The North provides for Australia’s economic future and prosperity

    The annual Developing Northern Australia Conference was held in Mackay 6-8 July 2022. Allan Dale is the Chair of this long running Conference that provides a platform for networking and connecting with like-minded contributors to share the opportunities, challenges and outcomes for growing Northern Australia.
    Over 400 people attended the Mackay Conference making it the largest to date. A number of JCU researchers presented at the Conference including members of the TNQ Drought Hub. Emerging strongly from the Conference was the knowledge that inclusive and sustainable development with a place-based focus is the key to better outcomes.

    Madeline King MP, Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia highlighted the importance of the North. ‘We all know that Northern Australia has strategic and comparative advantages for the nation. It is a gateway for defence and security cooperation into the Indo-Pacific region. It is an important producer of the resources that are powering the development of our region and will power the new resources economy.’

    Minister King (pictured below), also made a key announcement at the conference. “I intend to restart and reinvigorate the Ministerial Forum for Northern Development – the MFND – bringing together ministers with responsibilities for developing Northern Australia’
    This announcement was warmly welcomed by Conference delegates, it was felt that the Ministerial Forum presents a welcome new opportunity for visionary Commonwealth, State and Territory collaboration, but this needs some independent drive, a clear focus and deep engagement.”

    Other keynotes and invited guests included:
    • Greg Williamson, Mayor of Mackay Regional Council
    • Senator the Hon. Murray Watt MP, Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry; and Emergency Management (via videolink)
    • Senator the Hon. Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Education; and Regional Development.
    • Senator Nita Green, Senator for Queensland and Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef
    • Senator Susan McDonald, Senator for Queensland and Shadow Minister for Northern Australia and Resources.
    • Hon. Darren Legh West MLC, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Hydrogen Industry; and Member for the Agricultural Region in Western Australia.
    • Hon. Glenn Butcher, Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Minister for Water for the Queensland Government.
    • Hon. Nicole Manison, Deputy Chief Minister for the Northern Territory and also Minister for Northern Australia and Trade.
    • Members of the Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group, including Gillian Mailman & Colin Saltmere.

    A number of the speakers acknowledged that while Northern Australia has only 1.3 million people living in the region it makes up 51% of Australia’s land mass. This low density means it is difficult to capture the economies of scale that would normally underpin investment, but Northern Australia has resources, strategic and comparative advantages for the nation.

    Challenges for Northern Australia were considered; including Supply Chains, Long COVID and Biosecurity. Many of the opportunities and solutions also discussed the need to be more inclusive of Indigenous voices. Many felt that it is important to focus on the idea that development can be about transforming the lives of people, not just economies.

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