Effectiveness indicators for key strategies

Communities that have improved access to information, programmes and services which enables them to build on capabilities and opportunities within their regions

Key strategy: Lead the development nationally of an integrated, whole of government approach to regional development and regional services, which supports communities' own solutions.

Substantially achieved

While this is a long-term strategy, substantial progress has been made through the development and initial implementation of the Government's Regional Policy Statement, Stronger Regions, A Stronger Australia, launched in August 2001. The emphasis in the Government's statement is on the development of solutions by regional communities to match the particular attributes of the community and the issues affecting it. Central to this approach is the development of capacity in regions to identify and pursue opportunities for development and, where necessary, adjustment to new conditions.

As an example of this approach, a key new initiative arising from the Stronger Regions statement is the Sustainable Regions Programme, under which eight prototype regions have access to funding for initiatives to address disadvantage. Locally-based committees with broad community representation are developing profiles of the regions, developing strategic plans and, in consultation with business and governments, developing initiatives to assist development of the region. All eight committees have been set up and have commenced their work.

We have recognised that information flows are critical to the capacity of communities to build on capabilities and opportunities within their regions. As foreshadowed in the Stronger Regions statement, the Department has worked on the development of a major information campaign to assist regional Australians to understand and access the wide range of programmes available to them. The Commonwealth Regional Information Service and supporting advertising campaign have been finalised for launch early in the 2002-03 financial year.

Commonwealth regional information campaign

The Commonwealth Government has been concerned for some time about regional Australians' access to information about Commonwealth Government programmes and services compared with those living in major cities. Concerns were raised during the Regional Australia Summit held in October 1999, and in many other forums since, that many people in regional Australia are simply not aware of the services that are available to them.

Answering a clear need, the Department has taken the lead role on behalf of the Government in the Commonwealth Regional Information Campaign. The Commonwealth Regional Information Service is designed to provide easy access for all Australians living and working in regional, rural and remote Australia to information about the comprehensive spread of Commonwealth Government programmes and services.

The service is made up of:

  • a freecall number (1800 026 222)
  • a website www.regionalaustralia.gov.au/
  • the Commonwealth Regional Information Directory (formerly known as The Rural Book)
  • a roadshow travelling to country shows
  • field days
  • other events and community information stands, providing printed material from a range of Commonwealth Government departments.
The Commonwealth Regional Information Campaign is designed to raise awareness of this service through television commercials, radio and print announcements in all regional, rural and remote areas airing from August to November 2002. Advertising messages are supported by distribution of the Commonwealth Regional Information Booka short guide to key Commonwealth programmes and services to three million households in regional Australia.

The Department's capacity to lead the development of location-based approaches has been enhanced through the transfer of portfolio responsibility for the Area Consultative Committee network to the Department in machinery of government changes following the 2001 Federal election. The Department has made considerable progress in integrating the new network into its operations and developing strategies to make best use of the regional presence that the network provides.

With other agencies, the Department has also worked to ensure that regional communities have the capacity to influence the outcomes of natural resource management programmes, such as the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the Natural Heritage Trust.

While the integration of approaches to regional development and regional services will be an ongoing process, the Department's activities during 2001-02 have supported moves to a much stronger emphasis on locally-based, community-driven solutions.

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Polices and programmes implemented which acknowledge and provide for needs of regional Australia

Key strategy: Encourage Commonwealth agencies to give priority to addressing issues facing regional Australia (such as education and skills development) when they develop and implement policies and programmes.

Substantially achieved

Through the restructure of the Department's regional resources from 1 January 2002, additional capacity has been provided to lead work in developing whole of government approaches with other agencies. The Department has established bilateral working groups with the Department of Family and Community Services to develop and trial ‘joined up’ approaches to delivering better outcomes for regional communities. The Department has also taken a role in other cross-agency groups in the Commonwealth, including the Secretaries Group on Indigenous Issues and the Secretaries Group on Youth.

With the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, the Department has worked to ensure that the needs, interests and capabilities of regional communities have been addressed in development of the Government's 10-year tourism plan. This included preparation for the Regional Tourism Roundtable held in August 2002.

There are clear indications of increased efforts across Commonwealth agencies to look for whole of government approaches. In the Department's own programmes, work has proceeded on cross-agency initiatives such as the More Accessible Government initiative and Rural Transaction Centres Programme.

The pursuit of whole of government approaches across the three spheres of Government is on the agenda as well. In line with directions from the Council of Australian Governments, the Department provides the secretariat for the Regional Development Council which includes Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers, and the Australian Local Government Association. The initial meeting of the Standing Committee on Regional Development, the supporting group of senior officials to the Council, was held in May 2002. The main focus of the developing agenda for the Council is whole of government approaches to regional development and regional services.

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Providing opportunities directly in regional Australia

Key strategy: Lead by example in making use of services and skills available in regional Australia.

Substantially achieved

As a result of the machinery of government changes following the 2001 Federal election, the Department took charge of 12 regional offices, two programmes and the support role for a national network of Area Consultative Committees (ACCs). These new responsibilities, coupled with the programmes already administered by the Department, give strength to the Department's ability to directly assist regional communities to realise opportunities and access services addressing their specific needs.

The network of regional offices gives the Department a presence in each State and Territory of Australia. A review examining how the Regional Office Network can best support regional Australia has been conducted, and renewed roles and responsibilities of the offices will be implemented in the 2002-03 financial year.

The regional office network is the Department's main point of contact with the national network of 56 ACCs covering Australia.

The ACC network provides an important link between the Commonwealth Government and rural and metropolitan Australia. As volunteer community-based organisations, ACCs are uniquely placed to respond to issues in their regions and provide a vital conduit to the Government on local, social and economic conditions.

The chairs of the ACCs, appointed by the Departmental Secretary, are leading members of the community. Committee members are drawn from the community, local business and government; they provide strategic leadership and direction to ACCs in fulfilling their charter and functions.

The Department recognises that optimal regional growth and development will be achieved only when regional communities manage change at the local level, and plan for and lead their own development with the support of both Government and the private sector. This in turn works best if there is an effective organisational arrangement in place that enables the Government to respond to each region's needs and encourages the local community to take up programmes designed to meet their needs. It is this role that ACCs fulfil.

Several programmes administered by the Department during 2001-02 encouraged regional communities to address their unique needs and create opportunities at a local level. Through these programmes, communities have harnessed and gained skills and services that have direct benefit for their regions.

In particular, these programmes have delivered many solutions and opportunities directly to regional Australia, including employment growth, industry diversification, tourist attractions, service centres, information services, sport and recreation facilities, community care facilities and capital works projects. They have also attracted considerable investment from other sources in regional Australia.

The specific programmes and their impacts on regional Australia are detailed under the administered programmes for Key Result 2.

The Department's development of our regional offices, our ongoing support of the ACCs and delivery of regionally targeted programmes facilitates access to and creation of services and skills in regional Australia. These initiatives enable local communities to seek opportunities and determine their own future.

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Governments agreeing to consistent approaches to reducing the impact of disasters on communities

Key strategy: Lead the development nationally of research into the cost of natural disasters and the benefits of mitigation.

Disaster Mitigation Research Working Group-Achieved

The Department played a lead role in developing Module 2 of a series of Disaster Mitigation Research Working Group studies, Benefits of Flood Mitigation in Australia, released by Minister Tuckey in June 2002. The report builds on current levels of understanding across all spheres of government by identifying the costs avoided by flood mitigation projects at various locations in Australia.

A consistent approach to dealing with the impact of disasters on communities is set out in the Module 2 document. The potential savings to State Governments and local governments of a consistent flood mitigation approach are enormous.

Disaster Mitigation Research Working Group-Partially achieved

The Department provides secretariat services to the Disaster Mitigation Research Working Group, which is made up of representatives from emergency management agencies in all States and Territories. The Department has an ongoing commitment to the Working Group, which will continue to meet, to progress disaster mitigation research, focusing on a national approach to identifying the costs and benefits of disasters and appropriate mitigation measures.

Stakeholders in local communities and the States have expressed strong support for the way in which the Commonwealth is taking the lead in this matter.

On 8 June 2001, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to commission a wide-ranging Review of Natural Disaster Relief and Mitigation Arrangements involving the three levels of government and key stakeholders. The Secretary of the Department chairs a High Level Group of senior officials undertaking the review.

Both the COAG review and the Working Group demonstrate the Government's consistent approach to reducing the impact of disasters on communities throughout the country.

Stronger Regions, A Stronger Australia

On 29 August 2001, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services announced Stronger Regions, A Stronger Australia, the Federal Government's framework for developing Australia's regions through the next decade.

Stronger Regions, A Stronger Australia articulates a partnership approach across the Commonwealth Government with communities and the private sector to:

  • strengthen regional economic and social opportunities
  • sustain our productive natural resources and environment
  • deliver better regional services
  • adjust to economic, technological and government-induced change.

In line with this framework, the Department has:

  • led whole of government responses to specific regions through the Sustainable Regions Programme
  • worked collaboratively with a range of agencies to strengthen whole of government coordination through More Accessible Government initiatives
  • reviewed and consolidated the strategic direction of its regional programmes (and is now working to translate policy directions into practical measures to give effect to these decisions)
  • commenced the Regional Business Development Analysis
  • established the Standing Committee on Regional Development, in preparation for the first meeting of the Regional Development Council of Commonwealth and State Ministers.

This standing committee is working to:

  • explore and develop opportunities for joined up work
  • identify and address the issues involved in attracting and retaining professional and other skilled people in regional Australia
  • develop practical outcomes for working together on key priorities for regional infrastructure
  • develop an indigenous action plan.

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More information and analysis published and available to assist regional development

Key strategy: Improve the understanding of Commonwealth agencies and regions of the requirements of individual communities by improving how regional needs are analysed.

Substantially achieved

The Stronger Regions statement included a focus on improving the base of research and analysis for regional policy making. The Department's resources in this area were strengthened through our recent organisational restructure. The Bureau of Transport Economics, within the Economic Research and Portfolio Policy Division, was given an extended role as the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics and will pursue an annual programme of targeted economic and social research on regional issues.

In addition, a major analysis of impediments to investment and options for action was commenced late in 2001-02. The Regional Business Development Analysis is being conducted by an independent expert panel, through processes including extensive consultation across regional Australia.

During 2001-02, over 40 regional research projects were supported through the Research Development Programme for Rural and Regional Australia, including work by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Bureau of Rural Sciences.

Information about the research undertaken by the Department through the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics is described under Output 2.3.

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