Investing in the heart of the nation

10 September 2012


Almost exactly one hundred years after John Flynn put forward his vision for the heart of the nation, it’s time for a renewed commitment to the people of remote Australia.

After three years of consultation with communities across the country, which clearly established that the people of remote Australia feel forgotten, remoteFOCUS today presented a report to Ministers and senior government officers in Canberra aimed at “Fixing the Hole in Australia’s heartland”.

Representatives of remoteFOCUS, which has become a powerful movement for change in the nation’s attitude to remote Australia, called on government at every level to address the deep sense of disconnect and discontent felt by the people who live at the heart of our country.

“Frontier Services has been a proud participant in remoteFOCUS,” said Rosemary Young, National Director. “All the organisations and individuals involved share a passion for the regions beyond the urban fringe, who can see the rich contribution made by rural and remote communities, and who are determined to see change.”

“We’ve been at the heart of remote Australia for a hundred years this year and we have seen the effect that the rapid urbanisation of the nation has had on people.”

In 1912, Rev John Flynn’s vision resulted in the establishment of the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) and the “mantle of safety” which contributed so much to the “opening up” of the inland. Frontier Services is the successor in the Uniting Church to the AIM and continues to care for people in remote Australia.

“The lived experience of those for whom we provide services and support certainly bears out all that is contained in the report. People who live at a distance and in less populated areas are impacted much more dramatically by changes in policy which they cannot easily influence. Often information is not as accessible as it is to those in urban areas. People feel disempowered and disadvantaged, and frequently as though nobody cares.”

“People need a say in decision making; equitable and sustainable financial flows; better services and locally responsive public service; local control and accountability; and, most importantly, inclusion is a greater Australian narrative,” Mrs Young said.

“Flynn, in his day, held public meetings where he used his photographs and his gift of storytelling to bring the bush to the people of the cities. Today, it is harder to tell that story. Eighty five per cent of our population lives within 50km of the coast and everyone’s attention is concentrated there.”

“A commitment is needed to governance reform, to investment and infrastructure development, but most of all to appreciating the value of the people who live at the heart of our nation and including them as part of the whole.”

“Frontier Services believes that Australia needs a strong and healthy heartland in order to be a strong and healthy nation.”

Read the full report Fixing the hole in Australia’s Heartland