Frances to speak on Australia 2020 Summit

Published 24 April 2008

Frances Shapter, Southern Cross University’s Australia 2020 Summit representative, will give a talk to staff and community members next Tuesday on her experience of attending this significant national landmark event.

Frances, an associate research fellow in the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics, will be joined by Kirstie Parker, the editor of the Koori Mail newspaper, who was also a regional representative at the Summit.

The women were selected from more than 8000 people who nominated for places at the Summit, which covered the 10 key areas of: productivity agenda; Australian economy; sustainability and climate change; rural Australia; health; communities and families; Indigenous Australia; creative Australia; Australian governance; and Australia’s future in the world, bringing together 1000 of the country’s best and brightest brains to tackle the long term challenges confronting our nation’s future.

“The 2020 summit was an incredibly positive process because of the discussion it has generated in our communities both before and after the event. Ideas presented were heard first-hand by the relevant ministers and recorded for future reference,” Frances said.

“It was an honour to meet and work with such a diverse and impressive group of people. This was truly an amazing experience for me personally. I have enormous respect for the organisational staff, chairs, facilitators, the PM and all the other 1001 participants that attended, who donated their time to work towards the common goal of a better Australia for our future.

“I said before I attended the summit that Australia’s farmers and agricultural researchers are among the most technologically advanced and efficient in the world. The optimism and positivity that encompassed the conversations/debates of the ‘Future directions for rural industries and rural communities’ were a testament to that.

“The potential of rural, regional and remote (RR&R) Australia to ensure food security whilst maintaining environmental sustainability for all Australians into the future can only be enhanced by such collaborations. Further, it was pointed out that Australia is uniquely positioned within the globe to lead the way in significantly contributing to global food production towards 2020 because of our low population to land mass ratio, even with our dry and somewhat difficult environment.

“To make the most of this unique position we need to not only increase our productivity, but importantly, improve all aspects of our water and environmental management. These three key areas require increasing investment in research, development and extension schemes ... good news for universities! It is vital that in moving forward, natural resource management and agriculture work collaboratively so that policy does not take care of one at the expense of the other as our future depends equally on both.

“RR&R Australia covers more ground than just environment and agriculture. Our infrastructure (transport, facilities, internet access etc) in RR&R Australia needs upgrading. We need to strengthen our RR&R communities by ensuring we enjoy the same level of access to health, education, cultural pursuits and opportunity as our urban counterparts.

“We also need to encourage and support these communities to flourish whether that be by mentoring programs for youth or small businesses, or by encouraging tourism and tourism opportunities in regional areas. All areas of education need attention: education for consumers regarding the value and opportunity of rural Australia, for our younger children and importantly, equitable access to tertiary education for RR&R youth.”

Frances said these ambitions resulted in key strategies being developed during the 2020 summit and below are just a few of the broader ideas presented in the ‘rural Australia’ stream of the debate:
• Standardisation of regulatory bodies across Australia for all transport and agricultural related industries;
• Holistic government strategy for sustainable farm operation including water incentives and an integrated carbon strategy;
• Federal government survey to assess the soil and hydrological resources of the North and Northwest areas of Australia;
• Incorporation of ‘Rural Studies’ into a national rural education program and establishment of rural centres of excellence for lifelong learning;
• Government to minimise the bureaucracy and cost of community public liability so that rural areas can afford to host community events. Or, as one lady simply said: “Tell them NO MORE PAPERWORK!”

The other nine streams also had long term visions and ideas and these can be found in full on the 2020 website www.australia2020.gov.au.

The website will soon be open to public comment on the ideas. Some of these ideas include:
• Community Corps - allow community service to reduce student HECS debt;
• Seamless national markets in key areas through regulatory reform;
• Food labelling with a traffic light indicator for healthiness;
• Parity for Indigenous Australians through health, education and policy reform;
• Introduce innovative mechanisms to increase civic participation and collaborative governance.

“For my normally cynical self, the most surprising outcome of the 2020 summit was that as I sat in the great hall of parliament house, I discovered that I, too, felt humbled and inspired and sang my national anthem with pride and found myself laughing at politicians’ jokes, and clapping when I heard good sense,” Frances said.

“I was moved by the power of that place and the sense of united purpose in the hall. I felt a sense of community sitting amongst 1000 strangers. This in itself is a powerful outcome - imagine if this united sense of purpose spreads right across our big country.

“Unfortunately, national media will always interview those with the highest profile or build reports based on the most controversial angle. To be fair, media reports have to be short so it is perhaps to be expected that in the aftermath of such a significant event, many outcomes will be overlooked in the press reports.

“I hope that the seminar next Tuesday, April 29, will give me an opportunity to provide a fair representation of the good work undertaken at the Summit.”

Photo: Frances Shapter (pictured) will share her experience of attending the Australia 2020 Summit next Tuesday, April 29, from 12pm - 1pm in room B-2.31, School of Education, at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus. Staff and members of the public are invited to attend. Koori Mail editor Kirstie Parker, who also represented the region at the Summit, will also be speaking.

Media contact: Zoe Satherley Southern Cross University media officer, 6620 3144, 0439 132 095.