First Rural Transaction Centres open

Australia's first Rural Transaction Centres have opened at Eugowra in Central West New South Wales and at St Mary's in North East Tasmania, with another four centres expected to open before the end of the year.

The Eugowra RTC, the first of up to 500 planned as part of a five year $70 million Federal Government programme to restore basic services to country areas, was officially opened by the Prime Minister on 29 October. The Centre, which received a grant of $130,000, brings together the Reliance Credit Union, Centrelink, Medicare Easyclaim, community Internet access and business support services.

Speaking at the launch the Federal Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Senator Ian Macdonald, congratulated Cabonne Council, the Eugowra Progress Association and the community for their hard work in putting the proposal together.

The second Centre to open was in the small Tasmanian town of St Marys, which is typical of the many small communities that have lost services in the past few years.

Senator Macdonald said he was delighted that the Government was able to help the community, not only to retain services, but to attract new ones. The St Marys RTC includes retail banking services provided by Trust Bank, postal facilitities and Medicare EasyClaim. 'I look forward to seeing the RTC Programme assist many more communities over the next few years.

On 3 November, Senator Macdonald and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, announced that a further 27 rural communities has secured funding of $400, 000 in the second round of programs.

The Rural Transaction Centre Programme is a Federal Government initiative to ensure that people living in rural Australia have the same access to basic transaction services that people living in large towns and cities take for granted.

Typical services include banking, post, phone, fax and Medicare EasyClaim, but the Programme has inbuilt flexibility to include some other services that communities may seek to include in their proposal for an RTC. For example, Eugowra included community internet access and a Centrelink agency.

Rural Councils interested in applying for assistance on behalf of their communities should contact the RTC Secretariat to discuss their proposal and the application process. Community groups and councils that have a proposal that requires more detailed planning and study may also be eligible for financial support for business planning.

The Secretariat can be contacted toll free on 1800 038 160. Further information is also available from the Programme's web site www.dotrs.gov.au/rtc/