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Regional Australia Institute

 RAI CEO Update 


 Prioritising Regional Australia 

Liz Ritchie
CEO, Regional Australia Institute (RAI)

As the CEO of the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), I am pleased to be able to share our work and insights with you through this new CEO Update, which I will provide to you each month.

And what a month it is has been for the RAI! Today, I would like to announce our new Regions Rising Webinar Series in partnership with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. The first FREE webinar - Regional Recovery: What are we learning? - will be held on Wednesday 27 May. I will be sitting down with the Bank’s Managing Director Ms Marnie Baker and Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government the Hon. Mark Coulton to discuss the role of regions in a post COVID-19 world.

Last week, after more than 12 months in the planning, we launched the Regional Australia Council 2031 (RAC2031), which brings together 10 of the most influential corporate organisations in the country. Officially launched by Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Michael McCormack, RAC2031 is the first group of its type - where we ask corporate leaders to make regional Australia a priority.

RAC2031 aims to use the collective knowledge and influence of this group to help transform our regions. It will focus on four key pillars: Jobs, Population, Liveability and Leadership.

This Council will also help guide the RAI as we gear up to launch our National Awareness Campaign later this year. The campaign will promote regional Australia as a great place to live, work and invest.

As the inaugural Chair of RAC2031, I see the establishment of this Council as not only a professional highlight, but a long standing personal goal to bring corporate Australia to the table on regional reform. I would like to thank our 10 founding organisations for their commitment and taking a place at this historic table and look forward to working together. The members are as follows:  
  • Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA);
  • Aurizon;
  • Bendigo and Adelaide Bank;
  • Commonwealth Bank;
  • Expedia Group;
  • KPMG;
  • NBN Co;
  • Prime Super;
  • Telstra; and
  • TransGrid.
We are seeking to bring more organisations on board this year, and grow the Council to 25, with a focus on diverse industries and leaders. I look forward to sharing with you the progress on this front.

Since the launch of the Council, we have been inundated with enquires from organisations across the country looking to support our National Awareness Campaign. We are working through those now and look forward to announcing our next stage in due course.

For more information, about RAC2031, I invite you to go to our website. The next meeting of RAC2031 is scheduled for July.

One month can feel like a long time in the midst of a health crisis and no doubt each of you have experienced a myriad of emotions and impacts, both personally and at the community level as we all work our way through COVID-19. Our research team are working hard to analyse the issues and create a dedicated body of work for what COVID-19 means for the regions.

At the Institute, we have being engaging nationally with all State, Territory and Commonwealth jurisdictions to understand the impacts and differing policy responses. To support this engagement, we have dedicated a new section on our website to COVID-19 and what it means to the regions. We have also focused on some specific issues including the impacts of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, potential policy responses to two key sectors including Tourism and Creative Industries, and the potential impacts on older populations. We also launched the new regional survey called The Gauge.

Thank you to those who took the time to complete our survey. We were overwhelmed with respondents sharing their stories and unique experiences - it clearly demonstrated the tenacity and strength of our regions. A full report will be available soon on our website but I wanted to turn your focus to two key findings:

In response to COVID-19, the survey data shows 79% of respondents are now working from home. What is interesting about this figure is that prior to COVID-19, more than 36% were already doing so.

At the RAI, we continue to view the COVID-19 as a turning point to help fast track a long held vision for a more balanced population. However, as we look to the future, there are several key transitions and trends that we might be thankful for when considering major reform.

Firstly, the impact of COVID-19 has broken down long held barriers for true remote and flexible work practices, where we have seen businesses and employees around the country move into gear to adapt and adopt new ways of working.

Secondly, over the last few months we have also watched Australians ‘connect’ in a new way, where location is no longer an issue or barrier.

And finally, Australians are questioning where they live and their financial future. We know more people than ever are making enquiries about purchasing homes in our regions - looking for the ultimate lifestyle that we know regional Australia offers.

The RAI will continue to analyse these trends and use our evidence-based research and data insights to support recovery and reform.

As part of our COVID-19 work, we are also developing case studies that highlight how regional businesses have pivoted to ensure not only survival, but success. If your business fits into this category, we would love to hear from you. Please email your details to [email protected] and we will be in touch.

Until next month, stay connected and stay safe.

Liz Ritchie
CEO, Regional Australia Institute (RAI)
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