Through thick and thin: improving policy in Australia’s regions

Central-local government relations Policy Regional planning Australia

The challenge of meeting the needs of regional Australia is well known. Problems felt in regional areas are interconnected and, largely for that reason, poorly suited to narrowly focused programs and services delivered through siloed institutions with siloed accountabilities. Specific local variations and the interactions between different programs are poorly addressed by programs, the administration of which is dominated by the centre and the politics of which is all too often dominated by Australia’s great cities.

This report explores some aspects of these problems in a diagnostic framework that then serves as a basis for offering some suggestions on how to improve the situation. Our particular focus is the extent to which specific remedial initiatives are encouraged that are adapted to particular regional areas, the extent to which they succeed and the extent to which governments learn from such initiatives; in short, the extent to which government is a ‘learning system’ for regional Australia. Given the resources available for this study, our report was unable to survey the field comprehensively. Nevertheless, we think we have put our finger on some important problems and offered some ways of addressing them.

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