The 2017-18 Federal Budget was handed down by the Treasurer on May 9, and included the welcome announcement that the Australian Government will continue to fund the national Regional Development Australia (RDA) network, providing $74.3 million for the period 2017-18 to 2020-21.

Key tasks for RDA Committees include maintaining three to five year regional plans and advising on critical issues affecting economic development, as well as priority activities to drive economic development in their regions. RDA Committees also assist local community stakeholders to develop project proposals, identify appropriate funding sources and promote Australian Government programs.

Other regional initiatives announced in the budget include:

New funding for regional infrastructure
The Government is investing almost $500 million through the 2017-18 budget in regional infrastructure and community initiatives. This commitment includes boosting the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) by $200 million, which will bring the total funding available to $497 million.

$9.1 million for Medicare funded psychological services via telehealth
Funding of $9.1 million will give Australians in rural and remote locations better access to Medicare funded psychological services via telehealth. This is intended to remove long-standing barriers to mental health support and ensure that help will be available to those who need it.

A process for Public Sector decentralisation
The decentralisation of Australian Government jobs from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne will benefit regional Australia through the creation of local jobs and career paths, increased economic diversification and the stimulation of economic growth. Decentralisation will be implemented in a structured and methodical way; all Ministers will provide advice to Cabinet by the end of 2017 regarding which agencies are or are not suitable to be moved.

$15 million for regional study hubs
$15 million will be invested to establish up to eight community-owned, regional study hubs. The hubs will improve access to higher education for regional, rural and remote Australia. They will support regional students to study courses locally delivered by distance from any Australian university by providing greater access to study support and infrastructure.

$24 million for Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships
The Government has committed $24 million over four years for Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships, which will support 1,200 regional and remote students to undertake STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies. The scholarships are for undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational education students, and aim to improve access to educational opportunities for regional and remote students.

Our Plan for Manufacturing in Regional Australia
Our Plan for Manufacturing in Regional Australia draws together the Government’s initiatives to grow Australia’s manufacturing in our regions. These measures create the conditions for investment in manufacturing industries that generate employment in rural, regional and outer suburban areas.

For further information about these initiatives and other new measures handed down in the Budget, please visit www.budget.gov.au