AN "Outback Commission" should be created to address long-standing problems in governance in remote and regional Australia, a three-year review of the issue has found.
The remoteFOCUS review spoke to people across remote and regional Australia, from the Pilbara to Central Queensland and north Queensland.
Report co-author Dr Bruce Walker said successive government approaches to remote and regional Australia had demonstrably failed, including the current Regional Development Australia approach.
The report showed the main issues facing many remote regions were the same, with many communities citing a lack of control and a feeling of being ignored by policy-makers in Canberra and state capitals.
But Dr Walker said real decision-making power needed to be given back to the communities affected, citing the government's response to the fly-in, fly-out mining industry and Aboriginal affairs.
"If you want to get change, you've got to convince people on the coast to understand the remote and regional areas," he said.
"From our talks, we realise the FIFO industry is no longer just mining - you've doctors and nurses and teachers flying in and out of remote communities.
"But just like you visit a place for a holiday or work, but you don't want to live there - these people are not making any connections with those places.
"Many of them do not consider the places they work as their community, and are always thinking about getting home to the coast."
The report recommends a range of policy measures to improve the way government relates to the bush, including creating an Outback Commission which could oversee such changes.
Dr Walker and others involved in the project will be meeting with government officials as well as Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin and advisors from Regional Development Minister Simon Crean in Canberra this week.
85% of Australia's population now lives within 50km of the coast with 5% of Australia's population occupying 85% of the landmass.
TOP FIVE CONCERNS
- A say in decision-making which affect them
- Equitable and sustainable financial flows
- Better services and a locally responsive public service
- Local control and accountability where possible
- Inclusion in a greater narrative
SOURCE: remoteFOCUS report - Fixing the hole in Australia's heartland.
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