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Meeting the Demand - Creative Solutions to Regional Workforce Challenges

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! With an ever-increasing demand for labour in the regions coupled with restricted migration local councils and employers across the country are working on creative solutions to address regional workforce challenges.

The Regional Australia Institute’s December job vacancy report shows that labour shortages have really started to bite, with unemployment in the regions dropping to 3.8 percent in December 2021  reaching the Prime Minister’s target of a rate below four percent. At the same time, regional job vacancies increased 36 percent over 2021.

So how can regions attract the labour they need?

Joining the RAI for its first Regions Rising webinar of 2022 are the Hon Fiona Nash, Australia’s first Regional Education Commissioner, Dr Kim Houghton RAI Chief Economist and Rachel Whiting, CEO of Regional Development Australia Riverina. 


Topic: Jobs & Skills

Date: 22 February 2022

Time: 12.00 pm – 1.00 pm (AEDT)     

9 am AWST; 11 am AEST; 11.30 am ACDT

For all enquiries, contact 

 Hon Fiona Nash 

         Regional Education Commissioner                            

Having grown up in Sydney, Fiona has spent the last couple of decades living and working in regional Australia. For many years, she was involved in a farming enterprise in the central west of NSW which her sons Will and Henry are now running.

She spent twelve years in the federal parliament as a Senator for NSW and also held ministerial positions including Rural Health, and in Cabinet the positions of Regional Development, Regional Communications and Local Government and Territories. She also held the position of Deputy Leader of the Nationals.

From 2018 to 2021, Fiona was the Strategic Adviser, Regional Engagement and Government Relations for Charles Sturt University.

Fiona was appointed by the Australian Government as the Regional Education Commissioner in December 2021.

Kim Houghton (photo)

Dr Kim Houghton

                         Chief Economist,                                        Regional Australia Institute              

Kim manages the RAI’s policy and research portfolio to ensure the Institute’s work has practical application and supports a better policy environment and more vibrant regional economies. Having worked on regional economic development in Australia for almost 20 years, Kim has a passion for engaging, motivating, informing and connecting entrepreneurial business owners.

Rachel Whiting

          Director of Regional Development                                    RDA Riverina                          

Rachel is the Director of Regional Development at RDA Riverina. She has lived in regional communities in NSW, Western Australia, and Queensland throughout her professional career. Rachel has worked extensively with not-for-profits both as a board member and as management. Rachel is passionate in her quest for others to understand the need for skilled workers in regional Australia and the benefits of living regionally. ‘More Jobs than People’ has become her mantra!

In her spare time, Rachel has also been breeding horses for the Olympic disciplines for over 20 years, is a Vice President of the CWA Riverina Group and has a background in Arts Education, Practice and Facilitation. Rachel is an Adjunct Professional Staff Member at Charles Sturt University, a Fellow of Leadership WA, holds a Master of Communications from Charles Sturt University, a Graduate Certificate in Animal Studies from UQ and a Bachelor of Education majoring in Visual Arts and English from QUT.


Liveability — Live Where You Love

Australians are increasingly subscribing to the motto “live where you love”, but what exactly is driving them to move to the regions?

Many regional communities in Australia are seeking to grow their populations and to do so in a strategic and sustainable way. With a record 74,300 jobs available in regional Australia, they’re looking to fill workforce needs. At the same time, there is growing evidence that city-dwellers in Australia are re-thinking their lifestyle choices and making the move.

On Wednesday, 15 December, the RAI hosted a panel of key players within LGAs that are experiencing notable growth. Tune in to hear about how the Surf Coast (VIC) is surfing the population wave  it’s expected to experience 40 percent growth in the next five years. Listen to the success stories and lessons learned in Moree Plains (NSW) and Douglas (QLD) which were amongst the top five LGAs with the strongest growth in migration from capitals during the past 12 months*. What are the reasons behind these movements? And what are these areas doing to accommodate them?

This last Regions Rising webinar of the year invites you to explore the elements that encourage Australians to #movetomore and includes a presentation of the RAI’s research on liveability and Nutrien Ag Solutions‘ outlook on the role of liveability in attracting jobs to regional and rural Australia.

*Data from the RAI’s Regional Movers Index – Powered by CBA – September Quarter 2021.


Topic: Liveability

Date: 15 December 2021

Time: 10.30am – 11.30am (AEDT)     

7.30 am AWST; 9.30 am AEST; 10.00 am ACDT

For all enquiries, contact 

Kim Houghton (photo)

Dr Kim Houghton
Chief Economist,  Regional Australia Institute (RAI)        

Kim manages the RAI’s policy and research portfolio to ensure the Institute’s work has practical application and supports a better policy environment and more vibrant regional economies. Having worked on regional economic development in Australia for almost 20 years, Kim has a passion for engaging, motivating, informing and connecting entrepreneurial business owners.

          Shelley Nolan                   Senior Director,               Human Resources         Nutrien Ag Solutions

With over 20 years in HR experience, Shelley brings extensive Human Resources and leadership experience grained predominantly in the food manufacturing and fast moving consumer goods sectors.

Shelley has experience working on large integration projects and culture transformation programmes with particular experience building and developing best practice people processes. 

Shelley is passionate about creating a workplace where employees can be at their best, and believes culture, diversity and leadership are the essential building blocks.

Cr Libby Stapleton
               Mayor                            Surf Coast, VIC                                                         

Cr Libby Stapleton is an active member of the Surf Coast Shire community, having lived in Aireys Inlet for the past 18 years, raising a young family and integrating herself in the fabric of local life. 

Her professional training is in public relations, as well as outdoor education, bringing a strong mix of relevant skills to her role as Councillor. She runs her own communications business and enjoys engaging directly with local community in her roles as editor of NewsAngle and operator of the Aireys Inlet Market.

Cr Michael Kerr
                Mayor                             Douglas, QLD                                              

Cr Michael Kerr moved to the Douglas Shire 20 years ago. With a background in small business management, he took the reins of the local theatre company, effectively saving the heritage-building and operating a non-profit entity for the community to enjoy: the Clink Theatre

Seeking to further contribute to important community issues, he entered the political world in 2016, successfully running as a Councillor candidate. In 2020 he was then successful in running for Mayor of the Douglas Shire. He is also Chair of the FNQROC, an added challenge which he enjoys immensely.

Cr Katrina Humphries
            Former Mayor               Moree Plains, NSW           

Katrina was born in Moree and is the fourth generation of her family on the black soil plains. For the past 22 years, she has been the owner-operator of Fish-About Moree.

Cr Humphries has successfully provided leadership through three major floods during 2011-2012 and stood beside farmers, graziers and towns people during droughts. She has taken on the ratings agencies and international banks in relation to the loss of Council investments through the global financial crisis – and won!

Cr Humphries held the Mayoral position for Moree Plains from 2008 to 2021. 


Regionalisation: National Address by Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie

At the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) we believe in an Australia where our regions have the infrastructure, the services, the investments, and the people that they need to grow and thrive and take their rightful place in our nation’s story.

On 12 November 2021, the RAI hosted Senator, the Hon Bridget McKenzie in Wodonga, VIC, where she delivered her first national keynote address as Minister for Regionalisation and outlined the Government’s plan for the future.

Over the past 12 months, more people in Australia have turned their hearts and minds to the opportunities available in our regions than at any other time since Federation. Our research has told us that people want more time, more space and more connection with nature, community and family. Now is the time for regional Australia to take advantage of this newfound appreciation.

We invite you to join RAI CEO, Liz Ritchie, for this important national conversation about Regionalisation, and what it means for you.


Topic: Regionalisation

Date: 12 November 2021

Time: 11.00am – 12.15pm (AEDT)       

8.00 am AWST; 10.00 am AEST; 10.30am ACDT

For all enquiries, contact 

Liz Ritchie

Liz Ritchie
      Regional Australia Institute      

As the CEO of the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), Liz’s primary goal is to make a difference through providing leadership and vision for a better future – a future that recognises regional Australia in a new light.

For over 20 years, Liz has worked across the corporate, government and the not-for-profit sector, and she specialises in leading organisational transformation to build a sustainable future.

Liz is a change agent, a marketer, a researcher and an extremely passionate advocate for regional Australia, heralding from Deniliquin, in NSW.

Senator Hon Bridget McKenzie
Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education

Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie was sworn in as Minister of the Crown in July 2021. 

Born and raised in rural Victoria, Bridget was encouraged to be proud and passionate about regional Australia.

A staunch supporter of the small business, agriculture, forestry, mining and manufacturing industries, she is looking forward to promoting and supporting safe and prosperous regional communities.

Previously, Bridget McKenzie served as Deputy Leader of the Nationals (2017) and was appointed Australia’s first female Agriculture Minister (2019).

As Minister for Rural Health (2017), Bridget drove the establishment of the Murray Darling Medical School to increase the number of GP’s practicing in rural areas.

She currently resides in Wodonga, VIC.

Rob Clayton
            Managing Director,                      Nutrien Ag Solutions                      

Rob Clayton has held the position of VP and Managing Director of Nutrien Ag Solutions for the past three years.

Originally from a wheat, sheep and beef farming background in Northern NSW, Rob holds strong ties to the agriculture industry across both the supply and demand channels. 

Rob has spent the last 20 years of his career in the Nutrien Retail business, having held many senior roles across varied geographies and responsibilities. 

Prior to joining Nutrien Ag Solutions he was a partner in a mid-sized logistics firm and also headed up a corporate crop production business in the North West of NSW.

His passion is and always has been agriculture and he works hard every day to inspire his team to improve the profitability and sustainability of the Australian farmer.

Gavin Williams (photo)

Gavin Williams
 Chief Development Officer, Regional and Remote at NBN                

Gavin Williams was appointed Chief Development Officer Regional & Remote in October 2019, bringing more than five years’ experience at NBN Co and 25 years within the telecommunication industry across Australia.

He has held leadership roles that have spanned engineering, product management, marketing and strategy disciplines across consumer, business and wholesale markets.

Prior to joining NBN Co, Gavin held positions in Optus, Telstra, and was principal of an independent consultancy. 

He was Board Director of Southern Cross Cable.


Tele-health: Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Remote Australia

Australia is on the cusp of a new era, one in which regional Australian towns have the opportunity to grow and thrive like never before. With a highly mobile population, the regional ‘liveability’ of a place plays a big role in influencing a person’s decision about where to live. 

Outlined in the RAI’s Liveability Toolkit, access to quality health services is one of the top six factors most important to potential movers and local residents.

So what’s happening in regional Australia to improve access to health care for the 9 million people who live there? What does it mean to digitalize health? Are we ready for what is coming in this space?

Catch up on the one-hour webinar led by our Chief Economist, Dr Kim Houghton. We are looking forward to hosting the Hon David Gillespie MP, Dr Jen Beer and Dr Jill Benson. 


Topic: Health

Date: 27 August 2021

Time: 11.00am – 12.00pm (AEST)        (9.00am AWST; 10.30am ACST)

For all enquiries, contact 

Kim Houghton (photo)

Dr Kim Houghton
Chief Economist,
      Regional Australia Institute                  

Kim manages the RAI’s policy and research portfolio to ensure the Institute’s work has practical application and supports a better policy environment and more vibrant regional economies. Having worked on regional economic development in Australia for almost 20 years, Kim has a passion for engaging, motivating, informing and connecting entrepreneurial business owners.

Hon Dr David Gillespie MP
Minister for Regional Health  Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment

The Hon Dr David Gillespie   has served in the House of Representatives as the Member for Lyne since 2013 and is currently Deputy Leader of the House.

In July 2016, Dr Gillespie was elevated to the role of Assistant Minister for Rural Health and in 2017 was appointed Assistant Minister for Health, to acknowledge his increasing responsibility in the health portfolio.

Notable achievements include: 

– Implementing and appointing Australia’s first Rural Health Commissioner

– Setting up 26 regional training hubs and 3 university Departments of Rural Health that provide high-quality rural placements for medical and health students

– Developing the Murray-Darling Medical School Network of regional ‘End-to-End’ medical schools. 

Before politics, David Gillespie was a doctor for 33 years and he spent over 20 years practising as a local gastroenterologist and medical educator.

Dr Jen Beer
             Head of Segment —                  Health and Education,                  Regional and Remote NBN

Jen’s role focuses on the development and implementation of the regional and remote Health and Education strategies for NBN in partnership with key stakeholders across both industries. 

Prior to NBN, Jen has enjoyed a range of experiences including her time as a Vet Surgeon, working directly with the community in an NPO, playing volleyball internationally, and in the telco industry in roles spanning strategy, customer experience, transformation and product delivery. 

Jen is a proud Darlot woman from the Western Desert region of WA and spent most of her life in Perth before moving to Melbourne in 2015 as part of a scholarship to study her MBA at Melbourne Business School. 

A/Prof Jill Benson AM
              Medical Director,                         Spinifex Health Service                                        

Jill has been a GP for over 40 years, for the last 20 years mostly working in remote Aboriginal communities in the western desert of Australia, with refugees in Adelaide, with Doctors Health SA seeing doctors as patients, and as a Medical Educator and researcher.

Currently she is the Medical Director of Spinifex Health Service in the remote WA community of Tjuntjuntjara. The border closures mean that this is mostly by telehealth.

She has presented and published nationally and internationally about medical education, refugee health, doctors’ health, Indigenous health and mental health. She was awarded an Order of Australia in 2012 for her work with Aboriginal people, refugees and in mental health.


Housing in Regional Australia: Meeting a Growing Demand

Regional Australia is experiencing a renaissance driven by urban ‘push’ factors which include housing affordability. RAI research highlights 1 in 5 people living in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth are looking to make the move.

However, many regional communities in Australia have long faced challenges in providing the right mix of housing they need to bolster their populations and fuel economic growth. 

We invite you to watch this May 2021 webinar where our panel of experts shine a light on this topic. 

Our webinar, led by RAI Chief Economist Dr Kim Houghton, explores:

– the current state of regional housing markets;

– the challenges associated with providing fit-for-purpose housing in non-metropolitan areas;

– the measures that are being, or could be, taken to meet housing needs in Regional Australia;

– the roles of governments, industry and financial lenders in meeting regional housing demand.


Topic: Housing

Date: Thursday, 20 May 2021

Time: 11.00am – 12.00pm AEST
(9.00am AWST; 10.30am ACST)


For all enquiries, contact 

Kim Houghton (photo)

Dr Kim Houghton
Chief Economist,
Regional Australia Institute

Kim manages the RAI’s policy and research portfolio to ensure the Institute’s work has practical application and supports a better policy environment and more vibrant regional economies. Having worked on regional economic development in Australia for almost 20 years, Kim has a passion for engaging, motivating, informing and connecting entrepreneurial business owners.

Eliza Owen
Head of Research Australia

Eliza has a wealth of experience in property data analysis and reporting. She worked as an economist at Residex, a research analyst at Domain Group and previously as the commercial real estate and construction analyst at CoreLogic.

She specialises in descriptive and inferential data analysis, data visualisation and framing data trends with broader economic concepts.

Craig Sinclair
Economic Dev Manager
Temora Shire Council

Craig is responsible for facilitating the growth of the Shire’s economy through the attraction of businesses, residents and tourists.

For the past 10 years Temora has experienced stready growth of between 0.5-1.5% taking the population to just over 6,300. With 450+ new jobs expected over the next 5 years and housing demand already outstripping supply, Council are working on strategies to address the housing shortage.

Strategies include investing in keyworker housing, working with affordable housing providers, introducing incentives for development, undertaking specialist subdivisions, reviewing the LEP, and facilitating private sector development.

Tim Renwick
Independent Builders Network Founder “Push for the Bush”

Tim is the co-owner of the Independent Builders Network which has c.60 Builder Members throughout regional VIC, NSW, QLD, TAS and SA.

He is also the current Branch Chair of the Melbourne East HIA Branch and Member of the HIA Victorian Regional Executive Council.

Not only that, Tim is the founder of Push for the Bush, a private funded promotion and information centre to promote regional migration in Victoria.

About the Regional Australia Institute

The RAI is the nation’s first and only independent regional economic think tank specialised in developing and communicating the knowledge, policy and practical solutions required to lift the prosperity of people in regions and Australia overall.

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