Nearly 9 million people live in rural and regional Australia. Employing around one third of Australia’s workforce, Australia’s regions produce approximately 40 per cent of the national economic output.
Undoubtedly, the economic success of Australia relies on the economic success of Australia’s regional areas. Australia’s national economic prosperity is underwritten by investment in rural and regional economies. This government investment must be informed by well-coordinated national and regional development strategies.
With increasing pressures on Australia’s capital cities, investment in rural and regional economies may also help to address many of the problems experienced in metropolitan areas. This includes population growth, congestion, and high cost-ofliving expenses.
On 1 June 2017, the House of Representatives established the Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation to inquire into and report on best practice approaches to regional development, the decentralisation of Commonwealth entities and supporting corporate decentralisation. The aim of the inquiry was to examine ways to build the capacity of rural and regional Australia, and to unlock its latent potential.
The Committee found that rural and regional Australia is currently challenged by two key issues: the perception of regions as ‘second rate,’ and the ongoing trend of people moving to the state capitals.
The Committee strongly rejects the perception of Australia’s rural and regional communities as inferior to capital cities. Rather, the Committee promotes the value, and advantages of living and working in regional Australia. Far from being a deficit to the nation, Australia’s regions may well hold the answers to many of Australia’s social, economic and environmental challenges. To this end, rural and regional communities must be supported as sustainable, vibrant and enjoyable places to live and work.
There are clear opportunities presented by our regions. These are broadly encapsulated in the following: people and human capital; capacity and desire to contribute to and share in the nation’s output and growth; natural assets including resources such as land and water; environment and amenity; strong sense of community and identity; uniqueness and diversity.