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Regional Australia poised to restore national growth  

March 30 2023


The political landscape shifted once again this week, with the NSW Labor victory. We congratulate the incoming Premier Chris Minns and his new government and look forward to working with the new team on the issues most pressing to regional people. 

But as we consider the wider political landscape in Australia in the context of our Regionalisation Ambition 2032, I see an opportunity available to us like never before. Alignment and collaboration, two words that are easy to say but difficult to enact unless the settings are right, and the boundaries are clear. 

Regional Australia is at a turning point and it’s now more important than ever that the Governments of the day see this opportunity in a new light. As this new Government navigates its way through its elected term in office, we trust it will seek counsel from regional stakeholders as it implements new policies and programs that will shape future Australia.

As the CEO of the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), there are many milestones I reflect on and celebrate. Last week, we jointly launched the National Alliance for Regionlisation at Parliament House in Canberra, and we welcomed opening addresses from both the Hon. Catherine King, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development and the Hon. Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development and Local Governments. We thank them both for their support of the Alliance.

This Alliance is the first of its kind, with an aim of better positioning the regions to reach their potential. It will work to bring the RAI’s Regionalisation Ambition 2032 to life, across government at all levels, industry and the community.

Chaired by Mike Mrdack AO, the Alliance brings together more than 30 CEOs from leading peak bodies – including the Business Council of Australia (BCA), National Farmers Federation (NFF), Australian Medical Association (AMA), Australian Industry Group and Minerals Council of Australia, just to name a few.

By addressing the issues outlined in the Ambition, through the collective lens of the Alliance, it will progress solutions that have hampered growth in regional Australia for decades.

The Alliance’s formation came in the same week as the Treasurer’s call to arms to boost Australia’s lagging productivity growth.  Regions must be central to this task. We have long been the engine of Australia’s productivity. Mining and agriculture – trusted constants, even in the bleakest of economic times. 

But it’s not just these existing heavy weights that have a job to do. In a de-carbonised economy and with increased geopolitical tension, the regions will also be home to industries critical to our future. 
Australia can achieve greater productivity gains by growing its regions, rather than Sydney and Melbourne which are facing plateauing agglomeration. 

We know that planning for our nation’s future requires focus on delivering a more prosperous, inclusive and resilient regional Australia. Thank you to the organisations involved in the Alliance for taking a seat at this historic table. Knowledge sharing and national leadership will ensure the 20 Ambition targets remain central to decision-making in this country.

At the RAI, we often say we think national and talk local. This week, we’ve done just that, kicking off our National Regionalisation Roadshow in Stawell, working with local champions to help progress the Ambition at a community level. Thank you to the incredible community in the Northern Grampians, I’m still on a high from our time together and I can’t wait to see your actions come to life!!! Our next workshop will be held at Chinchilla on 9 May.

Solving the challenges facing our regions starts with having the collective will to make change. But equally as important it’s about having the facts. For this reason, I’d like to congratulate Origin Energy for commissioning the Western Downs and Maranoa Childcare study.

This work confirms childcare users in regional Queensland waited more than 12 months to access services - hampering the regional workforce capability. I’d encourage stakeholders in this space to download the findings now available on our website.

Demand for labour in the regions (including childcare workers) is still elevated in contrast to the metro market. Regional job vacancies have remained steady over the last month, at 81,000. This figure is still 11.2 percent more than the same time last year. 

With the target of 11 million people living prosperously in the regions by 2032, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Continuing our efforts to promote the regions as a great place to live, work and invest, I am delighted to share with you our new podcast, You Moved Where?! It explores the stories of city dwellers who’ve packed up and are now forging a new life in regional Australia. Please take a listen at Apple and Spotify. You never know where it will take you!

Until next week, stay safe and connected.

Liz Ritchie – CEO