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Strategies for remote communities

A new report says that remote communities that acknowledge and deal with skilled labour shortages are more likely to thrive.

Created by the Desert Knowledge CRC, Attracting and retaining skilled and professional staff in remote locations, also says communities that don’t deal with labour issues are likely to wither on the vine.

The report’s author, Professor Fiona Haslam McKenzie, Director of the Housing and Urban Research Institute at Curtin University, said that remote area towns have less difficulty attracting and retaining skilled staff where there is pride in the community, the residents support each other and the people have a ‘can do’ attitude.

“Isolation, a harsh climate, poor utility services, lack of health and education facilities and second-rate housing, exaggerate the impacts of economic rationalism. Investing in a community on the basis of efficiency rather than equity can put people off working in remote communities,” Professor Haslam McKenzie said.

“Realistically, financial incentives – housing and rent relief, family vacation fares and allowances and education allowances for the children – play an important role.

“Governments need to recognise that zone allowances are an important factor and they need to be upgraded to take into account the real costs of remote living.

“Introducing people to remote communities is important. This can be done, in some instances, during training. Getting to know people and the uniqueness of remote conditions may change their views about living and working in remote locations. There is also a big need to train people in the survival strategies for living in remote locations.

“Mentoring young people from remote communities, and the offer of scholarships and cadetships, could bring them back to apply their new skills to their home community.

“All of these strategies are important for creating and supporting the sense of commitment that skilled workers need if these towns are to be vibrant and sustainable.

“Of course there needs to be coordinated action across the public and private sectors: Governments have a role to play in improving housing, offering incentives for apprenticeships and relief for graduates’ HECS payments, and the private sector needs to encourage businesses to support, train and provide opportunities for their employees in remote conditions,” Professor Haslam McKenzie said.

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