Regional Development Australia FundInfrastructure, unemployment, a changing workforce, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation, health, education, social services, climate change, natural resource management and agriculture are some of the key issues to be addresses in regional Australia.

While not everyone living in rural and regional Australia will see eye-to-eye on how best regional issues swill be resolved, in the lead up to the Federal election how many of these issues will make their way onto the national political agenda?

Government investments in transport, energy, telecommunications and water infrastructure are fundamental to the productivity of rural and regional industries as discussed by The Conversation.

Made well, these investments can enhance economic and social participation, minimise negative environmental impacts, and support adaptation to climate variability and change.

It follows that, when it comes to evaluating the case for public investment, one eye needs to be on the business case while the other needs to be on the potential for social and environmental co-benefits. This is where most of the issues listed below come into play.

Nationally, unemployment rates in non-metropolitan Australia are similar to those in the capital cities. However, rural and regional labour markets are volatile, with extremely high unemployment in particular locales. Place-specific strategies to assist these locales deserve consideration.

The loss of over 55,000 mining jobs nationally since late 2012 hit a number of regional cities hard. In Mackay, unemployment rose from 11.7% to 18.9% in 2015. In Muswellbrook, it went from 9.8% to 14.9%. The sector is expected to shed another 31,900 jobs by late 2020.

Nowhere in the country, though, are unemployment levels higher than in predominantly Indigenous townships like Aurukun, Palm Island and Yarrabah. Unemployment today in these former forced relocation sites hovers above 50%. That’s nearly three times the already high national unemployment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Changing workforce profiles mean that growth in the value of traditional rural and regional industries won’t necessarily solve the problem of unemployment.

Agricultural produce recorded an increase in value between 2010-11 and 2014-15 of about 13%, or A$6 billion. Over roughly the same period, though, agriculture, forestry and fisheries shed nearly 40,000 jobs. Another 9,400 jobs are expected to go by late 2020. Innovation is driving improvements across many aspects of primary production, including labour productivity. To read more at The Conversation click here.

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference; Participation and Progress will be held in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016 to register for the conference CLICK HERE.

The conference explores opportunities for innovation in regional Australia. With its rich resources, diversity, and value, regional Australia is the catalyst for the future.

Addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental sustainability, land use, community development, investment, agribusiness and innovation it is an opportunity not to be missed.

There is still a last minute opportunity to speak at the Conference.  If you would like to speak at the Conference you are invited to submit a 300 word abstract speaking within regional development on attracting business success, employment, infrastructure, health aged care and more. CLICK HERE to submit an abstract. Abstracts close on 13th June.

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