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Unlocking the competitiveness of our regions

23 July 2013



The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) works with communities through forums, research and digital and social media so that we can hear and understand people’s views.

That each of Australia’s regions – whether they be urban, rural or remote – are equipped with the knowledge, tools and relationships they need to make informed decisions is pivotal to our strength and prosperity as a nation.

Prime Minster Kevin Rudd recently used his first major speech since returning to the top job in June to highlight the need for competitiveness to become a major part of the national policy agenda.

It was rather timely therefore, that just prior to this, the RAI released [In]Sight, Australia’s first regional competitiveness index. [In]Sight ranks regions across 10+ themes and 59 indicators of sustainable growth, including employment, infrastructure, small business presence and industry investment.

[In]Sight provides us with more knowledge than we have ever before had at our disposal to see where and how our regions can advance their productivity, sustainability and prosperity.

But while [In]Sight complements a national productivity agenda, there is much more to it.

It is a resource designed to be accessed by all Australians – from different levels of government to business owners, teachers, health workers, young, singles, retirees and families – to enable them to identify the opportunities at their fingertips.

Via an online index and interactive map, [In]Sight puts the power to examine all of the areas that determine quality of life, including access to education and health care, firmly in the hands of the communities.

For example, [In]Sight tells us that across Australia’s 55 Regional Development Australia (RDA) regions, the top performing areas for access to hospital services include Brisbane at number one, Melbourne at number two and Adelaide at number five. But, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, the Grampians come in at number three, Loddon Mallee at nine and Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait at number 10.

It also reveals that the Adelaide Hills and Mackay Isaac Whitsunday regions rank number one and four in terms of early childhood performance; with low levels of children considered to be developmentally vulnerable.

And, in terms of human capital, the Sunshine Coast, the Limestone Coast and Hunter region rank in the top ten for the level of English proficiency in their populations, performing strongly right alongside metropolitan centres.

Already from [In]Sight we have learned that reducing the disparities in human capital, access to new technologies  and investment in research and development across Australia’s regions will be critical to national economic growth.

For those planning or starting young families, [In]Sight can unlock the full picture on how child-friendly a region’s infrastructure and service provision is.

For people in business, it will provide an accurate picture of the market size, workforce participation and the economic fundamentals of a region as well as what local government assistance for business exists.

The social applications for the RAI’s research are endless.

In rural and remote areas of Australia where isolation can be a major challenge, [In]Sight can profile a community’s access to broadband, the youth unemployment rate and access to education and GP services – it can set the frame within which an area lobbies for improvements or promotes its strengths.

If you’re curious about how your region stacks up, or want to test your own instincts about what helps to make a community thrive, jump on [In]Sight:


Independent and informed by both research and ongoing dialogue with the community, the Regional Australia Institute develops policy and advocates for change to build a stronger economy and better quality of life in regional Australia – for the benefit of all Australians.  



  • Louise Upton

    Louise Upton 8 years ago

    Catherine, this is a wonderful eye opener. I wonder if you would consider posting it as an article on the site through your member profile. Thank you.

  • Catherine Porter

    Catherine Porter 8 years ago

    Unlocking the competitiveness of our regions Unlocking the competitiveness of our regions is without doubt one of the most important issues in regional Australia. For years regional Australia has laboured under the misapprehension by those living in urban areas that all is well in the ‘bush’. That the idyllic ‘bush’ ethos is still applicable and flourishing, it is not the case, the bush is struggling. The problems are often exacerbated by the most basic of economic fundamentals such as unemployment, health; in particular mental health. Transport costs and accessibility plus road maintenance, lack of industry, that is a concerted effort by government in decentralisation, red tape, excessive demands by the green lobbyists and a general ignorance of what is required to kick start regional Australia by bureaucrats and government alike. This lack of interest has for the most part helped initiate localised rejuvenation in many rural areas culminating in some of the most innovative proposals to help augment the local economies. For instance in the Northern Rivers of NSW, where there is arguably a very large number of artistic people, covering all genres, there has been an explosion creative and artistic festivals and markets which attract people from the larger centres to visit, be it the weekend or longer. Added to that has been the realisation that sporting events such as marathons, be it cycling, swimming or athletics, optimise a regions attractions such as its natural beauty and uniqueness as well as showcasing picturesque country villages and towns. An important consideration for attracting large sponsors for events in regional Australia has been the cost factor. Costs surrounding accommodation and food are generally much less than in the cities. Other associated requirements are often subject to less regulatory impediments than the city such as traffic flow and congestion and can be a defining factor in the choice to hold such events in country areas. Regional Australia must continue to develop new and inventive ideas, preferably with assistance from government to showcase their regions attributes. Those attributes are as varied as the regions. Regional Australia has a multiplicity of environs, with a multicultural mix of people that produce the best there is available in food and wine. Australia’s tourism boards and local councils work diligently to create awareness to both tourist and locals alike, of the nations richness and diversity that is found in each region. That competitiveness and sense of self worth will win in the end. Catherine Porter