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Living, working and doing business in small towns

One in ten of us live in small towns with populations of less than 10,000 people. These towns are part of a diverse range of places that form the regional heart of our nation.

You need to understand the markets that will drive your economic growth, draw on your local assets and mobilise your community towards its preferred future.

Living and working in the Australian heartland can be as rewarding as it is challenging. Many small and medium-sized towns are in decline, while others have found a niche that offers hope for the future. The changing structure of the rural economy requires many towns to rethink their place and reconfigure their strategies for sustainability.

Drawing from a rich history of cooperation, townspeople need to examine the scope for new industries that build on local competencies and knowledge; they must strengthen their brand and quality of life, while recognising that all needs cannot be met locally and that success comes from inclusive, participatory approaches that engage all groups and strengthen local ownership.

Tools and resources

Some of the common tools and guidance required by small town economies include:

  • Assess your global competitiveness
  • Improve your local business enabling environment
  • Create platforms for regular public-private dialogue
  • Support your local town teams
  • Identify business retention and expansion needs/opportunities
  • Promote participation and citizen engagement
  • Identify your strategic competencies
  • Undertake an ‘appreciative inquiry’
  • Promote collaboration across public, private and civic organisations
  • Building an identity and brand
  • Supporting Aboriginal economic empowerment