Regional Australia Summit

Local Government was well represented among the two hundred and eighty two delegates who attended the Regional Australia Summit held at Parliament House in Canberra from 27 - 29 October. The Summit drew together business and community representatives from across the nation to focus on solutions to issues facing regional areas as a result of economic change globalisation, advances in technology, microeconomic reform and rationalisation of services.

Delegates included representatives from Local Government Associations and councils across Australia, including Gunnedah Shire Council, Hinchinbrook Shire Council and Warnambool City Council. The Delegates at the Summit heard Australian and international speakers and participated in intensive meetings of working groups covering twelve key themes.

The Federal Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Senator Ian Macdonald, introduced four case studies highlighting creative and positive responses to the challenges facing regional areas. These presentations included the Booringa Shire Council in Queensland, about economic development in the region, the Delatite Shire Council in Victoria concerning youth unemployment and Hyden in Western Australia where the community worked together to export new economic opportunities in tourism.

"I felt it was important to showcase the innovative attempts by some communities to deal with change. While there are many difficulties that have to be faced, the Summit also provided a forum to highlight examples of opportunities for many rural communities" Senator Macdonald said. "Local Government can and does play a key role in many of these success stories".

A highlight of the summit was a live satellite transmission of the opening by the Prime Minister, John Howard, of the first Rural Transaction Centre in Eugowra, NSW which was beamed to Summit delegates at Parliament House (See the article on the Opening of Rural Transaction centres for more details). Cabonne shire Council played a key role in obtaining Federal Funding for the Eugowra RTC.

Working groups produced a Summit Communique, which summarised their recommendations. Delegates agreed that new partnerships need to be forged amongst all spheres of government, business and communities to respond to the needs and priorities of our regional communities as well as the opportunities and challenges confronting regional Australia.

A steering committee has now been formed to progress outcomes from the Summit. An implementation plan will be developed by the end of the year.

Further information about the Summit, including the Summit Communique, background papers, keynote presentations and list of participants, can be found at the Regional Australia Summit website at www.dots.gov.au/regional/summit.