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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

Key strategy Performance indicators Achievement
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.
(Contributing divisions: Regional Policy and Regional Programmes)
Policies and programmes implemented that acknowledge and provide for the needs of regional Australia. Partially achieved

Key achievements

Encouraging Commonwealth agencies to give priority to addressing issues facing regional Australia is a key strategy shared by many government agencies, including the department.

From the department's perspective, implementation of this strategy has focused on the delivery of Regional Partnerships and close collaboration with a range of Commonwealth agencies to ensure the needs of regional Australia are identified and addressed.

Sustainable Regions Programme

The Sustainable Regions Programme announced in August 2001 offers a planned, integrated approach to structural adjustment in eight 'prototype' regions throughout Australia.

Advisory committees are now well established in all eight regions and over the last year the programme has funded 72 projects. These projects covered a broad range of areas including: export opportunities, new regional industries, capital works, technology-based projects, social inclusion and education related projects and the environment.

Working with other agencies

The department has also worked with a wide range of Commonwealth agencies to ensure that government policies, programmes and regulations better acknowledge and provide for the needs, interests and capabilities of regional communities.

By providing advice to other Commonwealth agencies about the preparation of Regional Impact Statements, the department helped ensure that the government was more aware of the likely positive and negative impacts of new policies, funding arrangements and changes to existing programmes on regional Australia. This was particularly so in relation to their impact on services, employment and investment.

Addressing regional issues

Departmental activities have resulted in acknowledgment of the telecommunications needs of the communities and people of regional, rural and remote Australia.

Consultations with councils, community groups and other stakeholders during a field visit to western Queensland enabled the department to gather data on telecommunications issues faced by people in remote areas of Australia. This data was incorporated with other information into a broader departmental submission to the government's independent Regional Telecommunications Inquiry (RTI).

The government responded to the RTI on 25 June 2003, accepting all 39 of the department's recommendations and announcing a further $181 million investment in regional telecommunications. This will:

  • help ensure all Australians have access to adequate telecommunications services
  • enhance a range of existing services (such as mobile phone coverage)
  • ensure that regional Australia continues to share equitably in the benefits of future technologies (such as faster internet services).

Indigenous communities

The department's secretary, Ken Matthews, has been involved in the Commonwealth Secretaries' Group in supporting the COAG initiative to work in a new way with up to 10 indigenous communities around the country to trial ways to improve services and living standards for indigenous peoples.

The department negotiated a trial site with a group of five communities in the East Kimberley (Western Australia) to progress a whole of government approach and shared responsibility between the Commonwealth, state and local governments and the indigenous community.

The indigenous communities involved in the trial are now working together with all levels of government to address the disadvantages they face. Through this process the capacity of these communities to work towards shared responsibility and a shared future has increased.

Other results

During 2002-03, the department achieved other results that contributed to this strategy:

  • Ensuring that certain regional catchment plans include a commitment to assessing the socio-economic impacts of their implementation. This involved the department working closely with the departments of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry-Australia and Environment and Heritage, with their state government counterparts, and with regional catchment bodies.
  • Ensuring that the Tourism Green Paper developed by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources included a focus on the development of tourism in regional and rural Australia. The paper acknowledges that tourism can play a vital role in regional communities, providing increased opportunities for economic diversification and promoting social cohesion.
  • The department also ensured that the Review of Settlement Services for Migrants and Humanitarian Entrants, conducted by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, considered regional Australia's capacity to contribute to settlement planning and settlement services, and highlighted the potential benefits to regional Australia.
  • Through its involvement in the Commonwealth/State Working Party on Skilled Migration, the department has identified mechanisms to facilitate a greater dispersal of migrants and humanitarian entrants throughout regional Australia. The implementation of these, utilising the SCORD working group on Attraction and Retention of Professionals, will help ensure regional Australia shares in the benefits of Australia's migration programme.
  • The department is addressing pressing social issues faced by regional communities through its work ensuring that the government's welfare reform agenda takes account of the needs of regional communities.
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