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Developing a sustainable future for regional Australia


Brigid Veale
30 September 2009
Developing tools to ensure regional communities remain sustainable and raising awareness of the important role regional Australia plays are among the key goals of a new Southern Cross University research centre.

Institute director Associate Professor Jeremy Buultjens said regional Australia played a vital role in Australia’s overall economic and social development, but was often under-estimated.

“Globalisation along with decreasing or ageing populations, a shrinking economic base and a loss or reduction in government services can all impact on the viability of regions,” Professor Buultjens said.

“We need to understand these changes and identify the factors that will help regional areas maximise their potential. Through the Institute we are providing research and development assistance to regional communities, to help ensure their ongoing sustainability.”

The Regional Futures Institute is working closely with a range of local government and business organisations.

“We are working with the Lismore City Council to develop a Strategic Tourism Plan for Lismore, Nimbin and surrounding villages,” Professor Buultjens said.

“In the Diamantina Shire in western Queensland, we have worked with the Council, business and land owners, and the Indigenous community, to identify what makes a regional community sustainable in the long term. We can then apply that model in other regions.”

Professor Buultjens said the Institute was also able to conduct economic evaluations in local government areas.

“Using an economic modelling program, we can provide a clear indication of the economic value of certain industries to a region. This will be a useful tool for local governments and businesses to highlight the economic impact of a new industry, or alternatively to demonstrate the impact when an industry or service is withdrawn,” he said.

“We are also looking at supply chain management and developing models for valuing the carbon economy. The other area of importance is the provision of training for small business and for economic development officers from local government.”

He said the Institute would also research issues related to regional social development in order to assist the reform agenda promoting social inclusion.

“Government social policy responses are often urbancentric and are unsuitable for regions so it is important to provide regional specific policies supported by high quality research,” he said.

Photo: Associate Professor Jeremy Buultjens is heading a new Institute aimed at raising awareness of the role of regional Australia.