Published: 15 March 2021

Made up of many small communities, our beautiful North-West Coast provides economic benefit to our state well above many of the more populous areas. Every community is unique and special, offering different opportunities and challenges. The uniqueness and the relative isolation of many communities appears poorly understood or appreciated by policy makers tasked with meeting the needs of the state. This is evidenced by the 'one size fits all' approach taken in many policy decisions and subsequently in legislation.

This approach, and its failure to meet local needs, was again highlighted on a recent visit to King Island where I facilitated a tour of this part of my vast electorate for my colleagues. Electorate tours, as we call them, are an excellent way to inform other parliamentarians not familiar with the region of the challenges such an approach can create. Members also have the opportunity to see first-hand the impacts of isolation and regionality, both positive and negative. Of course, it is impossible to showcase all the opportunities our regional communities offer, nor to fully understand all the challenges, but exposure to some of these matters is invaluable, as is the opportunity to talk to local leaders and community members.

In Parliament policy is translated into law. A lone voice, arguing for the consideration of a small community that may be negatively impacted by legislation that may work effectively for major population centres, can be difficult. An enhanced awareness of the varying needs of our communities will hopefully see better outcomes. We need a 'community at the centre' approach where local solutions that meet the public policy objective or outcomes are considered.
This approach also needs to flow through to budgeting for infrastructure upgrades to roads, schools, health care facilities, courts and so on that fully appreciate community need. Funding commitments related to securing marginal seats is unhelpful. A piecemeal approach results in uncoordinated investment where worthy projects can be overlooked, often resulting in poor utilisation of the available funds.

Ongoing dialogue with communities during the development of public policy is crucial and must be made accessible to all. Your local member is a good place to start.

The Advocate, Monday 14 March 2021

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