New DG keen to lift regions

28 Nov, 2014 01:00 AM
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New Department of Regional Development director general Ralph Addis.
We need to make sure we are all going in the same direction.
New Department of Regional Development director general Ralph Addis.

THE new director general of the Department of Regional Development is excited about the future opportunities in developing WA's regional communities.

Originally from Cranbrook, Ralph Addis stepped into the new role earlier this month and said he is keen to connect communities' needs with government.

"Sometimes what is good for the regions and communities in terms of its social and economic well being should be good for the State and collective future and my job is to make sure they line up," Mr Addis said.

"My main objective, over the next six to 12 months, is to make sure within the Department of Regional Development and within the portfolio partners in the commissions - we are very clear about how we best make those connections between the interests of communities in the regions and the State and connect that with the efforts that have been made in the regions by other key government players and industry.

"We need to make sure we are all going in the same direction."

Mr Addis will now work alongside Regional development and Lands Minister Terry Redman and will oversee the State Government's Royalties for Regions program, which will invest $1 billion into regional WA in 2014-15.

"Minister Redman has had a conversation with me and has made it pretty clear about some of his priorities," Mr Addis said.

"He wants regional development effort from the State to be increased and he is very clear about the important role of regional leadership to help shape and deliver it.

"We have some work to do to reach its full potential, so I have some work to do too."

Mr Addis comes into the role at a very exciting and transitional time as the program moves into a more strategic phase.

Since 2008, Royalties for Regions has allocated $4.2 billion to more than 3500 projects across regional WA which aims to promote and facilitate economic, business and social development in regional WA.

"There has been a big shift in agriculture from what I have seen and heard," Mr Addis said.

"What I sense is that five years ago it was pretty tough going. But the sentiment seems to be looking onward and outward to some good opportunities going forward.

"Taking advantage of that opportunity will require good leadership from the farm sector and farm businesses. We will need to be very clear about how we connect with growing market opportunities, what the product is we need to have to meet the market opportunities.

"Australian farmers have always been pretty competitive, and I think we will need to keep trying to stay in front of the innovation curve and be more creative than the next guy in order to win those opportunities.

"I think that is what drives Minister Redman with Seizing the Opportunity, on how do we help farmers to get in front of the curve and make the most of it - because it is pretty exciting."

Mr Addis said he would like to encourage others to think about their role in leading and innovating the process.

Taking on the challenge, Mr Addis plans to use his past experiences in leadership and regional development to take on the challenges of his new bureaucratic role.

His resume consists of a range of commercial, not-for-profit, government, and local government board positions.

Mr Addis specialised in regional and Aboriginal development, and has a depth of experience in strategy, organisation development and community engagement, and has contributed significantly to emerging reform agendas for welfare, housing and governance in the Kimberley.

Mr Addis was founding chief executive officer of the Wunan Foundation, an Aboriginal development corporation established in the East Kimberley in 1997.

He chaired the Kimberley Development Commission for more than two years and has held roles with the Regional Development Council, Western Australian Regional Development Trust and Warmun Community.

Mr Addis is also a chartered accountant, holds a Master of Economic Studies and is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

But the north, was not always home for Mr Addis, given his upbringing in the Great Southern he also knows a thing or two about farming.

"I grew up on a sheep and grain farm in Cranbrook," Mr Addis said.

"The family has been at the farm since the 1900s, which is about four generations or so.

"One of my brothers is still down there farming with his family."

Like most other farmer's sons, Mr Addis attended boarding school in Perth, before going on to university.

After some time, Mr Addis was recruited to assist in

Kununurra with the development of the Ord.

"I lived in Kununurra up until 18 weeks ago," Mr Addis said.

"I have seen the Ord development since the beginning. It's taken a long time, but my first job was in 1996 to assist with the Native Title Agreement - we are now 18 years on.

"I love Kununurra, I loved the work, Ord Stage one was fascinating process and the Aboriginal Native Title process was evolving at the point which was pretty interesting."

Mr Addis said the Ord was one of the best examples of regional development he had seen.

"It is a good example of the enormous potential," Mr Addis said.

"Its a good example of a State Government that has been very motivated towards unlocking that potential and the community has also been very motivated in making the most of those opportunities.

"Through Royalties for Regions, the leadership of the Premier, and the past Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls, to get on the front foot, along with the capability of the investors - it's been a good recipe for developing regional opportunity."

Mr Addis said his rural upbringing, seeing the potential unfold in the north and his studies will all assist him in his new role.

"I am a true believer in the potential of the regions," Mr Addis said.

"Historically, regions have played a big part in our State's identity.

"The bulk amount of our primary production, whether that be agriculture or resources, happens outside of Perth and that is an important aspect for the State.

"We need to do what we can to make the most of that potential, the economic potential and we need to make sure everyone understands that because if the regions are not doing well, our State won't do well overall - that frames my view."

Mr Redman said Mr Addis would bring a high level of expertise, experience and strategic thinking on regional issues after more than 15 years at the helm of two major regional organisations.

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