What are the enablers of economic participation in remote and very remote Australia, and how can we identify them?
Eva McRae–Williarns, John Guenlher, Damien Jacobsen & Judith LoveII
In this paper we discuss some of the key learnings from the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation (CRC REP), Remote Economic Participation, Pathways to Employment and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism Product research projects.
While we do not deny the importance of global markets for remote Australians, we see value in opportunity structures that move beyond the confines of traditional economic and human capital theories. It is through acknowledging and building on local residents’ social, identity, cultural and natural capital strengths that, we argue, has a greater potential for supporting increased economic engagement and sustainable participation. Framing our learnings through a theoretical lens of different forms of capital we argue a shift in discourse from one of ‘disadvantage’ to one of remote advantage would be more supportive of education, employment and enterprise outcomes for local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander residents. While such a shift will not contribute significantly to the Gross National Product we argue that it would have important tangible and economic benefits for local people and the nation.
Working on country: a case study of unusual environmental program success
Kathleen Mackie and David Meacheam School of Business, University of NSW, Canberra, Australia
Many programs have failed in attempting to tackle Indigenous disadvantage, through remote-area employment and environment activities. In the 1990s and 2000s, the federal environment department’s Contract Employment Program for Aboriginals in Natural and Cultural Resource Management and Indigenous Protected Areas program made small but valuable advances. In the post-2005 Indigenous reform agenda, the environment department took the opportunity to go the next step, proposing in 2007 a program paying award wages for Indigenous rangers caring for country. The result, Working on Country, is acknowledged as an environmental, employment, and social success. By September 2013, nearly 700 rangers in 90 projects cared for 1.5 million square kilometres of country. Theoretical understanding of ‘policy success’ is recognised as an embryonic field within public policy theory. Working on Country provides a fertile case to investigate ‘policy success’. Interviews with federal environment departmental officials show that, in the particular case of Working on Country, keys to policy success were the lengthy evolution and ‘road testing’ of the program concept, authentic stakeholder engagement, and subsuming the environment objectives. We enunciate the unusual factors that were brought to bear in that success, and inquire if they are replicable.