The vision of the Alliance is for a thriving Outback Australia, for the people and the land.
It is vital that anyone interested in the Outback makes the necessary shift in thinking required to begin to understand it from the perspective of the people who live there. For them, the Outback is not a far-off or isolated place, but the centre of culture and stories for many families and groups. It is a complex place of multiple connections, networks, layers of history and locations with deep cultural meaning. Recognition of these connections, their centrality to families and their role in the practise of customs, culture and management is central to the work of the Outback Alliance.
The Alliance currently has four key thematic areas of focus which are of equal importance and in need of equal attention.
Just as natural wet and dry cycles are tough in the Outback, with small effects multiplied by vast landscapes, so too are economic and social cycles tough on Outback communities. Decision makers tend to see Outback problems through the lens of specific areas of need, such as health, economy, or environment. But in the Outback, everything is connected.
Population decline is just one area where we can see this clearly. Without economic opportunities and good services such as health and reliable internet, people tend to leave Outback communities for places that are better served. But at the same time, a critical mass of population makes services easier and cheaper to deliver and provides opportunity to work and shop for necessities.
Once people start leaving an Outback community, this effect is multiplied, leaving those who remain less likely to find employment, and therefore poorer, and less likely to have access to health and other services, while businesses and government departments devoid of customers must close, amplifying the effects still further.
Integration and diversification are key to solving the problems of the Outback. Just as one person in a small Outback community might be running a post office, a grocery store and collecting the bins, the Outback land itself needs to be supported to serve multiple uses at the same time. Indigenous knowledge, environmental science and the capacity to learn from past attempts are all crucial.
We can solve the problems facing our Outback communities, and create a sustainable Outback for people and the environment.
A foundational approach is for government policies and services to be developed and implemented in ways that ensure appropriate and effective delivery for Outback towns and communities. Effective delivery in remote regions often requires approaches that differ from the mainstream. Costs are higher, while local capability and capacity is generally stretched. All relevant national and state policy processes should be required to show how they accounted specifically for the Outback in their design and their delivery.
Feature photo: Turtle hatchling held by Indigenous Ranger | Kerry Trapnell.