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Regional development

Creating resilient regions – the strategies behind strong communities

A strong strategy is key to regional growth, each region has got to know where the opportunities are, Regional Institute of Australia Chief Executive, Jack Archer told CEDA’s State of the Nation 2018 audience.

“Achieving alignment between key institutions and key leaders in regions is an incredibly difficult challenge but something that people around the country are having real impact with,” he said. 

“Investment and population growth are the next two obvious things, every region needs to be looking for investment.

“And the final thing is investment is nurturing local entrepreneurs, access to greater broadband is opening up incredible opportunities for people to do things from their homeplace.” 

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Caroline McMillen said their strategy is to offer access to higher education. 

“We have about 35,000 students across the region, more than 50 per cent are the first in their family to come to university,” she said.

“Those students come to us from all different pathways, the opportunity that we take is to ensure that we offer different pathways so that students can move from access to success.

“Our students can come with no ATAR, they can come to us as a forklift driver from the mines and they can walk across the stage with a university medal or I’ll meet them in a university in Oxford, Havard or Cambridge. 

“Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.

“So the opportunity we must take always is to offer those pathways through.” 

Professor McMillen said the critical opportunity for her university is co-creation through partnerships. 

“Co-creation of curricular, co-creation of work-integrated learning, co-creation of new businesses with industry and SMEs.

“We not only have a differentiation on our equity mission, but with excellence in our research, really driving those new clusters in health, mining and resources, and a new cluster in creative industries.

“We’re creating new opportunities through new graduates, talent and partnerships, opportunities are nothing without partners and regions.” 

Wagner Corporation Chairman, John Wagner said creating a local economic development organisation six years ago helped show the potential of the Toowoomba region.

“What we’ve seen is a bunch of leaders, and I’m talking about private enterprise leaders, who are very passionate about our region come together and really sell the story of what we’ve got to offer and how we can take it forward,” he said.

“What you need to have in a region in my view is very passionate people prepared to invest and promote the region.

“What we’ve got is a very diverse economy, we’ve got a fantastic university, and we’re now exporting fresh agriculture product out of our airport direct into Asia every week.

“So we’ve really seen people getting on board in order to make our economy sustainable in the long term.”

CRC for Developing Northern Australia, WA Project Manager and Shire of Broome Councillor Catherine Marriott also said it is the people who drive growth in regional Australia. 

“I think one of the biggest assets that we have are in rural and regional Australia from a leadership and economic growth point of view is passionate people,” she said.

“People live in the regions because they love it, it is such a fantastic place to be.”

Cr Marriott said it is important for local councils to take the lead on getting people invested.

“If people aren’t aligned with where the government is going and the policies that they’re putting across, it’s a risk because people will disengage with the direction that their country is going.

“I think it is up to all of us as leaders in rural and regional Australia to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Cr Marriott said after 10 years of economic flatlining Broome has over $250 million of investments coming in.

“That stems from a number of different industries; agriculture, mining and the resource sector as well as tourism,” she said.

“I think it’s really important that we manage to streamline those processes, identify the risks but have a say yes to business attitude.”