A clear vision for population growth and workforce development is needed to drive the economic development of Northern Australia.

That’s the call coming from the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) ahead of the Federal Government’s national Job and Skills Summit.

The CRCNA will advocate for a clear plan for the north at the two-day roundtable which is seeking to address critical workforce issues across the country, reduce unemployment and boost productivity to maximise opportunities in the industries of the future.

CRCNA Chief Scientist Professor Allan Dale will join attendees from across the union, business, education and government sectors and says it’s an opportunity to ensure the north’s unique challenges are understood.

“Our foundational research has identified vast employment and economic opportunities across key Northern Australian economic sectors, including agriculture, aquaculture and health and the steps needed to attract and retain skilled workers and their families.

“As an example, we will need more than 2,000 workers to fill employment gaps in aquaculture in Northern Australia alone, and there are another 600 jobs in sustainable forestry just waiting for the right people. We know the health service delivery and aged care sectors are employment growth areas as well, especially on the back of the COVID 19 pandemic,” he said.

CRCNA Chair Sheriden Morris said activating the assets within our First Nations Estate would play a significant role in resolving regional and remote unemployment and attracting people to come and live and work in the north.

“Our First Nations people and communities must be at the centre of any plan to boost our nation’s productivity and employment.

“The CRCNA has invested more than $5 million towards new research and development proposals which will unlock new First Nations Estate economic and employment opportunities across the region,” she said.

Ms Morris said any plan to address skills shortages in the north must look at new ways of working, particularly the way technology and connectivity drive employment, education and training opportunities.

“Some of this thinking has been outlined in our State of the North report, which is the culmination of the CRCNA’s first two-years of baseline research across key sectors,” she said.

The CRCNA’s approaches to Northern Australian workforce development, retention and liveability challenges include:

  • Establishing a clear population vision for Northern Australia which focuses on improving the liveability of the north’s regional centres to attract and retain workers.
  • Adapting the Commonwealth’s Regional Deals framework to target regions where significant population growth and infrastructure investment is achievable.
  • Aligning, through respective budget processes, long-term land use planning and public infrastructure investment, which includes energy and telecommunications.
  • Increasing investment and focus on expanding tertiary and technical training opportunities in critical skill areas like agriculture, aquaculture, health service delivery and data and digital capability.
  • A stronger focus on sectoral and place-based workforce development, including building stronger economic partnerships with our near regional neighbourhood, including Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the wider Pacific.

Ms Morris said CRCNA’s invitation to this landmark event demonstrated the value of its work to date in advancing the sustainable development of the north.

“I look forward to continuing to advocate for a northern-focussed workforce, jobs and skills agenda and vision.”​​​​​​​

Media enquiries

Carla Keith |CRCNA Communications Manager 0499 330 051