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Helping Rural Communities Adapt to a Changing World

The Murray-Darling River BasinRural Australia - The Murray-Darling River Basin
 

Helping rural communities adapt to a changing world

How research is developing community adaptability tools for rural Australia

Research led by regional governance expert Anthony Hogan is helping equip rural communities with the tools they need to adapt to changing environments and to better manage their limited resources.

Over the last 40 years, agriculture and mining have increasingly been driven by global interests. Mechanisation and genetic developments have seen thousands of jobs eliminated, impacting many communities throughout rural Australia.

This has been the case across the Murray-Darling Basin area, one of Australia's most important agricultural regions, and that area has been the initial focus of a comprehensive collaborative research investigation led by the University.

Once taken for granted, the viability of irrigated agriculture in this part of Australia has come into question. Travel times between villages, towns and regional centres have been reduced with the development of better roads and greater access to motor vehicles, meaning that people often no longer work and shop in the town where they live.

This has all meant that many rural areas across Australia are now in a position of needing to re-examine the socio-economic viability of their communities.

Professor Hogan and Professor of Economics Rob Tanton, working in collaboration with researchers from the University's College of Adjuncts, have developed a community adaptability tool to address this issue.

The tool takes into account the many aspects of adaptability which may impact on the sustainability of a rural community. These include: the local economic base, the unique mix of people and skills which exist in the community, health and social wellbeing and natural resource issues, including water sharing.

"The community adaptability tool is used to guide communities through an eight stage process in which they create a data-informed view of their community capacity and in turn learn how they can use this data to inform planning for their future," Professor Hogan explains.

"At the end of the process the community can better understand how they can work towards a shared vision for the future by managing competing priorities within a limited resource base."

Having worked successfully with communities across the Murray- Darling Basin, the research team is now focusing their efforts on Scottsdale in North East Tasmania.

"AT THE END OF THE PROCESS, THE COMMUNITY HAS A REALISTIC PLAN AS TO HOW THEY CAN WORK TO WARDS A SHARED VISION FOR THE FUTURE"