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Cairns
Saturday, January 22, 2022

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5 minutes with Sonja Johnson, CEO of RDA Tropical North

  1. What services does your business provide?  

RDA Tropical North is a federally funded, independent incorporated not-for-profit which champions the economic development priorities for our region. We advocate to decision-makers in the State and Federal Governments to affect policy and regulatory changes and infrastructure investment. We also coordinate initiatives, broker partnerships, disseminate Australian government program information and facilitate projects on behalf of our region.

  1. How long has your business been running and how long have you worked there? 

There are 52 RDAs around the country.  The network has been operating around 12 years, started through the Rudd government with bi-partisan support over the intervening years.  This is my second time in the CEO role, having been in the seat between 2012 and 2015; I recommenced in February 2021.

  1. How long have you lived in Cairns? 

This time around, since February this year, but I’ve lived in the region on and off since 1989.  I was actually raised in Dimbulah until I was seven – one of the former tobacco farming families!

  1. Where is your favourite place in Far North Queensland and why? 

My favourite place without a doubt is Mossman Gorge in Kuku Yalanji country.  The sheer beauty of the rainforest and water is humbling – I find it a wonderful place to reconnect with nature.

  1. What is your favourite quote? 

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. (John 15:12)

  1. Who is someone who inspires you and why? 

My mum for sure! She arrived in Australia having married my father after eight days of courting, not knowing a word of English and having to adjust to farm life in the tropics. Her resilience and ability to overcome obstacles is awe-inspiring. 

  1. What do you hope to achieve with your business in 2021/22? 

This year, RDA Tropical North is facilitating a Strategic Regional Plan with all regional stakeholders. This document will provide a synthesis of existing plans and also elevate the key priorities for our region – the document will be used to inform government decision-making. We will also drive the Lakeland Irrigation Area Scheme Detailed Business Case which is due for completion in September 2022 as well as deliver a final Feasibility Study/Case into composting practices for farms along the Great Barrier Reef.

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