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Research aims to boost remote communities


Brigid Veale
16 July 2009
The community of Diamantina Shire in far western Queensland is providing much needed clues to how remote areas of Australia can maintain their long-term viability.

Researchers with Southern Cross University’s Regional Futures Institute have been working with the Diamantina Shire Council, business and land owners, and the Indigenous community, to identify issues which impact on sustainability in regional communities.

Dr Grant Cairncross and Associate Professor Jeremy Buultjens, in collaboration with Dr Ann Ingamells, from Griffith University, have been exploring issues associated with the labour market and tourism. The work was initiated through the Desert Knowledge Co-operative Research Centre.

“We have interviewed 15 of the major employers to find out what attracts employees to the area and the issues that impact on them,” Dr Cairncross said.

“This shire is twice the size of Denmark, but has a total population of 360. What we have discovered is that Diamantina Shire has an incredibly high employment rate. There’s virtually no unemployment.

“The Shire has been extremely proactive in its dealing with State Government to ensure it can generate employment opportunities for its community. There is also a very good relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

“What we want to uncover is what makes certain remote communities sustainable in the long-term and then apply the model to other communities. We are looking at providing data which can help local governments take their case to state and federal governments.”

As part of its work in Diamantina Shire the Regional Futures Institute may also conduct an economic impact analysis of the Birdsville Races - a major event in the Shire. The Institute has also been working with the neighbouring Boulia and Barcoo shires as well as with the traditional owners in the region.

Associate Professor Buultjens said the Regional Futures Institute was a new centre within Southern Cross University which provided leadership in regional and enterprise development.

“Regional Australia plays a vital role in the country’s overall economic development, but this is often under-estimated,” Professor Buultjens said.

“Through the Institute we are providing research and development assistance to regional communities, to ensure their ongoing sustainability.”

Photo: The iconic Birdsville Hotel is a key stop-over point in the Diamantina Shire.