In May, Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down the Australian Government budget and announced a range of initiatives for Australia’s regions.

Investing in Regional Australia – The budget continues a commitment to build a strong regional Australia with extensions to community grants programs to invest directly in economic and social infrastructure which creates jobs and builds stronger regional communities.
Following the success of the first round of the Building Better Regions Fund, which is delivering more than 250 projects across regional Australia and creating about 26,000 jobs, a further $200 million has been allocated to deliver a third round of the program.
Local knowledge is critical to successful community projects which is why the Stronger Communities Programme will be extended for a fourth round through a commitment of an additional $22.5 million. This program provides grants of between $2,500 and $20,000 to community organisations and Local Governments for capital projects, such as aged care facilities and community halls.
The commitment to practical and common sense decentralisation initiatives will continue to boost economic growth and provide more opportunities for secure, high-paying jobs outside the traditional public-service strongholds of Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.
$250 million will be allocated to a Major Project Business Case Fund to enable the Commonwealth to work in partnership with State and Territory Governments to develop business cases for major projects.
The Instant asset write-off program is being continued, allowing small businesses to write off asset purchases up to $20,000 instantly.

Regional Development Australia Committees program – The Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committees program is being continued for the period 2018-19 to 2021-22.

Regional Employment Trials Program – The $18.4 million Regional Employment Trials Program will be introduced in 10 selected disadvantaged regions. The trials will inform the delivery of future employment services and help Australians in selected disadvantaged regions to better access localised employment services and economic growth opportunities.
To better respond to the particular employment challenges of trial regions, a $1.0 million per region grant program will be implemented to help stimulate communities to deliver tailored employment solutions at a local level.  Additionally, the Department of Jobs and Small Business will engage employment facilitators to work with Regional Development Australia committees to generate projects, connect with local stakeholders and promote economic opportunities as they arise. Selected regions will be announced mid-2018.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Export Hubs – Funding of $20.0 million over four years is allocated to help Australian SMEs to grow and export by supporting the private sector to develop local and regional business collaborations (hubs) in areas of competitive strength. The hubs will help SMEs work together to develop local, regional and indigenous brands, and connect with new markets and global supply chains, by identifying export opportunities, creating scale and building on regional competitive strengths.
Hubs will collaborate with the Industry Growth Centres in the priority sectors—Advanced Manufacturing; Cyber Security; Food and Agribusiness; Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals; Mining Equipment, Technology and Services; and Oil, Gas and Energy Resources. Based on their national consultation across their respective sectors, Growth Centres’ advice is that regions with a critical mass of advanced SMEs, firms and services have the potential for improved industry and innovation ecosystems and export performance, supporting local and regional economic growth and job creation.

Roads of Strategic Importance Initiative – This Budget includes $3.5 billion to establish the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative which will upgrade key freight corridors in regional Australia and increase productivity by connecting our major agricultural and resource areas with our cities and ports. The Initiative will also benefit urban areas where the primary focus will be last-mile access to ports, markets, airports and intermodal facilities. Upgrades to these roads will increase safety and provide broader benefits to regional Australia by supporting the tourism industry.

A Stronger Rural Health Strategy – The Australian Government will provide $83.3 million over five years from 2017-18 to achieve stronger rural, regional and remote health outcomes by aligning the distribution of the health workforce to areas of greatest need and building the capability of Australia’s medical practitioner workforce. In addition, the Stronger Rural Health Strategy will provide greater opportunities for Australian doctors through better teaching, training, recruitment and retention.

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