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RDA Executive Officers induction.

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RDA Executive Officers Induction

MS08/2010 01 June 2010

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

This is the first time I have met with you all as a group and I want to say how sincerely impressed I am with the quality of personnel our Regional Development Australia (RDA) committees have managed to recruit.

I thank you all for taking on the challenge of heading up your respective RDA offices.

You all play a critical role in supporting your committees - both strategically and administratively - and in ensuring the delivery of your Committee's agenda.

I have had the privilege of meeting with all RDA Chairs and Deputies at the National RDA Forum in March.

I have also attended induction meetings in every state and territory, except in the Northern Territory where I am heading to next month.

Across the country our Chairs and Deputies are passionate locals who are committed to their regions' growth and development.

For my part I've been attending every RDA activity that time permits. I'm excited about the potential for good that RDA holds for your regions.

I want you to be excited too - a bit of positive energy goes a long way.

I make it clear to all whom I meet that I hold the RDA network, and the 600 plus community champions who make up the network, in high regard.

I have visited many RDA committees and Executive Officers from Todd Williams in the Hunter to Don Webster's team in the Pilbara to Russell Mason on the Sunshine Coast.

Over the parliamentary sitting break my Canberra office has discovered that RDA committees can become a handy office whilst on the road and on that note I'd like to thank Don Webster from the Pilbara for his handy printing skills. I have seen and experienced the diversity of RDA committee structures and office operations in different states and territories - and it is safe to say that one size does not fit all.

As one academic put it to me recently, RDA is this country's first truly cross-government, integrated approach to supporting regional development.

An integrated approach which is tailored to existing regional boundaries, bodies and networks in each jurisdiction.

It doesn't matter where committees are located - urban or rural cities, large or small regions - the commitment is the same.

What my travel has impressed upon me is the fact that RDA truly is an historic partnership and I think

one that has happened not a moment too soon.

RDA committees have an important role to play in regional engagement and in economic development.

Some of you will know, as I say this over and over again, we don't want planning for the next 5 minutes. We want planning for the next 20 or 30 years.

We at the Commonwealth level are looking for integrated long term strategic planning.

Each committee's success depends upon your relationships as Executive Officers with your Chairs, Deputies and Committee members. It relies on your relationships with each other and the networks which you form during these two days. And it relies on strong and enduring relations with local community groups, businesses and industries.

I cannot over emphasise the importance of these relationships - they are fundamental to RDA.

I've said this before too - please do not get territorial or fixated on single projects.

That's not what RDA is about.

RDA is about partnerships, collaboration and innovation.

It is about more effective and meaningful community engagement.

Working with your local communities to find local solutions to local problems.

We work in the realm of the possible.

These two days in Canberra will arm you will all that you need to assist you to meet the demands of your position.

I am particularly interested in tomorrow's sessions on Regional Plans. Your Regional Plan will set the framework for your work - from the strengths and opportunities of your region, to your Committees vision and key priorities.

They are important documents - to you, to your communities and to those of us in government.

Businesses may use them to support business investment proposals or trade missions, community groups can use them to support applications for government programs, and they will support and inform decisions at all levels of government.

If we at the Commonwealth level are to make the big decisions about helping our regions, we need to know that there has been effective community consultation, thorough research and that you are thinking for the long term.

Your Regional Plans will provide us with important information about what is really happening in the regions of Australia. It will give us answers to questions we as a government are asking:

• Where are the population pressure points, resulting from population increase or decline? How are communities coping with these changes? • Where are the areas of comparative advantage in your region - be they in agriculture, manufacturing, services, research, product commercialisation or exports? • What are our emerging skills needs and are we equipped to meet these needs? How does

this influence the population and immigration debates?

• What are the specific challenges of your region, be it remote, regional or urban?

These are all important questions, which will help to inform policy development and help shape program design.

The other important question for my Department is how we can share the learnings, so that RDA committees more effectively help their local communities. Your Regional Plans should be underpinned by current data from a range of sources on a range of issues, rigorous analysis, and consultation with your communities.

In developing your priorities, I encourage you to think strategically about the overall needs of your region. Don't just think about single issues or that big ticket item - that airport, train line or highway.

Minister Albanese made it very clear to Chairs and Deputy Chairs at the National Forum in March that funding for these initiatives would be scarce and competition tough.

I want to emphasise that each RDA committee has the flexibility to work with local communities on the issues which are most important to them. And these priorities will vary by region.

However, we do expect committees to have a broad focus on the economic, social and environmental issues affecting communities.

RDA is an important driver of regional business growth plans and strategies to help support economic development, the creation of new jobs, skills development and business investment.

It is also important for all Committees to be looking at environmental solutions, which will support ongoing sustainability and the management of climate change.

This could include drought management in regional NSW, joining forces with your local utilities provider to encourage water conservation in households, or to perhaps protect or extend water catchment areas.

RDA committees along the Murray River for example, should be thinking about how they can interact with the Murray Darling Basin Authority's Management Plan and be active participants in the consultations on the Draft Basin Plan later this year.

Social inclusion strategies must bring together and support all members of the community. Closing the Gap will be particularly important to our colleagues in the northern part of Australia.

I know that RDAs are already doing great things across the country in all of these areas.

• RDA Central Coast is leading the implementation of the Regional Compact for Economic Development and Employment (REDES). The Compact aims to strengthen the regional economy, develop skills for the future, increase knowledge and innovation, and improve infrastructure to support economic growth. • RDA Mid North Coast ran the The North Coast Innovation Festival over May. The Festival

included 30 events which brought together businesses to share new ideas and approaches on how to work smarter. • RDA Wheatbelt is delivering the Department of Employment, Education, and Workplace Relations' Youth Connections Program in its region. This program targets supports those at

risk of disengaging or who have already disengaged from education, family and community; • RDA Barossa is developing the Thinking Barossa Strategy to encourage local businesses to share and adopt new and best practice, new ideas, and innovation. The objective is to embed innovation as a way of thinking in the Barossa region.

The key thing underpinning all of these activities - and many of the others that I hear about - is

partnerships... partnerships, alliances and networks.

I mentioned earlier that the Government hosted the National RDA Forum in March. Participants exchanged information and ideas about issues facing their regions, strategies to address these issues and learnt more about Australian Government programs, services and initiatives. Feedback from RDA Chairs and Deputy Chairs was that they found the Forum valuable, and appreciated the opportunity to exchange ideas with their counterparts from across the country.

I hope that you too will find this Induction just as valuable.

I hope that you take away an appreciation of your regional differences and the things that you have in common.

Because we are all allies in regional development.

Thank you once again for coming along and for your efforts in supporting the establishment of RDA.

Last Updated: 2 June, 2010