The 85 per cent of Australia that is remote from the main centres of population is a place of recurrent crises leading to ad hoc special interventions. Broken up by state and territory boundaries it is the backyard for the governments of Australia. While it produces the bulk of our tradable wealth it suffers from inability to provide basic services, poverty is common, civil order is precarious, and government lacks legitimacy in the eyes of those who live there. Much of it meets the internationally accepted definition of a failed state and requires the sort of special intervention we associate with failed states.
remoteFOCUS is an initiative based on the view that without reform of the structures of government, finance, policy and administration, Remote Australia will remain a place of recurring crises. Too often poor policy outcomes in Remote Australia are perceived only in the context of the dysfunction of remote Indigenous communities and seen therefore as ‘Indigenous' issues rather than issues of government capability. This is a mistake. Poor outcomes need to be evaluated in the context of systemic failure of public policy to be implemented appropriately in Remote Australia. There are structural issues and broader institutional factors that need to be brought into the policy equation. The remoteFOCUS Group is currently working to develop a reform package to address structural problems within the existing fiscal and legal framework, current service delivery models, community and regional structures and in the context of how governments engage with Remote Australia.