Recap of our Inland Growth Summit 2021

Official Opening

An overview of regional NSW was provided by Member for Parkes, the Hon Mark Coulton who discussed the day’s theme ‘More jobs than People.’ He described the progress of regional connectivity, telecommunications and education in the area and the success of industries such as agriculture and mining.
“All that’s needed is more people to fulfil the need of regional growth. If we want this area to prosper, we’ve got to bring everyone with us.”

Session 1: Current State of Play

This was followed by a presentation by RDA Orana Director of Regional Development Megan Dixon where she began by giving an overview of Australia’s advancement as a pioneering nation. “Australia has a really proud history and it is growing at a rapid pace. But where coastal areas have grown, our inland areas have floundered.” The issues impeding regional growth in general include government policy, housing availability and employer behaviour. “The key is how communities present themselves,” she said. “But businesses are experiencing recruitment fatigue. It’s not an easy issue to fix more jobs than people. We need to engage others because we can’t do it on our own. Having alliances is really important in terms of getting some of the change we need.”

Continuing in this vein, Regional Australia Institute chief economist Dr Kim Houghton discussed people, jobs and growth in regional Australia. He described the huge numbers of vacancies in the Orana region and the rapid growth across the workforce. “In Dubbo and Western NSW, there were 1216 vacancies in January 2021.
“For 10 years there’s been a shortage of skilled labour. To offer higher wages to workers, we also need an increase in the qualifications ladder.” Giving consideration to the population increase that could potentially occur, Dr Houghton indicated that more infrastructure was needed. “Our housing balance is delicate, so if we do see these people flow into the area, we are going to have to change our trajectory.”

Session 2: Future Outlook

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, the Hon Nola Marino discussed the role of RDAs in backing the regions across Australia and her support of their work. “RDA networks are volunteers on these boards. Our job is to be here for the region.”
She also described her journey as a dairy farmer from a regional area in Western Australia, saying that those who hailed from regional Australia were ‘can-do people’ and that regional economies led by mining, agriculture, transport had shown strength and resilience through the pandemic and beyond.

Simone Alexander from REMPLAN then discussed population and employment trends in the Orana region. “The population is changing. The previous modest growth predictions of the future have been outdated by COVID.” She described how demographic predictions had declined and migration had become more volatile in the wake of the pandemic. The data reflected the theme of more jobs than people, with 49,871 jobs and 46,837 in the workforce.

Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders then spoke about how the NSW Government was moving more jobs to the region which would be an incentive for further population growth. He acknowledged the need for increased housing capability in the region and said that government and community needed to work together to find a solution. “The government enables pathways but it needs to be in conjunction with the community.”

Session 3: Employer Options: Skilled Migration and Growing their Own

Servet Brennan from the Dept of Home Affairs and Training Services NSW spoke about skilled regional visas, the skilled and family program and a special COVID-19 pandemic event visa. Ms Brennan discussed the migration program planning levels and the importance of business innovation and investment in this area. “The Priority Migration Skills Occupation List identifies occupations which fill critical skills needs that support Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.” Critical industries include agricultural food production, manufacturing and the film and television industry.

Leanne McKenzie (Orange) and Belinda Pritchell (Dubbo) from Training Services NSW spoke about the different government programs that were available to benefit employers and jobseekers. The intention is to proactively collaborate with industry and education partners to develop skilled people to meet current and future workforce needs and deliver purposeful products in response to a fast-changing environment. “Demand for workers is increasing and regional towns are expanding.”

Pybar Mining Services business development and services manager Brad Rouse discussed the company’s skills retention strategy, which includes the Perfect Day leadership initiative, student sponsorships and graduate and apprenticeship programs. He said that current vacancies across the mining sector stand at 520, including 235 operational roles. Mr Rouse expects the labour market to change as state and overseas opportunities re-open. “Border closures have impacted productivity but future expansion is ramping up.”

Session 4: Innovation and Productivity

Work and Stay co-founder Jack Archer explained how the program was helping regional employers and communities solve workforce challenges. “Building the Bridge aims to establish a pool of people and match them with job opportunities.”

Dubbo Regional Council Manager Economic Development and Marketing Josie Howard spoke about the Council’s bid to match employers with potential employees through the Dubbo Region Skills program which included Gilgandra and Narromine Councils. She said they had developed a strategy which factored in lifestyle and job opportunities, identifying where skills shortages existed and using a direct marketing approach towards target markets. “We created an online platform to register people who are interested in moving and provided a connection to the existing Dubbo Jobs platform; scraping all jobs from Dubbo, Narromine and Gilgandra.”

Rachel Whiting from RDA Riverina gave a presentation on creating a functional workforce development plan. Their campaign includes four elements: economic development and business growth, country change, skilled migration and grow your own. The combined factors work together to attract residents, create opportunities and retain workforce which in turn benefited business and community. “We partnered with 10 Councils towards addressing the issue. We don’t believe that one solution is the only solution.”

Destination Country and Outback NSW general manager Lucy White gave a presentation on visitor economy opportunities and the changing nature of tourism. She spoke about people seeking out life experiences as memories above mementos and how restrictions on overseas travel had benefited the regions in the wake of COVID-19. Ms White said consumer confidence was growing but state border closures had dented the visitor economy in that regard. “Consumers are looking closer to home for their experiences with space, nature and wellbeing all being important factors.” She also said that travellers were taking a predominantly digital method to planning and booking their travel and that providers needed to be aware of this approach. “The digital impact is here to stay.”


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Inland Growth Summit 2021 Speakers

Jack Archer

Jack Archer

Jack Archer is the former CEO of the Regional Australia Institute who started Projects JSA in early 2019. His background lies in water and natural resource management and providing advisory services to agricultural research and industry bodies and he has a Bachelor of Natural Resources Management (Hons 1) and a Diploma in Government.

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Hon Nola Marino MP

Nola has worked with and for small communities, regional and agricultural organisations and groups for most of her life. In May 2019, Nola was appointed the Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories. In this role Nola engages with a large cross-section of people, organisations and businesses to implement policies and programs to support regional development across Australia.


Brad Rouse

20 plus years working in the Mining and Heavy industry sector. Commenced career in Broken Hill Mines as Apprentice Electrician, Following this moved to Western Australia working across various operations and projects in leadership roles. Returned to NSW Orange 10+ yrs ago to work in equipment rebuild and manufacturing prior to moving to PYBAR as a Project Manager.



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Rachel Whiting

Rachel is the Director of Regional Development at RDA Riverina. Rachel has worked extensively with not-for-profits both as a board member and as management, specialising in inland growth in relation to skilled workers. Rachel is an Adjunct Professional Staff Member at Charles Sturt University and a Fellow of Leadership WA.

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Lucy White

A tourism professional with 24 years industry experience, Lucy has worked for local government, for local and regional tourism organisations, in the wine industry and for individual small businesses. Lucy has a proven track record of relationship building, creative thinking, and building teams to increase business and raise the profile of destinations and organisations. Lucy is currently the General Manager of Destination Country & Outback NSW Ltd.

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Dr. Kim Houghton

Dr Kim Houghton is Chief Economist at the Regional Australia Institute and leads the think tank’s policy and research work. Having worked on regional economic development in Australia for almost 20 years, Kim has a passion for engaging, motivating, informing, and connecting regional leaders from business, community, and government.


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Josie Howard

Josie is passionate about regional living and contributing to the success of regional economies. As Manager of Economic Development and Marketing at Dubbo Regional Council, Josie leads a multi-faceted team in the major service centre of the Dubbo Region, home to over 53,000 people and a thriving and diverse industry centre.


The Hon Mark Coulton

 Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government and our local Member for Parkes. Mark was first elected in 2007, and has been re-elected in 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019. Mark has an extensive agricultural background having spent 30 years as a farmer and grazier. 


Simone Alexander

Simone is a recent addition to the REMPLAN team, but she has worked in demographic and social research roles since the mid-1990s. Working with councils from the Queensland coast to the southern suburbs of Perth, Simone has developed expertise in population forecasting, spatial demography, product development and bespoke consultancy projects.


Servet Brennan

Servet is the NSW/ACT Business, Industry and Regional Outreach Officer at the Department of Home Affairs. Servet works closely with business, industry and regional communities to provide information and promote the Department’s skilled visa program. She provides pathway options and information to Australian businesses.


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Megan Dixon

Megan is the Director of Regional Development at RDA Orana. Megan brings over 20-years’ experience in regional development including local government, strategic planning, major project development, facilitation, community economic and events development, funding strategies and business development. 

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Leanne McKenzie

Leanne is a Skills Broker based in Orange, working for Training Services NSW, part of the Department of Education. Leanne works with local businesses, industry and communities to maximise training opportunities and access to skilled staff. Leanne is passionate about getting Smart & Skilled funded training into all our towns throughout Western NSW to upskill, engage and open employment opportunities. 




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What's RDA

Regional Development Australia Orana helps businesses large and small succeed in the Orana region. Led by business and community representatives, RDA Orana is strongly focused on diversifying the economic base of the region, workforce planning and development, business investment, infrastructure, and whole of government planning.

We recruit new businesses to the region, support the growth of existing Orana businesses, help manufacturers sell into international markets, provide start-up assistance to entrepreneurs and market the Orana as a premier travel destination. We also undertake extensive industry and market research to provide regional intelligence on critical regional development issues and find solutions to improve the Orana region for the future.

Our Mission is to build the region together, by providing regional intelligence that:

  • creates connections & partnerships

  • facilitates public & private sector investment

  • that supports the development of our workforce

To discover more about our initiatives visit For general inquiries you can contact the office on 02 6885 1488 or email


Lazy River Memorial

29R Old Dubbo Rd, Dubbo NSW 2830

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