Year of the Outback 2002 celebrations

22 May, 2002 10:00 PM
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WA has been placed under the nation's spotlight this week as the Year of the Outback celebrations continue in Carnarvon with the National Farmers Federation annual meeting.

As founder and chairman of the Year of the Outback, Bruce Campbell opened the mammoth three-day event, which is set to target property rights and the Trade Practices Act review, among other key issues.

Mr Campbell said the conference had been a massive logistical effort and was already a success.

Held for the first time in a remote location on Australia's west coast, it formed part of a growing list of more than 2000 scheduled events on the Year of the Outback calendar.

Mr Campbell said he first conceived the year-long tribute to Australia's heartland as concerns mounted over the growing divide between urban and rural communities.

He said he developed a plan to excite the interest of all Australians and to put the huge untapped potential of the outback on the international map.

But when Federal Cabinet endorsed it in July 1999, he never anticipated the extravaganza that has unfolded.

It had been embraced with great fervour across the nation and communities had benefited from increased tourism and business interest as visitors were attracted to events, he said.

Mr Campbell stressed this year's celebration was only the beginning of much-needed changes if Australia's remote communities were to survive.

"There's a belief of the inevitability of the decline of country towns ‹ that service will continue to be withdrawn and young people won't have career opportunities ‹ but I believe that trend can be reversed," he said.

"There are miracles being performed out there everyday, very much against the odds.

"These stories need to be told."

Born in Longreach, Queensland, Mr Campbell's commitment to rural Australia has earned him crowns as president of the National Council of Woolselling Brokers, Meat and Livestock Authority Queensland chairman and an MBE for service to voluntary sports organisations.

Another milestone was his key involvement in presenting Australia's rural industries at World Expo 88 in Brisbane, which was the first time an industry sector had been presented in its own pavilion at a World Exposition.

Wearing the heart of the nation on his sleeve, Mr Campbell said he looked forward to attending further events but was especially excited about the Local Government Association of Australia event in Alice Springs in November.

Held for the first time outside of Canberra to mark Year of the Outback 2002, it was the linchpin event of the year, he said.

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