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Forum asks what is holding regional Victoria back?

Important local issues such as farm exodus, young people’s mobility in and out of small towns, and collaboration between regional leaders, were in the spotlight last week at a forum to address what is holding regional Victoria back.

The sell-out conference in Horsham was attended by almost 100 business leaders, peak body and Government representatives, and members of the wider Wimmera Mallee community, who heard from five researchers from the Regional Incubator for Social and Economic Research (RISER).

Each of the RISER researchers – who live, work and research in regional Victoria – presented their latest research findings centred on the current economic and social state of play of the Wimmera Mallee, and regional and rural Victoria at large.

The RISER initiative is supported by Regional Development Australia (RDA) Grampians, Federation University and the Wimmera Development Association.

“Through this initiative we are supporting local people in regional Victoria to undertake this research,” explains Stuart Benjamin, Chair of RDA Grampians who adds that as each researcher is local, “All that knowledge then stays in our community forever.”

He adds that the five areas of study are different, but complimentary, but all focus on parts of the regional economy “where we think we can do a little bit better.” The forum, he says, was an opportunity to report back to the community and stakeholders who had been involved in the research.

Among the research presented was work by Amity Dunstan who is exploring the grains industry in Wimmera Southern Mallee and specifically farm exodus, population decline and dispersal. Among the questions she is asking is “Where are the women?”.

Amy Isham presented her research on “The Regional Trifecta” - how regional entrepreneurs, managers and community leaders collaborate in the regional centres where they practise, and the roles, barriers, drivers and partnerships they build.

Also presenting was Ember Parkin whose research is entitled “Stay or Go” and explores young people’s mobility in and out of small towns, and Cathy Tischler who reported on her work on political representation, equity and competition in regional Victoria.

The final presenter was Carmel Goulding who is exploring the motivators, impacts and needs of “downshifters” – people who make a voluntary and conscious long-term lifestyle change which results in them earning less money. Carmel’s research centres around downshifters who choose to relocate from metropolitan centres to rural or regional areas.

The final research reports will be released in 2020.

To find out more about RISER, email RDA Grampians.

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