2021 National Forum

The RDA National Forum was held in Canberra from Tuesday 15 June to Thursday 17 June 2021 with an Official Dinner on the evening of Wednesday 16 June 2021.

The Hon Nola Marino MP, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories hosted the annual Regional Development Australia (RDA) National Forum (Forum).

The Forum provides an opportunity for RDAs to come together, to network with representatives from three levels of Government and to hear from experts in the field of regional economic development.

This year’s theme was Growing Stronger Regions together with sessions that focused on regionalisation, the role of infrastructure and financing, growing economic futures, data to build the business case and vertical integrated policy-making.

The Forum sessions were framed around drivers of regional growth including: infrastructure, human capital, regional employment, leadership and collaboration, amenity and liveability and sustainable natural resources.



Opening of the Forum

Dr Rachel Bacon, Deputy Secretary, Regional, Cities and Territories, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication.


Session One—Commonwealth initiatives/opportunities in regional Australia


RDAs gain a better understanding of key Australian Government initiatives and an insight into the linkages with, and opportunities for, economic development in their regions. Short presentations, followed by an opportunity to engage with key policy makers.


  • Dr Rachel Bacon
    Deputy Secretary, Regional, Cities and Territories, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
    PPTX: 3 MB
  • Emma Greenwood
    Head of Division, AusIndustry, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources
    PPTX: 586 KB
  • Melinda Hatton
    NSW/ACT State Manager, Department of Education, Skills and Employment
  • Sam Palmer
    General Manger, Austrade
    PPTX: 570 KB
  • Rosemary Deininger
    Deputy Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment
    PPTX: 3 MB
  • Penny Shakespeare
    Deputy Secretary, Department of Health
  • Michael Willard
    First Assistant Secretary, Department of Home Affairs


Session Two—Success stories from the RDA network


  • The Hon. Tuck Waldron
    Chair, RDA Wheatbelt
  • Anne Moroney
    Liveability as Strategy
    PPTX: 3 MB


Minister's Opening Address

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, the Hon Nola Marino, MP


Session Three—Regionalisation: Attracting business and population to regional Australia


RDAs will gain an insight into the strategies that support successful regionalisation as well as the changes that would be required to support increased business and population within regional Australia.


  • Professor Andrew Beer—University of South Australia
    Importance of place-based policy in regionalisation
    PPTX: 2 MB
  • Tony Mahar—National Farmers Federation
    National Farmers Federation Update
    PPTX: 17 MB
  • Aaron Hill—Deloitte Access Economics
    New frontiers for economic development in regional Australia
    PPTX: 5 MB
  • Tony Nioa—RDA Wide Bay Burnett (Queensland)
    Onshoring regional manufacturing
    PPTX: 184 MB
  • Rachel Whiting—RDA Riverina (New South Wales)
    Attracting and retaining a skilled workforce
    PPTX: 70 MB


Session Four—Infrastructure and financing


RDAs will gain an insight into the trends shaping infrastructure and the catalytic projects that make a difference in supporting economic growth, including different financing strategies that can be used to support infrastructure.


  • Peter Colacino—Infrastructure Australia
    Catalysing growth in Australia's smaller cities and regional centres
    PPTX: 3 MB
  • Leon Chanter—Australian Renewable Energy Agency
    Overview of ARENA and potential interaction with RDAs
    PPTX: 16 MB
  • Dr Guy Turnbull—Viva Mutual
    Cooperatives and social enterprise business models
    PPTX: 21 MB
  • Catherine Black—Infrastructure and Project Financing Authority
    Investment to shape and support regeneration and growth of liveable cities
    PPTX: 5 MB

Keynote speaker

Shane Fitzsimmons AFSM, Commissioner, Resilience NSW


Session Five—Six key drivers of economic growth


RDAs will gain an insight into the six key drivers of regional growth, and hear practical examples of how these have been implemented in regional Australia.

Stream One—Genevieve Jacobs AM

Connectivity and infrastructure incorporating digital connectivity, transport links, and freight and supply chain infrastructure.

  • Electra Papas—Office of Northern Australia
    Investment and jobs initiatives, Northern Australia
  • Gavin Williams—Regional and Remote, NBN Co
    Digital connectivity
    PPTX: 27 MB
  • Naa Opoku—Department of Infrastructure, Transport Regional Development and Communications
    Brett Charlton—General Manager, Agility
    National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy
    PPTX: 2 MB
  • Estella Rodighiero—RDA Gold Coast (Queensland)
    Regional Biomedical Supply Chain Development Project
    PPTX: 33 MB

Stream Two—Craig Perkins, RDA, Tasmania

Human Capital and Skills to provide skilled and adaptable workforces, Regional Universities and training and schooling.

  • Monica Davis—Country Universities Centres
    A collaboration and community driven solution to challenges of regional education
  • Shyla Vohra—Regional Australia Institute
    Attraction and retention of migrants in regional Australia
    PPTX: 9 MB
  • Kerry Grace—RDA Mid North Coast (New South Wales)
    My Future Workforce
  • Stuart Benjamin—RDA Grampians (Victoria)
    'For want of a worker'
    PPTX: 548 KB

Stream Three—Amanda McClaren, Chair, RDA, Hume (Victoria)

Regional Employment and Business to develop regional businesses and industry, local R&D and innovation and a strategic regional vision.

  • James Bolton—Department of Regions (New South Wales)
    Special Activation Precincts
  • Craig Carmody—Port of Newcastle
    Port of Newcastle—Pathway to Diversification
    PPTX: 50 MB
  • Megan Dixon—RDA Orana (New South Wales)
    Value of the SME Export Hubs
    PPTX: 7 MB
  • Pru Cook—RDA Grampians (Victoria)
    Adding value to Agriculture
    PPTX: 783 KB


Session Six

Stream Four—Rachel Whiting, Director, RDA, Riverina (New South Wales)

Leadership and Collaboration by investing in regional leadership, capable local government and the indigenous community.

  • Bryce Gray—National Indigenous Australians Agency
    Proposals for an Indigenous Voice
    PPTX: 154 MB
  • Mandy Walker—RDA Wheatbelt (Western Australia)
    Building Aboriginal businesses from the inside out
    PPTX: 31 MB
  • Philippa Woodhill—Australian Rural Leadership Foundation
    Regional Leadership
    PPTX: 2 MB
  • Sam Harma—RDA Central West (New South Wales)
    Youth Leadership, Ten4Ten Leadership Dialogue
    PPTX: 744 KB

Stream Five—Fiona Gaske, Chair, RDA, Darling Downs and South West (Queensland)

Amenity and liveability providing services, facilities and liveability, and support for local priorities.

  • Dr Kim Houghton—Regional Australia Institute
    Pitching your place—RAI’s Liveability Toolkit
    PPTX: 5 MB
  • Dr Michael Fotheringham—Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute
    Importance of amenity and liveability to atttract population
  • Lee Jacobsen—RDA Goldfields Esperance (Western Australia)
    Challenges in attracting population and business to regional Australia
    PPTX: 38 MB
  • Anne Moroney—RDA Barossa Light Gawler, Adelaide Plains (South Australia)
    Creating the right amenity and liveability conditions
    PPTX: 36 MB

Stream Six—Professor Robin Roberts, RDA, Brisbane (Queensland)

Sustainable Natural Resources to build future resilience, ensure sustainable foundations and provide economic opportunities and jobs.

  • Victor Violante—Australian Forest Products Association
    Innovation agenda for Australia's forest industries
  • Jonathan Jutsen
    RACE for Economic Opportunity, Regional Growth and Jobs
    PPTX: 18 MB
  • Alan Richardson—RDA Limestone Coast (South Australia)
    Bioenergy Connect Program
    PPTX: 11 MB
  • Tony Simpson—RDA Pilbara (Western Australia)
    Pilbara Region
    PPTX: 2 MB


Session Seven—Growing economic futures


RDAs will gain an insight into strategies that have supported the growth of business in regions; including how strategies can be developed that will grow the economic future of their region by leveraging the innovative solutions.


  • Professor Thomas Maschmeyer—University of Sydney
    Supply Chains and Local Procurement: On-shoring of products, Circular Economy, Local Procurement
    PPTX: 31 MB
  • John Webster—Fight Food Waste
    Food waste as a game changer
    PPTX: 13 MB
  • Charles Jenkinson—RDA South West (Western Australia)
    Circular economies in square holes
    PPTX: 8 MB
  • Grant Sutherland—RDA Barwon, South West (Victoria)
    Great South Coast Economic Futures Project
    PPTX: 421 KB
  • Reece Colman—Parks Tasmania
    LOCAL PROCUREMENT Wineglass Bay Lookout Project
    PPTX: 90 MB


Session Eight—Data, building the case


RDA will gain an insight into the importance of data that can be used to influence policy and decision makers in supporting investment attraction proposals within their regions.


  • Dr Marcia Keegan—SGS Economics and Planning
    Driving Strategic business cases using small area and localised data
    PPTX: 3 MB
  • Dr Andrew Moore—CSIRO
    Data to create opportunities for business growth
    PPTX: 6 MB
  • Edwina Heyhoe—Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
    Regional Data Hub—Supporting our regions
    PPTX: 3 MB
  • Sonja Johnson—RDA Tropical North Queensland
    A Plastics Recycling Facility for Every Council—The Data Behind the Circular Economy Hype
    PPTX: 8 MB XLSX: 63 KB


Session Nine—Vertical integrated policy/delivering innovative solutions


RDAs will gain an insight into how vertically integrated policy or programs can support better outcomes to business and communities through effective collaboration across the three levels of government.


  • Michelle Edge—Department of Industry, Industries and Regions (South Australia)
    Vertical Integrated Policy—Delivering innovative solutions
    PPTX: 8 MB
  • Councillor Linda Scott—President, Local Government Association
    Strengthening the engagement between RDAs and the local government sector
  • Colleen Yates—RDA Perth (Western Australia)
    Western Trade Coast Project


Forum Close

Dr Rachel Bacon, Deputy Secretary, Regional, Cities and Territories, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications