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Strategic Objective : Regional communities which have better access to economic opportunities and services, and which are able to take the lead in their own planning and development

In seeking to meet this objective, activities in 2002-03 continued to be conducted in line with Stronger Regions, A Stronger Australia, the Australian Government's 10-year policy framework, launched in 2001, for developing Australia's regions. The framework has four distinct goals:

  • 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.

The department's ability to achieve better access to economic opportunities and services for regional communities and assist them to take the lead in planning and development also depends on the alignment of a number of factors, including:

  • developing broad economic settings which minimise impediments and facilitate and encourage local leadership and endogenous growth in Australia's regions
  • ensuring all Commonwealth agencies design mainstream policy and programmes which recognise locational differences
  • empowering local communities in circumstances of limited capacity to help themselves.

The past year has seen the department make significant progress in these areas. For example:

  • Whole of government arrangements were pursued so that issues impacting on different regions can be approached in a coordinated way. Key milestones included the establishment of the Deputy Secretaries Whole of Government Group, two meetings of the Standing Committee on Regional Development (SCORD) and the establishment of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) indigenous trial in Tjurabalan, East Kimberley, Western Australia.
  • Significant progress was made in implementing the Sustainable Regions Programme and in streamlining other programmes the department currently administers, particularly through the launch of Regional Partnerships.
  • The department worked with a range of Commonwealth agencies to incorporate the needs of Australia's regions in mainstream policy.
  • Considerable progress was made in delivering services to communities: the number of operational Rural Transaction Centres increased from 52 to 80 over the last year.
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