One for the country – RAI’s Greatest Hits – 2011 to 2018
A list of selected pieces of work that the RAI completed and published from 2011-18 which have had an important impact and will continue to do so in the future.
1. The Missing Workers and Rural Migration
Many towns in rural Australia are suffering because they have jobs to be done but no spare workforce.
Communities have shown that attracting and helping migrants from overseas settle is a response that can have transformational effects.
This work helped to place this on the national agenda and I hope it will drive real long term change for many communities.
The Missing Workers (2018)
2. Regional Cities on the Agenda
Everyone thinks of small rural towns when you say regional Australia, but in actual fact most regional Australians live and work in small cities.
Virtually no work had been done on these places which were largely ignored in a big cities/small towns public debate and policy making.
Our work documenting their importance, busting myths and advocating for dedicated policy has changed the debate with both sides of politics taking a policy to the next election.
They also hold the key to resolving our population debate which a next phase of RAI’s work will shortly make clear.
3. Shared Inquiry Program for Regional Policy and Regional Research Connections
In a time of political division, bringing governments together to share and collaborate on regional policy issues has been an important achievement.
Formalising this with a shared investment in regional research is a first for regional Australia and together with the supporting university partnership, Regional Research Connections, it will help the RAI make a difference for many years to come.
4. Foundations of Regional Australia
Building on the cities theme, we sought to help people think about the diversity of regions.
From 31 great small cities, to a network of industry and service hubs, connected lifestyle regions around our major cities and rural and remote heartlands this simple piece of work has enabled a much more nuanced discussion about regional Australia.
5. Busting the Population Myths
Another source of great misunderstanding in regional issues is population trends. A widespread belief referencing the dying country towns discussion is that people are moving to the cities and regions are in decline.
With intellectual leadership from the late Grahame Hugo and inspiration from the team, the RAI developed a trio of pieces establishing the most important trends namely:
- The regional population is growing at a rate not far below that of the capital cities;
- If international migration was better balanced then regional and metro growth would be the same or higher in regions as it is in the largest cities;
- Ageing is an opportunity for growth that regions must value because older people choose regions; and
- Young people leave every region, but many return and these returners are a key source of growth.
The Missing Migrants (2016)
6. Making the Case for Policy Flexibility
Infrastructure grants can be valuable but they don’t drive real change in regions. The RAI has begun to enunciate a different way for governments to engage and enable regions to lead their own development.
Flexibility is the key and change by governments not regions is what matters. It will be a slow burn as these changes are not easy for government, but hopefully this sets the foundations for really genuine change.
When we established the RAI people said they couldn’t get data. With InSight we sought to change that and make it easy to understand something about every region. Stay tuned for a new update coming soon.
8. Economic Contribution
Our rural and remote Heartland economy alone is bigger than New Zealand’s, each agriculture worker contributes the same to the economy as a finance worker, our least productive areas are as productive as the UK and on a per capita basis we contribute as much as the cities do to the economy.
This work provided a baseline for a better conversation about the regional economy, based on fact not negative assumption. It still surprises people and gets them to rethink their assumptions about why regional development matters and the value regions have to the nation.
There are enormous economic development opportunities in most regions. Our Pathfinder projects helped draw out the ones that really matter, value them and assisted local leaders to set new directions.
10. Northern Australia
When developing the north came up as a key priority in the policy debate we wanted to shape the debate away from the mistakes of the past. This work helped create a policy outcome that was more than the same old story.
11. Public Investment
Most regional development investment does little to develop regions. This work ran the numbers and shows that we should split our investments between those that keep the status quo up to scratch and those that are catalytic for future economic development. This approach has already been adopted by a number of governments.
12. Pillars of Communities
Poor services undermine the sustainability of small places. This 30 year look at how service professional numbers have changed in regions showed that we still aren’t succeeding in getting people where they are most needed despite massive investments in education and other strategies.
13. Economic Recovery after Natural Disaster
Most natural disasters occur in regions but the economic impacts and how to respond to them was not well understood. This work shows how each community has a different economic outcome and that helping re-establish economic activity is a foundation for successful recovery. This work has helped to rebalance expenditure which traditionally focusses on physical reconstruction and social and emotional issues.