Remote Australia requires unique and specific policies – Outback Alliance launched

Launching on Monday at an event in Federal Parliament, a new alliance of non-government organisations and individuals have announced they will work for better delivery and outcomes in remote Australia.

The Outback Alliance is a wide cross-sector of organisations who all provide services for Outback communities, working together towards Outback prosperity for businesses, health, environment and community underpinned by regional development and digital infrastructure.

“The Outback is a unique place managed by special people. It covers more than 70% of the Australian continent with only 4 percent of the population, contributing a considerable portion of Australia’s wealth.  It is one of the very few great natural places remaining on Earth, and is fundamental to the nation’s history and culture,” said Dr. Barry Traill, Australian Director of Pew Charitable Trusts.

“However, policies on health, communications, education, environment and other areas are often poorly delivered into remote Australia because of a failure to take account of the particular needs and characteristics of very small, remote communities,” said Dr. Traill.

“The Outback is a place where appropriate and local solutions can be implemented more effectively than those set in place from a distant city. It is difficult to retrofit policy designed for more populated areas to the Outback’s remote communities, it is time consuming and often produces less effective results,” said Kate Forrest of the Rangeland NRM Alliance.

“This Alliance is a true partnership between organisations who all experience issues in providing services for the Outback. In small communities, different components of the community have to work together to get things done: this is echoed in the Outback Alliance approach and ultimately what we’re calling for in policy design and implementation.”

“We can solve the problems facing our Outback communities, and create a sustainable Outback for people and the environment. We just can’t do it without joining the dots and working collaboratively and responsively,” said Ms Forrest.

“Remote Australia has significant levels of economic activity, strong social capacity, and significant locally-relevant expertise,” said Desert Knowledge Australia CEO Lauren Ganley.

“We recognise that remote Australia is different, not difficult, and we can achieve a greater impact by working together,” said Ms Ganley.

“Improving health outcomes for people living in the Outback requires improved social and economic conditions and expanded access to service,” said Royal Flying Doctors Service CEO Dr. Martin Laverty.

“It is well documented that social and economic improvement leads to better health. Efforts to ensure greater school completion rates, higher employment, and better housing are key ways to improve the social determinants of health in Outback Australians.”

“Increased funding and resources for health outcomes in the Outback will ultimately result in longer term reductions in the costs of health care, and greatly improved livelihoods for the people who live there,” said Dr. Laverty.

“Protecting vast areas of country requires new ways of working together. Looking through an Outback lens for the environment means flexibility for seasonal conditions, integrating reporting processes and finding ways to support both mitigation strategies and adaptation to climate change at the same time,” said Arid Lands Environment Centre CEO, Jimmy Cocking.

“We know from experience that partnerships, participatory processes and learning from evidence are critical to success in the Outback. We’ve already seen this through projects between local, regional and international partners that support Indigenous Ranger programs to operate out on country, managing land in sustainable ways to eradicate threats and rehabilitate land,” said Mr Cocking.

“The Outback is an extraordinary place – one that presents a unique challenge for policy makers to implement programs, support networks and services that often do not adequately fit the circumstances of those who inhabit these areas,” said Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association federal president Wendy Hick.

“Integration and diversification are key to solving the problems of the Outback. This understanding of flexibility and diversity needs to be incorporated into policy making at all levels of government,” said Ms Hick.

“The Outback is a complex place of multiple connections, networks, layers of history and locations with deep cultural meaning. We must ensure that Aboriginal people in remote Australia are better involved and engaged in political decision-making, by creating stronger roles for participatory program design, planning and implementation across the board,” said Parry Agius, chair of NRM Regions Australia.

“Recognition of these connections, their centrality to families and their role in the practice of customs, culture and management is core to the work of the organisations and people of the Outback,” said Mr Agius.

For further information or interviews, please contact Tim Norton on 0402077721

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