Outback is feeling disconnected, report says
Remote Australia is facing a crisis of disengagement, ineffective governance and national indifference that demands sweeping changes to the way outback communities are consulted, treated and serviced, according to a report to be launched today.
Drawing on more than three years of research, the report calls for the setting up of an Outback Commission with the mandate and authority to change the ''dynamic of under-development'' that affects remote Australia.
''Unless major changes are made to governance, policies and infrastructure and service delivery practices there will be dire economic, social, cultural, environmental and security consequences for Australia as a whole,'' warns Fred Chaney, the chair of the body that commissioned the report, Desert Knowledge Australia.
Mr Chaney, a senior cabinet minister in the Fraser government, says existing governance structures in remote Australia are neither fair nor adequate. ''One approach would be to establish a small number of trials, or 'innovation' regions or zones, with the specific aim of developing an ongoing process of learning, consensus and regional capacity building,'' Mr Chaney said yesterday.
The recommendations have been backed by Professor Peter Shergold, who said, ''A genuine commitment is needed from the highest levels of government to ensure the national interest in remote Australia is sustained.''