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National Alliance for Regionalisation sets agenda for 2024 to rebalance the nation

 15 November 2023

Regional people want a long-term plan to contribute to and collectively build a stronger Australia, ensuring a healthy and prosperous future for those living outside our capitals.

The RAI’s Regionalisation Ambition 2032 provides that framework – translating the critical matters most important to regional Australia into a call for real, collaborative action, to shift the dial, and rebalance the nation.

Making change is challenging and complex, just as our regions are complex. A one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer. To make change, we need to lean into the challenges with open minds and collaboratively bring about holistic and long-term solutions.

To bring the goals of the Ambition to life, the RAI recognised the need for a system-level approach across regional Australia – launching the National Alliance for Regionalisation (the Alliance) in March 2023 to encourage this process.

The Alliance is a powerful and connected group of CEO’s, representing 34 leading peak bodies and for-purpose organisations. Working together with the RAI, the Alliance – with expertise, networks and the knowledge to support decisions on complex regional issues – can achieve real change.

Early in November, Alliance members met for their last meeting of 2023, at Parliament House in Canberra, coming together to reflect on the yearly progress and to set goals for 2024 which include:

  • Migration
  • Housing
  • Skills and qualifications
  • The energy transition 
  • Health

Members were joined by several Federal Ministers to discuss the Alliance priorities, and the opportunities for collaboration.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon. Catherine King opened the meeting, reflecting on the important priorities for regional Australia. 

The Alliance provided feedback to the Federal Government on its review of the Migration System in August, which highlighted the need for a regional perspective. A number of policy considerations were put forward in the Alliance response – such as the potential implications of raising of the Temporary Skilled Migrants Income Threshold (TSMIT). 

Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Clare O’Neil, provided an update on the release of the Government’s final Migration Strategy, highlighting the substantial work program proposed to tackle issues within the existing system. 

Migration will continue to be a core focus for the Alliance for 2024, ensuring that place-based solutions are included in this reform program, to support and facilitate growth and prosperity in regional Australia. 

Minister for Education, the Hon. Jason Clare provided the Alliance with an update on the various reviews and inquiries underway within the education system – particularly, the final report of the Australian Universities Accord, which has identified the hurdles many young regional Australians face when considering attending university – the tyranny of distance, the cost of living away from home and the emotional toll experienced when moving away from family and friends. 

Considerations put forward in a joint letter from the Alliance to the Universities Accord Panel included:

  • The importance of access and equality across the education continuum for regional – and national – growth;
  • The need to address vocational education as a pathway alongside tertiary education; and
  • Changing the name of Regional University Study Hubs to ‘Regional Study Hubs’ to facilitate this message. 

Skills, post-school qualifications and career pathways in regional Australia are an opportunity for impact as the Government looks across the education continuum for system reform - therefore remaining a focus area for the Alliance for the 2024 agenda. 

With housing continuing to be a critical challenge for regional communities, businesses and workers, the Alliance recognised the importance of tackling the many and unique challenges regional communities face. 

Acknowledging the importance of place-based solutions, Alliance members RAI and REIA will host policymakers, community leaders and industry in Canberra next year, exploring the different regional perspectives and identifying practical, scalable solutions. The Alliance will continue to further work in this priority area and amplify the outcomes of this meeting of the minds in 2024. 

In reflecting on other areas of opportunity to influence the Ambition’s targets, the Alliance recognised the energy transition to Net Zero by 2050 will be an incredibly impactful, challenging transformation for regional communities in particular – we are already seeing this today. Therefore, the Alliance agreed that a priority for 2024 will be influencing policy and decision-making as Australia’s transition ramps up, enabling and supporting regional communities to unlock the opportunities of the energy transition.

Finally, with an underspend in regional health each year of $6.5 billion, based on recent research commissioned by Alliance member, the National Rural Health Alliance, members agreed a new and critical focus for the Alliance for 2024 is the importance of access to health services in regional, rural and remote Australia. 

RAI modelling shows regionalisation is a sound strategy to strengthen the Australian economy. It is also a holistic strategy for shaping a stronger future for the country’s wellbeing and living standards, its resilience to economic downturns and natural disasters and capacity to manage a shifting demographic. 

The Alliance look forward to continuing to work with the Federal Government - as planning for a stronger Australia means planning for a prosperous, inclusive and resilient regional Australia.