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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Australia's report to the UNCSD - 1995

Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1995
ISBN 0 6444 3152 0


Chapter 32 of Agenda 21

Approximately one third of Australia's population live in rural and remote areas and a significant proportion of these people are farmers and their families. Social and economic opportunities for these communities are vital to the sustainable development of the nation's economy and future.

A community-based approach, directly involving farmers and rural community groups, supported by government, has proved to be the most effective model to progress sustainable development in regional and rural areas. This is consistent with the market-based approach to agricultural development and the achievement of self-reliance of farmers. The Government also consults a wide range of farmer and community groups on both a formal and informal basis through peak industry and welfare associations.

This is underpinned by linkages and coordination between Commonwealth (Federal) programs, State/Territory initiatives and other activities of Government agencies, agribusiness and rural communities at a regional level.

Equitable access to services

The Government recognises that rural communities do not have the same capacity as urban areas to raise public revenue, yet rural industries are major export earners in the Australia economy. State Governments have a major role to ensure adequate infrastructure, education and health facilities, telecommunications and law enforcement. Consequently the Commonwealth Government annually distributes a higher per capital amount of revenue to those States that have a relatively smaller population spread over a large area to ensure that States can provide similar levels of essential services to all Australians regardless of where they reside.

Australia has a strong commitment to social justice and places a high priority on improving the delivery of government services to rural and remote communities. This is being achieved through geographic targeting of education, health, social security, business support, community and other services, and innovative approaches to providing these services. Special attention is directed to improving access to information and using opportunities provided by modern telecommunications and computer technology.

A number of measures for improving the access of people living in rural and remote areas to information and services has been linked with the Government's rural and regional policies through the Rural Communities Access Program. Elements of this program include 'Countrylink' and the Australian Commonwealth Information Service which provide information on Commonwealth services and programs, the Rural Access Program and Telecentres Program that assist communities plan, organise and deliver projects that will improve their access to services, telecommunications, opportunities and information, and the Business Advice for Rural Areas Program that provides business facilitators to assist local industries and encourage sustainable economic development in rural communities.

Provision of welfare support

Australia's social security system provides a range of income and welfare support payments, as well as social counselling services, for individuals and families in need. There are four main types of support payments generally available: pensions (aged, sickness), allowances (Job Search and Newstart for unemployed workers) and Family Payments. Assistance for education related expenses is also provided through education and training allowances (AUSTUDY) and Assistance for Isolated Children. Eligibility for receipt of these payment is based on income and assets tests.

Under the Farm Household Support Scheme, support is available to farmers who are no longer able to obtain credit from commercial sources. For these farmers, support for up to two years is provided to meet day to day living expenses while they work to return their farm to profitability, or decide to leave the farming sector.

As part of the drought package announced on 21 September 1994 a new Drought Relief Payment was introduced. The Drought Relief Payment will be equivalent to Job Search Allowance in monetary terms and will be available to farm families living in areas assessed to be in exceptional drought. An income and non-farm assets test applies.

Regional and rural development

The Commonwealth Government has recently addressed the need to enhance economic growth and delivery of employment opportunities on a regional basis, both urban and rural, across Australia through a Rural Development Strategy. This strategy seeks successful long term growth through regions taking responsibility for identifying their potential, assessing their strengths and developing and implementing their own strategies. It is based on a shared commitment from governments, business, unions and the community to maximise benefits.

The Regional Development Program is an integrated series of measures to support the development of sustainable economic activity at a regional level. It recognises the diversity in economic potential, environmental circumstances and social need and acknowledges that Australia's economic wealth will be maximised by developing and utilising this diversity. The Program funds:

Consultation mechanisms

There is an increased emphasis on broad-based community consultation in Government policies and programs for rural communities. The success of this approach has been demonstrated under the National Landcare Program outlined in the chapter on Land Resources. The Government's Regional Development Strategy and rural policies and programs also adopt this approach to ensure that relevant policies and programs are established and that ownership of new developments is in the hands of the relevant community.

The Government also consults a wide range of community groups on both an formal and informal basis. These groups include the National Farmers' Federation, a wide range of rural industry associations, the Country Women's Association, The Australian Council of Social Service, the Isolated Children's Parents' Association, the National Rural Health Alliance, the Australian Mining Industry Council, Australian Women in Agriculture, the Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women, the Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Council.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) is the main organisation representing farmers. It comprises independent State and commodity organisations, voluntarily funded by farmers, and represents all major pastoral and cropping industries throughout Australia. State and commodity organisations make representation in relation to State or commodity-specific issues respectively. The NFF represents farmers on issues with impact on more than one commodity or State. The NFF addresses broad national issues such as economic policy, industrial relations, trade, transport and conservation. It also represents farmers' and rural community interest on social welfare, education, research, quarantine and animal health issues.


Enhancing the role of farmers is integral to Government policies and programs directed towards economic and social reform for regional and rural areas. The Australian Government recognises the importance of consultation with representatives of rural communities and community based approaches which build local commitment by ensuring the goals, strategies and performance criteria are developed within the communities to address social and economic development. Community ownership is important in ensuring proper resolution of conflict and community commitment to outcomes. The Government plays an important role in policy and program formulation and acts as a catalyst for development while relying on broad-based consultation with the relevant communities.

For further information contact:

Department of Primary Industries and Energy