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8 May 2007 010TRS/Budget

The Australian Government will spend $105.2 million in 2007-08 to strengthen local economies and create jobs through the Regional Partnerships Programme, Sustainable Regions and the Area Consultative Committee network.

In addition, the Government will spend $4.5 million over the next four years ($1 million in 2007-08) to carry out a plan to increase the number of women on boards and other decision-making bodies in regional Australia.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile, said, "The Government is committed to increasing women's representation on rural and regional boards and other bodies of influence. Women are under-represented at the moment; it is unfair and it is holding back the development of regional Australia.

"Our Regional Women's Action Plan for Women's Representation in Decision Making will consist of four targeted strategies:

  • an information strategy targeted at regional boards to promote the value of diversity in decision making and to provide regional boards with opportunities to meet with women from regional Australia to build confidence in the skills of these potential board candidates.
  • influencing demand by educating organisations on the business benefits of greater participation by women in board decision making and providing opportunities to recognise and showcase excellence in boards.
  • providing transition pathways for women to participate on decision making bodies.
  • establishing networks and enabling environments for regional women and increasing promotion of board opportunities to women participating in the networks.

"Women in regional Australia will continue to compete on merit for positions on boards and decision-making bodies, but our action plan will help remove the barriers to their participation," Mr Vaile said.

In 2007-08, the Government will spend $72.4 million on the Regional Partnerships programme, $15.4 million on Sustainable Regions and $17.4 million on the Area Consultative Committee network.

"The Government started the Regional Partnerships programme in 2003, and we have now provided more than $268 million to support about 1,240 local projects. In 2007-08, we will contribute a further $68.7 million to help deliver better services and greater prosperity to local communities across Australia," Mr Vaile said.

"Regional Partnerships is great value for money, because we work in partnership with other private and public sector organisations. Since we started the programme, our spending has generated $956 million in cash and in-kind contributions from our project partners. Every dollar that we invest generates more than four dollars in results on the ground."

The Government will spend $15.4 million in 2007-08 on the Sustainable Regions Programme, which funds key development projects in regions that face economic, social and environmental change. The programme is now focused on two regions: the Darling Matilda Way Sustainable Region in western New South Wales and south west Queensland, and the Northern Rivers and North Coast NSW Sustainable Region.

"We are funding a series of key tourism projects in the Darling Matilda Way Sustainable Region, including the Back O' Bourke Exhibition Centre in Bourke and the Endangered Species Tourism and Conservation Centre in Charleville, which will feature underground observatories so visitors can see bilbies in their natural habitat," Mr Vaile said.

"These projects will create jobs and help encourage young people to stay in the region.

"In the Northern Rivers and North Coast NSW Sustainable Region, we are helping to fund projects like the expansion of the OzBerries blueberry packing plant, the upgrade of the aquaculture facilities at the National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour, and the development of coal seam methane fields near Casino.

"The local advisory committees are considering a large number of other projects in each region, and we expect to receive more recommendations from them by 30 June 2007," he said.

The Government will continue to support the national Area Consultative Committee (ACC) network with $53.4 million in funding from 2007-08 to 2009-10, including $17.4 million in 2007-08.

"The Area Consultative Committee network is an important link between the Government and communities in regional and urban Australia. The ACCs consist of unpaid community leaders who provide the Government with advice. They have an important role in making recommendations about Regional Partnerships projects," Mr Vaile said.

"We are providing the ACCs with identified funding over three years, to make it easier for them to attract and retain quality staff and put together long-term strategic plans."

Media contact: Tim Langmead 02 6277 7680/0421 584 990