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David Wrigley commented on the Challenge Ag-tech and Australia's leadership potential

Of all of the challenges outlined in the Talking 2030 discussion paper it seems to me that three stand out as the greatest immediate risk/challenge:

- internet connectivity, on par with the rest of the major centres - speed/capacity/reliability.

- strong/healthy/vibrant communities - not only to provide the support services for agricultural enterprise but where people can also flourish.

- transportation/logistics

Like a three legged stool if these three ‘legs’ are all strong and stable the resulting foundation would likely give a platform on which all the other pieces could begin to fall into place.


Rodd Pahl is now contributing to a Challenge 25 million and counting


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Bob Dick commented on the Challenge 25 million and counting

Most regional centres are bleeding people and wealth to the coastal fringe.  Therefore, it should be possible to develop programs that are good for both the regional centres and the migrants.

An ABC report <https://ab.co/2vBvDqs> described the way in which the community of Nhill made Karen migrants welcome, for mutual benefit.  It demonstrates one effective approach, and was successful enough that other centres have followed its example.  It also suggests that there are benefits if the initiative comes from the people living in the provincial centres.

I agree with the comments that the attractiveness of regional areas is important.  In particular, access to education and health would complement other programs to encourage migrants to settle outside the large cities.

It seems to me that there is also a larger issue that impinges on this.  Current politics seem to thrive on negativity and polarisation.  A campaign to encourage Australia to be less mean-spirited would help, I imagine.



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David Wrigley commented on the Challenge Ag-tech and Australia's leadership potential

Picking up from where I left off last Thursday

- Business models - co-operatives are not new, neither are industry groups but perhaps they could be revitalised and upgraded to better meet the current and emerging business trends/models. Supercharged co-operatives/industry groups could enable economy of scale in terms of data management infrastructure, retention of IP, flexibility to adapt and to respond to market trends, delivery methodologies and customer desire for assurances of provenience and compliance. We should also allow for education processes for the customer, ‘tell the farmers story’ and not simply allow market trends be dictated by those with activist interests. I remember a friend of mine, who was the creative director of an Ad agency at the time, telling me of a campaign for selling a particular brand of Peanut Butter. They simply added the words “Cholesterol Free” to the labelling. Now as the consumer stood in front of the many brand options laid before them, something stood out - one particular brand clearly stated it was cholesterol free, none of the other peanut butter jars made this claim… Sales of that brand increased dramatically.  Of course peanut butter doesn’t contain any cholesterol in the first place, so while it’s not at all a false statement it reveals how easy it is to ‘influence’ the uneducated/unsuspecting consumer. Let the agriculture industry be on the front foot, not the back foot, it has a great story to tell so let’s tell it well.

We already see supermarket chains running campaigns along the lines of ‘meet the farmer who produced this produce’, market reports where ‘a farmer’ is interviewed etc. The agriculture industry needs to write it’s own story and sell it, especially in the face of those forces/trends which call it’s validity into question. (perhaps short ‘myth buster’ advertorials targeted at specific threats.)

- Communities and Community development - isolation and FOMO are challenges in attracting people to work in rural areas. 

Farmers and farms need support services like any business, mechanics, engineers, plumbers, electricians etc. etc. These services are based in towns, if there is enough business to support them financially. Therefore it is important to understand the many spokes in the wheel which is the agricultural community.

Governments cannot be the instigators, or managers, of communities, governments have neither the motivation nor the tenure to provide the stability and leadership required to run a community. Governments can assist, they can encourage, fund infrastructure, cut red tape (yes they really could) legislate, but the leadership, the driving force must come from within the community itself. It will not be an easy task and it will require much from those who would take on such a role. However we already know of examples where towns/communities are actively seeking ways to rejuvenate their dying towns. There are existing towns/communities offering low cost housing options for people/families who will commit to moving to their town for a minimum number of years. These towns/communities, I’d suggest, would be the likely candidates in which to develop these new models, where there is already an acknowledgement that how we used to do things doesn’t fit/work anymore, where there is the stark reality of adapt or die.

Hugh MacKay in his book Australia Reinvented (2018) says to us: “Belonging to a community of any kind has two big psychological advantages for most of us: first, we feel we are not alone — others are there to call on when we need help; second, the dynamics of a group usually exert pressure on us to conform to it mores and values. ‘Hey,’ you may say, ’that doesn’t sound like an advantage,’ and yet, although it does sound stifling, it is actually one of the way we are saved from doing reckless and stupid things, and perhaps even inspired to life our game. A key benefit of membership of a social species is that we are shaped and influenced by those around us.

My own experience of life, having worked as a carpenter/joiner, youth worker, TAFE teacher, graphic designer and IT consultant, among other things, has taught me that community - knowing you exist in the mind of others as a valued individual - is intrinsic and far more important to the soul of a human being than the pursuit of wealth. Don’t get me wrong, providing for you needs is important and valid but that’s not, I’d suggest, where contentment is found. 

- New ways of thinking of employment/wages/reward for effort - perhaps it’s time for us to reinvent our understandings of current work and renumeration models. The challenge of finding workers to do the mundane tasks of crop picking etc. is well known, it seems, from news reports, that if it wasn’t for backpackers whole industries would collapse. Hugh MacKay in his book “Reinventing Australia” (1993) reported “…a kind of ‘unemployment mentality’ is beginning to spread even to those who have work. This mentality is based on the proposition that the welfare net will support those who cannot find work; that work may be something you choose to do rather than having to do; that work should offer some specific emotional benefits in order to be worth doing. ‘What’s in it for me?’ is a question increasingly being asked as the unemployment mentality spreads.”

Addressing this is a whole different conversation but it’s surely one we need to have and it will be difficult to kick start a new way of operating, especially when there are so many vested interests in maintaining the status quo. Yet I suspect once a few ground breakers step forward to forge a new path, on behalf of everyone else, more will follow.


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Lani Refiti commented on the Challenge 25 million and counting

Great comments and very relative.  I gave a keynote today at the Smart Infrastructure Summit - http://www.smartinfrastructuresummit.com.au/ and part of the talk was policy incentives to get people into the regions, not remote towns but regions like Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast in QLD.

Agree with the other comments.  As a migrant myself, the driving factor for my parents to migrate was opportunity.  Opportunity for a better life, education for kids (there were 9 of us), to generate income that could be sent back home etc.

Infrastructure is important, jobs are important, education ie, schools universities are important.  Whatever creates opportunity.


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Eva Cox commented on the Challenge 25 million and counting

There is evidence that in some towns it works, particularly when there is housing and jobs on offer. Part of the problems come from the anxieties about moving on your own to possible hostile areas. The current evidence of racism and exclusion are not good attractors. If it is to work it needs careful planning and resourcing, and moving not a family but a bigger group to areas where they are made to feel welcome. .  


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Jon Eastgate commented on the Challenge 25 million and counting

Why do people choose to live where they live?  This is a pertinent question for Australian-born people as well as migrants, and across the world not just in Australia, since overall regional populations in many places are declining as urban populations increase.

My sense is there are a number of reasons people choose particular places.

  • relationships and community - people have family and friends in particular places which attract them there.  For a migrant this would include people from their own culture/faith/language.  If you are Muslim, for instance, and there is no mosque in a community it would be harder to settle there.  When I lived in Maryborough (Qld) in the 1980s a couple of families from Cambodia were sent there by the Immigration Department.  They were the only people in the community who spoke Khmer.  They moved to Sydney ASAP!
  • job and career opportunities - people will go somewhere for work.  We are very familiar with the phenomenon of new graduates going to regional areas to kick off their careers, but then moving back to the city when they have some experience to take advantage of the  greater career opportunities.  A few grow to love the community and may marry into it, and they stay.
  • Infrastructure and opportunities for themselves or their children - people enjoy cultural life, or want good schools and university education for their children, and may move to be near these - there are more opportunities for this in the cities although of course regional areas can also have vibrant cultural scenes and good schools and even universities.

All these things affect everyone, including migrants.  For migrants, especially those from non-European countries, the challenges are greater because they are also making a cultural adjustment - learning a new language, adapting to new social mores, often coping with incidents of racism or even abuse - and all these things are easier if they have the support of longer-standing migrants from their own culture.  This tends to draw them into the city where the ethnic networks are most established but may also draw them to particular regions where others from their culture have settled - for instance their is a strong Hmong community in Cairns because some community members were drawn there by the tropical climate and others followed, there's a strong Sudanese population in Toowoomba etc.


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Sheree Lloyd commented on the Challenge 25 million and counting

There is a  lot of talent in rural towns and cities but also a range of issues such as unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, conservatism, prejudice and history.  Sadly, in rural towns there is a great divide between the haves and have nots, ie those with jobs and those without. 

These issues mean that talented individuals, such as skilled migrants will still face many challenges.  I am a skilled migrant from Brisbane and have had challenges in employment as 'family relationships' are important in rural cities and towns.  I now travel to Brisbane for work - reverse drive in/drive out.  However, it is crucial that we take a problem solving and challenge the 'deficit' view of in the area I work in health (Bourke et al (2010)

Employment is key but also the strength of a community is important too.  Successful examples of growing rural towns and vibrant communities should be used as case studies to inform a coherent strategy to strengthen the whole community.  A cohesive community with strong employment growth, reasonable housing prices, social and educational opportunities will need additional workers.  The rural town that I come from has a divided and non-cohesive community.  Divided on the basis of cultural background and employment/wealth.  The most recent injection of employment is a new maxi jail?

The case studies and evidence-based solutions could be then used to inform and then put in place a plan to work with Federal, state, councils and community panels to put in place the building blocks to build and grow, cohesive, respectful, dynamic and joyous communities to live in.  The squeaky wheel, vested interests must be put aside and persuaded that a vibrant, successful community is critical for the future.


Bourke, L., Humphreys, J. S., Wakerman, J., & Taylor, J. (2010a). From “problem-describing” to “problem-solving”: Challenging the “deficit” view of remote and rural health. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 18(5), 205–209


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Ann Houston is now contributing to a Challenge Ag-tech and Australia's leadership potential


Ann Houston commented on the Challenge Ag-tech and Australia's leadership potential

Ag-tech will be a critical key to maximising Australia's potential in agricultural exports of food and fibre.  From my experience there are several rudimentary factors that unless addressed will sabotage the progression of ag-tech.  They include:

1. Broad reliable access to high speed internet nationally.  There are technologies available outside of the major providers that could create this reality, but it needs momentum.  When you speak with cotton farmers who have moved their operations to areas with consistent internet, they describe the difference in their ability to use smart farm technology as revolutionary.

2. Technological support and training needs to be relevant, practical and accredited. It needs innovative delivery.

3. New generation farmers (younger) require vibrant local communities, challenging work and new thinking so that they can acquire land and/enterprise ownership, and management autonomy.


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John STAVRIDIS commented on the Challenge 25 million and counting

We have to consider why the people left the regions in the first place. The schools, banks, post offices, et al, left because they were not viable or needed. It is ridiculous to believe that if you build it they will come - they left when those services were there. The services then followed them out. 





John STAVRIDIS is now contributing to a Challenge 25 million and counting


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Robert Hale commented on the Challenge 25 million and counting

From my understanding a key driver for migrants is to further the opportunities for not only themselves but for their children with a focus on education.

I would advocate the creation of education institutions in regional areas which tailor programs to meet local skill demands or in support of emerging local industries. In this way local education stays local rather than moving away to urban centres.

With international recognition of qualifications being highly regarded and sought after I would advocate partnering with major universities either local or overseas to host or sponsor these regional learning institutions.

This model could be supported by co funding investment with new or existing Cooperative Research Centres CRC's based in the regional area focused on new technologies and creating a demand for skilled local employment.

It appears we advocate for skilled migration based on demand but give no direction or infrastructure to new migrants as to where their skill set would be best utilised for the benefit of both the country and the new migrants. Creating regional education institutions and the supporting infrastructure that would be needed to sustain it would create appeal for regional engagement.

If you build it, they will come.


Jessica Boyle commented on the Challenge 25 million and counting

If you want migrants to live in regional areas - these places need to appeal to them. There needs to be job opportunities and services that meet their needs. 

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