THE Regional Australia Institute (RAI) says Western Australia is leading the way on regional development policy due to a high level of stakeholder engagement, underpinned by clear access to State government funding.
The RAI was launched in February this year with $8 million seed funding from the Federal government and has already undertaken two significant projects.
One is a comprehensive stock-take of regional research projects over the past 12 years and accompanying analysis of that work.
The other is the development of a regional competitive index that aims to provide a consistent resource for measuring the economic performance of different regions through consistent and accurate data.
RIA CEO Su McLuskey and Chairman Mal Peters met with WA Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls and his Department’s staff during a fact finding trip to WA earlier this month.
Ms McLuskey said the key to WA’s success was through its high level of collaboration with a range of different groups, to first see how they can work together and then to access funding from the Royalties for Regions program, to drive economic growth at the regional level.
“In WA, virtually every area outside of the Perth metropolitan area is considered regional and that’s nearly the whole State,” she said.
“We were impressed with the drive they have in WA to make a difference for the regions.
“In WA the regions have become front of mind across all policy development areas.
“The regions and regional development are a priority for policy development.”
Ms McLuskey said the institute’s recently completed stock-take of all previous research work in regional development since 2000, uncovered about 80,000 different items of research.
The review identified around 1500 research reports and 281 data sources that can be used to understand and respond to regional issues.
She said there was a lot of research that described different problems facing the various regions - but didn’t offer many real solutions.
Ms McLuskey said the RIA was also acting as a central point for sharing information on case studies where communities have undertaken successful work that’s promoted economic growth and may be implemented by other rural communities.
She said the RIA had other projects in the pipeline and would promote accurate, relevant and innovative information for regional Australia, to advance positive policy development and subsequent growth.
The nation’s first independent think-tank, entirely devoted to policy issues impacting regional Australia, evolved during the 2010 negotiations with key rural independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, to form the current minority Federal government.
The concept was included in the independent’s written agreement with Prime Minister Julia Gillard - the $10 billion deal for regional Australia.