. That's gonna save patients a huge amount of travel and waiting time, particularly if you're in a rural area where you have a disability. And visiting the GP isn't as simple as driving down the road. And it's not just GP services. In July alone, nearly a third of mental health consultations were conducted remotely. Health outcomes in Australia are defined by distance. People who live near doctors and hospitals are statistically healthier, and telehealth could help fix some of that disparity. But there is a catch. [00:04:10][30.9]

Jenny May: [00:04:11] And my concern is that with Medicare rebates being not differentiated, it's actually cheaper and easier to provide a volume of service from a metropolitan area. And so if you could do that, why wouldn't you? And yet that parcel of primary care services that I believe is most beneficial to rural communities is one that is proximate or closer to the patient. So I don't want to see an unintentional undermining of local rural services. And given the fact that they are not economies of scale in rural practice and in fact, rural practices probably less viable than metropolitan practice. I think we've got to be really careful to make sure that, as I said, there is not an unintended consequence. That means that the boon of telehealth doesn't actually produce in terms of better health outcomes for people who live in rural areas. [00:05:05][54.3]

Tom Melville: [00:05:06] In other words, if you could do an online consultation with a practitioner in Sydney or Melbourne, why wouldn't you? But what that means is that the local GP in a rural area could be getting 40 percent fewer patients. That would make an already tough business model in the bush harder or even impossible. And on top of that, Jenny says there are some things you just can't do over the phone. [00:05:27][21.0]

Jenny May: [00:05:27] So things like immunisations. If you've got a sore tummy, it's very difficult for me, even with a video consult, to really get a good sense of where your tender and what the problem is. And if we use an example like physio consults for which there have been, again, the capacity to do Medicare consults, you can see that very much when you present with something that sore. We do have a need to poke it and try and identify just what the problem is. And even if we're instructing you about some exercises to do or a course of action, telehealth may well be a second rate substitute to that face to face service. [00:06:07][39.0]

Tom Melville: [00:06:07] On the 13th of March, The federal health minister changed the arrangements around the provision of telehealth. Now, to qualify patients have to have seen their doctor face to face in the last 12 months or visited that surgery in the same period. It was a change welcomed by the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of GPs. They feared the regulations, as they were, would encourage pop up clinics, a model they argue provides low quality, fragmented care. For someone like Brad Rossiter, who we heard from earlier. The changes aren't going to mean much. He has a GP. He's been seeing him for years. And Brad benefits from that continuity of care. [00:06:43][36.2]

Brad Rossiter: [00:06:44] I have on occasion seen another GP whilst the current GP may be on holiday or something simillar. And it's a matter of re-explaining, they can see your file on the computer, basically re-explaining your health history and going over it again and again and again. Which then becomes a bit daunting, because they then still don't know really who you are how you been and how you're going. [00:07:02][18.5]

Tom Melville: [00:07:04] But many of us don't have chronic conditions, don't have a consistent relationship with a GP and haven't been to the doctor in the last 12 months. For those of us living in remote areas, your local GP might be several hours drive away. And even though the changes introduced in March have now been extended until next year, it's still unclear what will happen next. I spoke to a woman in Katherine, but for privacy reasons, she didn't want to be named. We'll call her Rebecca. Her words here are voiced by a colleague. [00:07:31][27.5]

Rebecca: [00:07:32] We have one non-indigenous health service here, and the other clinics are for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people at the moment. It's a four week wait to see that GP. It was about two to three week wait when I needed it. [00:07:45][12.8]

Tom Melville: [00:07:45] And that's a problem, not just in Katherine, but all over rural and regional Australia where wait times for a GP can be twice what they are in the city. There's only one GP where Rebecca lives, and the next face to face option is in Darwin. For a young mum like her, seven hour round trip just isn't going to work. She'd probably have to stay overnight, so travel and accommodation costs would be too much. But because of the COVID changes, she was able to get a telehealth consultation with a GP in Queensland quite easily. [00:08:11][25.9]

Rebecca: [00:08:12] I downloaded the app, booked my appointment and waited in the waiting room on the app. And a GP came online, asked me all the relevant questions to do with symptoms I was experiencing and what treatments were required. We came to an agreement on the treatment that would be most effective for the condition I was suffering, and he ensured a script was sent to my local pharmacy and I went and collected the medication. [00:08:33][21.2]

Tom Melville: [00:08:35] In Katherine the only GP Rebecca can go to is about to shut its doors for good. Although the town hopes it might be saved. She doesn't have a face to face relationship with another doctor. And so telehealth isn't an option anymore. This means that the kind of straightforward consultation Rebecca described might become a lot harder. Her only options are the local emergency department or that long trip to Darwin. And that's a possibility which worries Rebecca. [00:08:59][24.5]

Rebecca: [00:09:00] That makes me concerned that people won't be able to seek health care when they need it, that there'll be extended wait times and the negative impacts for Katherine constituents will be great. Say, if you have a sinus infection, you suffer dizzy spells, nausea. Imagine having to drive three and half hours to get antibiotics. If you live by yourself and you don't have anyone else that you can contact to take you. It's dangerous. [00:09:22][21.7]

Mark Diamond: [00:09:24] My name is Mark Diamond, and I'm currently working as a consultant to the aged care sector based in Adelaide in South Australia. [00:09:30][6.5]

Tom Melville: [00:09:31] Mark has worked in rural health for decades and up until last year was CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance, a group trying to improve health outcomes for rural and regional people across the country. He disputes the value of the changes for a range of reasons. [00:09:45][13.6]

Mark Diamond: [00:09:45] For people in remote locations, in very remote locations they experience the tyranny of distance that impacts on just about every aspect of their lives every day. And what telehealth enables them is access to services that otherwise they are denied because they physically don't exist within easy access. And we're talking geographically here. I mean, there's a number of other issues that impact on access, not just geographical. Certainly financial impacts are there as well. But certainly for about two and a half million people in Australia, about 10 per cent of our population that live in outer regional remote and very remote locations. They know what we're talking about when we talk about geographic isolation and they know what it means when when we start saying, oh, what about access to healthcare? And they know that they are impacted on that. [00:10:33][47.5]

Tom Melville: [00:10:33] So many of these people you dispute have an existing face to face relationship with a GP already. [00:10:39][5.9]

Mark Diamond: [00:10:40] Some aren't able to have it and have never been able to have it. Right. Certainly on a on a fee for service basis with essentially a private GP, a GP running their own business in private practice, and claiming on the NBS. They have not had the opportunity of having Face-To-Face contact with their GP. It will be very irregular. It may not be in the previous 12 months. [00:10:59][19.2]

Tom Melville: [00:11:00] This means that potentially thousands of people like Rebecca, who suddenly had easy access to a GP or an allied health professional are now once again left without. Mark also questions why it's assumed you can't develop a relationship with your doctor remotely. [00:11:14][13.8]

Mark Diamond: [00:11:14] And I think what people have experienced is that, well, there is a an enduring relationship that I've established. I've had a number of contacts with the same GP or the same health practitioner. And despite the fact that I haven't been in the same room with them physically, I feel a connection. They relate to me in a manner that I respect and is a real relationship. I mean, we're not talking to an image on the screen. We're actually talking to a person that's talking to me and understanding my needs. [00:11:43][28.1]

Tom Melville: [00:11:43] Research conducted by the National Rural Health Alliance when Mark was in charge suggests that 20 per cent of health outcomes are directly related to the availability of timely, appropriate and affordable healthcare. Mark wants to see telehealth expanded to help bridge the gap. Jenny May mentioned one of her concerns is that telehealth could accidentally sap on the ground face to face rural health capacity. But Mark sees it as an opportunity for those doctors to expand. [00:12:08][24.6]

Mark Diamond: [00:12:09] I'd be looking at building hubs that stretch out into the more remote locations surrounding their catchment. What this will do is have the effect of expanding the catchment for those GPs and actually supporting their business model and supporting the chance of their business being a sustainable operation in the longer term. [00:12:28][19.1]

Tom Melville: [00:12:29] So just to paraphrase your earlier point, these concepts could be done from Sydney or Melbourne. But why not do them in Toowoomba or wherever? [00:12:35][6.7]

Mark Diamond: [00:12:36] Absolutely. Absolutely. [00:12:37][0.7]

Tom Melville: [00:12:38] It took a pandemic crisis to get telehealth to where it is today. The technology exists to provide healthcare to people who've had reduced access in the past. And the health sector and government are united in wanting to see the system maintained and expanded. But finding a balance that supports health provision in the bush will be the real challenge. [00:12:56][18.0]

Tom Melville: [00:13:09] Like every other community in the country, the people of Dungog feared what the COVID pandemic would do to the life of their home. After all, the picturesque town of 2000 in the Hunter Valley has dealt with a lot in recent years. It's confronted drought and bushfires, and local industries such as dairying are shrinking. But just as the world was shutting down, Dungog has seen its future open up after the community built a couple of mountain bike flow tracks on the town's common. Dungog has literally seen the wheel turn on its fortunes. Newcastle Herald writer Scott Bevan hopped on his bike and visited Dungog to find out about this cycle powered resurgence. [00:13:44][35.0]

Scott Bevan: [00:13:52] I'm on top of the hill, at Dungog common and all around me is natural beauty. I'm looking over to the mountains, to the Barrington Tops and the valleys are flowing down into green farmlands. And just around me here is bushland, lots of trees. And that makes this common, very, very attractive. But it's not the only thing people come here, not just for the peace and quiet. They're coming here in increasing numbers, in pursuit of fun, adventure and to get the adrenaline pumping. [00:14:24][31.2]

Chloe Chick: [00:14:28] Scott, we're just on the start of the Dungog common cross-country course, and I'm going to take you on a loop of these 650 acre communal reserve on our cross country trials. [00:14:37][9.1]

Scott Bevan: [00:14:43] Chloe Chick is helping lead a revolution in Dungog. A mountain bike revolution. [00:14:48][4.9]

Chloe Chick: [00:14:50] You're in for some really fantastic fun. There's a bit of rocky section, gullies, beautiful sections of eucalypt forest. You've got to be careful not to even be hit by kangaroo at times. [00:15:01][11.2]

Scott Bevan: [00:15:01] Shall we go? Let's see what's ahead of us. [00:15:04][2.5]

Chloe Chick: [00:15:04] Let's do it. [00:15:05][0.8]

Scott Bevan: [00:15:11] Chloe Chick and her family are relative newcomers to Dungog. After many years of living and working overseas, the family sought a tree change, leaving behind the concrete and steel jungle of Singapore for the Hunter Valley. It wasn't long before Chloe was out riding the 22 kilometres of mountain bike trails that thread the landscape on the fringe of Dungog. [00:15:34][23.1]

Chloe Chick: [00:15:35] I'm not an expert mountain biker by any means, but I certainly enjoy the feeling of freedom. For me, it's become, yeah, a very meditative practice. To concentrate on being present. Being outside and being free. [00:15:47][12.0]

Scott Bevan: [00:15:52] Chloe joined with other mountain bikers in a volunteer group called Ride Dungog, and they built a couple of flow tracks down the hill at the Common. What they created in the process was a phenomenon, right. Dungog has given life to that old saying, build it and they will come. [00:16:10][18.2]

Chloe Chick: [00:16:13] Really, it's only been in the last six months where we've, in fact, invested into Purpose-built trials that we've seen this mountain biking boom develop. As we're witnessing now. [00:16:23][9.8]

Scott Bevan: [00:16:24] The timing has been extraordinary. As the world has been shutting down due to the COVID 19 pandemic, Dungog has been opening up. The bike tracks drawing visitors from far and wide desperate for an escape. [00:16:39][15.1]

Mal Whitaker: [00:16:40] My name's Mal Whitaker and we've come up with the Sutherland Shire in Sydney today. [00:16:42][2.0]

Sonja Whitaker: [00:16:43] And I'm Sonja Whitaker, his wife. [00:16:45][1.6]

Scott Bevan: [00:16:46] Why have you come so far from south of Sydney to Dungog? [00:16:50][3.5]

Sonja Whitaker: [00:16:51] We were having a stickybeak around this area a few weeks ago and happened to pop into the information centre at Dungog and saw some information on local mountain bike tracks and we're keen mountain bikers in and around the Royal National Park, which is just south of Sydney. So we thought we'd come and check it out. [00:17:10][18.8]

Scott Bevan: [00:17:16] Mal and Sonja Whitaker are hardly alone in checking out the tracks. Just ask Dungog local Craig Stephenson. [00:17:25][9.3]

Craig Stephenson: [00:17:27] It gets very busy. Certainly you could be out there with hundreds of other people. But here's a genuine sense of community and a sense of well-being. And, you know, from the earliest of beginners, little kids on their little BMX bikes to, you know, old fellows and mums and e-bikes, you name it. [00:17:43][16.3]

Scott Bevan: [00:17:47] Now, Craig is not just a mountain bike rider. He and wife Stevie Parker operate the Stella Bistro in the heart of town along Dowling Street. [00:17:57][10.2]

Craig Stephenson: [00:17:58] Well, we started two years ago, and obviously that was prior to the mountain biking revolution. I suppose you could call it. Things have sort of happened in the last six months, that our business is trading well beyond anything we could have imagined. [00:18:11][12.7]

Scott Bevan: [00:18:12] Stevie says many of their customers are visiting mountain bike riders. [00:18:15][3.6]

Stevie Parker: [00:18:16] I would say a definite change to a good 65 percent are coming through as the mountain bike community. We've probably seen more of the mountain bikers this time around. Opening up from COVID than our normal motorcycle, as in motor bikes or road cycling. It's been a very definite switch. [00:18:35][18.4]

Scott Bevan: [00:18:38] Just up the street is the Tinshed Brewery, and owners Jimmy and Haley Cox are pulling pork off the bone for burgers, preparing for a bumper lunch crowd, which could well mean an afternoon of pulling beers for thirsty riders. [00:18:52][14.3]

Jimmy Cox: [00:18:53] Every second car has an accessory of mountain bikes on the back of it. So it's just amazing. [00:18:56][3.6]

Haley Cox: [00:18:57] All they want after riding, you know, 10, 20 Ks is a beer and a burger, which is great for us. [00:19:01][4.1]

Scott Bevan: [00:19:02] That's good for business. [00:19:03][0.5]

Haley Cox: [00:19:03] Yeah, it's perfect for business. It's working really well. [00:19:05][2.3]

Scott Bevan: [00:19:06] The microbrewery has had trouble keeping up with demand. So the Coxes are doubling their capacity to 6000 litres of beer fermenting in their popular shed. Still, it leaves Jimmy Cox. Hardly any time to get out on the common himself. [00:19:21][14.8]

Jimmy Cox: [00:19:21] Back before the mountain biking boom it used to be my personal track pretty well. Noone was out there. But, now, you're always out there and getting to say g'day to people. It's really good. [00:19:28][7.1]

Scott Bevan: [00:19:29] Well, they'd always be respectful of the brewer out on the track though. [00:19:32][2.6]

Jimmy Cox: [00:19:33] Well, they kept yelling at me to make more beer at the moment. Well, the respect might be dwindling while we're running out. [00:19:38][5.2]

James Lovegrove: [00:19:40] I think it's definitely put us on the map. [00:19:41][1.2]

Scott Bevan: [00:19:41] James Lovegrove is the co-owner of the town's IGA supermarket. [00:19:46][4.5]

James Lovegrove: [00:19:46] Thanks very much. Have a good afternoon. [00:19:49][2.7]

Scott Bevan: [00:19:49] He, too, has seen a boost in trade, particularly on weekends. James Lovegrove has lived in Dungog for about 35 years, and he's seen the town shift from its agricultural past, including the timber and dairy industries, to be exploring a future revolving around tourism. [00:20:08][18.3]

James Lovegrove: [00:20:08] For a long time now in Dungog, I've seen many different things try to stimulate the tourism and everything. I'm sort of surprised that it's been a bike track. It's sort of come from left field a little bit, but it's been a very pleasant surprise. It's a credit to everyone at Ride Dungog and the volunteers that have helped get that going out there. [00:20:25][16.4]

Scott Bevan: [00:20:27] I'm standing in Dowling Street, which is really a thoroughfare of history. The past is present in the architecture, the building styles right along this commercial strip. In fact, many of the shops wear their past with pride. I can make out the words HC Dark established 1877, impressed into the facade of the building in front of me. But of course, time moves on and now something new is rolling into the heart of Dungog. [00:20:56][29.5]

Rob Benson: [00:20:57] My name is Rob Benson. I'm the proprietor of Tempus Bicycle's and Darling Street in Dungog. I'm a custom frame builder and bicycle mechanic. [00:21:05][8.0]

Scott Bevan: [00:21:05] A bicycle shop in Dungog. I wonder how many years it's been since has been one of those. [00:21:11][5.9]

Rob Benson: [00:21:12] I'm not too sure if there's ever been one. We may quite possibly be the first, but yeah, we're happy to be here. [00:21:18][5.2]

Scott Bevan: [00:21:18] In a former hardware store. Rob Benson opened his bicycle shop in early September. Now in bikes, he sees a bright future both for his business and for Dungog. [00:21:29][10.3]

Rob Benson: [00:21:29] Look, I think they'll be a permanent part of Dungog future going onwards. The tracks up there, they really are something else, they're world class. The guys but a lot of work into them. And I mean, they're always there maintaining and grooming them. And they're fantastic. I mean, I don't think there's really anything locally just quite like it. [00:21:45][15.7]

Scott Bevan: [00:21:46] To have a bike shop open in town has thrilled Ride Dungog's Chloe Chick. [00:21:50][4.7]

Chloe Chick: [00:21:51] It's not so much the biking or the mountain bike tracks. It's what it represents. And for our youth, it represents employment, engagement, outdoor activity, mental health, wellbeing. And to have that represented in a commercial sense in the terms of a business. On our main street, it represents a lot. It really clearly brings our vision to life. [00:22:12][20.8]

Scott Bevan: [00:22:12] Chloe is not the only one excited by what the bike tracks are bringing to town. [00:22:17][4.8]

John Connors: [00:22:18] It's fantastic. It's amazing. [00:22:19][1.3]

Scott Bevan: [00:22:20] Councillor John Connors is the mayor of Dungog Shire. He sees optimism being literally pedalled into his community. [00:22:27][7.0]

John Connors: [00:22:28] There was a period here and I'm sure in lots of places where everybody was feeling a bit down. And that was exacerbated this year with initially the bushfires, even though we escaped the personal impact of the bushfires. But we still get impacted and the drought that preceded the bushfires and then the pandemic. But I think the mountain bike riding has brought about an air of confidence in the community. The main street whilst we had probably three or four vacant shops, new businesses have arrived. I think there's as of today probably one shop for rent. That would be all. Everything else is has some business operating in it. And that's great. And that's a change from twelve months ago. [00:23:15][47.6]

Scott Bevan: [00:23:22] If the bike tracks have been good for business and the community of Dungog, then the businesses and the residents are trying to give back to those tracks. Ride Dungog recently set up an appeal for $65,000 to help fund the design and construction of two more tracks as part of its push to make the town a world class mountain biking destination. Well, within a week. $70,000 had been raised, with local businesses donating about 50000. Haley and Jimmy Cox at the Tinshed Brewery are putting their money where our mouths are. [00:23:59][36.3]

Haley Cox: [00:23:59] This is just a little taster of our Xtra Trail Ale this one. It's like a pale ale, really, light in colour. Nice and fruity and hoppy. [00:24:06][6.7]

Scott Bevan: [00:24:07] Every time someone orders an Xtra Trail Ale at the brewery, they're contributing to the upkeep of the mountain bike tracks. [00:24:13][6.4]

Jimmy Cox: [00:24:14] We donate about 50 cents of every sale in each glass year to date, with even being shut down for three months, we have raised $2000 or a little bit more than $2000 for the trails so far. A lot of the local people were using their own fuel and their own mowers to maintain the tracks before the boom so hopefully they'll now chip a bit of fuel into their tanks and stuff like that as well. [00:24:33][19.0]

Scott Bevan: [00:24:33] And the Xtra Trail Ale doesn't just help fuel mowers. That is delicious. Now I'm ready to pedal. [00:24:40][7.2]

Scott Bevan: [00:24:47] At a time when COVID 19 restrictions have been causing so many businesses in so many places to slow down, even shut down, people in Dungog are grateful to see their community riding a mountain bike powered recovery. Here's Craig from the Stella Bistro again. [00:25:04][17.3]

Craig Stephenson: [00:25:05] In a time of such doom and gloom elsewhere, for this little town to sort of just flourish in the corresponding timeframe, has just been remarkable. [00:25:12][7.6]

Scott Bevan: [00:25:14] Out of the common, Sydneysiders Mal and Sonja Whitaker are preparing to hit the trails for the first time. [00:25:20][6.4]

Sonja Whitaker: [00:25:21] I'm hoping that it's really pristine bushland. The feeling of being on your own, away from noise and traffic and toxic smells. That's what I'm hoping when I get up there. [00:25:34][13.0]

Scott Bevan: [00:25:34] So you're hoping it's nothing like Sydney? [00:25:36][1.5]

Sonja Whitaker: [00:25:36] Yeah. Yeah, pretty much. [00:25:37][0.8]

Mal Whitaker: [00:25:38] I think regional areas have a lot to offer Sydney people in terms of holidaying in various ways wether its farm stays or just getting away from the hustle bustle. [00:25:45][7.0]

Scott Bevan: [00:25:48] Mayor John Connors is excited by the prospect of Dungog becoming synonymous with mountain bike riding. [00:25:55][6.4]

John Connors: [00:25:55] It will become something for which the town's known, not just in Newcastle and Maitland, not just on the East Coast here, but throughout Australia. [00:26:05][9.5]

Scott Bevan: [00:26:08] It's stunning. Shall we keep pedalling? [00:26:10][2.3]

Chloe Chick: [00:26:10] Let's do it. [00:26:11][0.3]

Scott Bevan: [00:26:14] As we pedal through the bush, Ride Dungog's Chloe Chick is looking further down the track to attract more funding and interest to build more trails so that more visitors will come. [00:26:26][11.9]

Chloe Chick: [00:26:27] So it will be very important for Dungog to become the pilot model, to do things properly, to have the support of state federal governments and other stakeholders so that we can, in fact create the blueprint that can be shared not just in Australia but globally for the way forward in a sustainable tourism generated future. [00:26:46][19.4]

Scott Bevan: [00:26:49] But for now, I followed Chloe and I follow her advice. Stay in the moment. Enjoy the outdoors and try not to crash. [00:26:59][10.0]

Scott Bevan: [00:27:04] Well, Chloe, that was wonderful, thank you. [00:27:05][1.5]

Chloe Chick: [00:27:06] Thanks, Scott. Thanks for joining me. [00:27:07][1.1]

Scott Bevan: [00:27:08] I'm going to do it again some time just to let my muscles recover first. [00:27:11][3.1]

Chloe Chick: [00:27:11] Yes, good idea. Put some Epsom salt in the bath. [00:27:13][1.8]

Scott Bevan: [00:27:13] Thanks. [00:27:13][0.0]

Tom Melville: [00:27:18] That's the Newcastle Herald, Scott Bevan there chatting with Chloe Chickk in Dungog. And if that doesn't make you want to dust off your helmet and Lycra, I don't know what will. [00:27:26][7.4]

Tom Melville: [00:27:33] That's it for this week's episode of Voice of Real Australia. Thank you so much for listening. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. And I'll be back in a couple of weeks. We're a new podcast so please share it with friends or give us a five star rating on Apple Podcasts. Everyone has a story to tell if you'd like to share yours, email us at That's voice at aust, A-U-S-T, community media dot com dot A-U. Our Facebook page is Voice of Real Australia is recorded in the studios of the Newcastle Herald. It's produced by Laura Corrigan and me, your host Tom Melville with reporting this week from the Newcastle Herald's Scott Bevan. Our editors are Gayle Tomlinson and Chad Watson. Special thanks this week, go to Jeanne Dillon. This is an ACM podcast. [00:27:33]

This story Voice of Real Australia Episode Three Transcript first appeared on Newcastle Herald.