In October 2019, the Palaszczuk Government heeded a long-awaited call from regional Queenslanders who were seeking a direct voice to the Premier, by establishing the Advancing Queensland Regional Communities Forum.
Members of the Far North Queensland Forum include: Michael Healy MP (Chair), Cynthia Lui MP, Curtis Pitt MP, Craig Crawford MP, Alfred Joyce, Allan Dale, Anita Veivers, Benjamin Keast, Christopher Zilm, Elizabeth Carney, Ian Lydiard, Jodie Duignan-George, Lucy Graham, Margaret Yandell, Michelle Wollaston, Millicent Darby, Nikki Huddy, Patricia Yusia, Ranjit Singh, Rhiannon Simcocks, Robert Davidson, Sarah Grainer, Tara Bennett and Trevor Meldrum.
The quarterly meetings are held in all seven regions across the state – Far North Queensland, North Queensland, Mackay-Whitsunday, Central Queensland, Western Queensland, Wide Bay and Darling Downs/South West.
These forums bring together key stakeholders from various sectors within each region to discuss local priorities and seek opportunities which are of importance to the communities. Community members have the opportunity to put forward their ideas for tackling the key issues in their sector, which all have unique advantages, challenges and priorities.
The Far North Queensland Forum is chaired by the state government Member for Cairns, Michael Healy MP, and includes all elected State representatives from Cook, Barron River and Mulgrave, as well as a select group of members of the community with expertise in the environmental, education, social and business sectors. Forum members work collaboratively to engage with their communities and create and support regionally focused programs delivered with the betterment of the community in mind.
Some of the topical areas of the forums have included tourism, the challenges faced by the regions youth population, supporting the region’s rich Indigenous and cultural talents, managing environmental challenges including water security and climate change, access to community and social services, and of course, the effects of COVID 19.
Forum Chair Michael Healy MP describes the forum as an excellent opportunity for Cairns.
“We all know that Queensland is as vast as it is diverse. No two regions are the same and each of our communities is unique with its own challenges and opportunities. So it makes sense that each of these regions has a voice.
“Over the past three years, the Queensland Government has held multiple roundtables with community members across the state. These consultations created valuable conversations with local business owners, families and workers around making communities even better places to live and work.
“Now we are building on these conversations, being more responsive to the needs and priorities of regional Queenslanders, and ensuring we take advantage of opportunities to strengthen regional economies and services.
“The forums explore the region’s opportunities to create new jobs and drive economic development, to discuss the priorities for the future and find local solutions to address local challenges. It’s an opportunity for the people of the Far North Queensland region to use their knowledge and passion to inform their own future, backed by the Queensland Government.
“It’s all about putting the spotlight on the regions. It gives regional Queenslanders access and stronger relationships with government, and ensure they are front of mind in the Government’s decision making. And that has got to be a good thing.”
It gives regional Queenslanders access and stronger relationships with government, and ensure they are front of mind in the Government’s decision making.
Forum member Ranjit Singh, who is a Partner at Holding Redlich believes the forums are an important avenue for the issues which affect FNQ to be heard.
“I am part of the forum due to my life-long connection with the region, my role as a Partner of a national law firm which brings insights into what is happening in other regional areas, and my position as FNQ President of the Urban Development Institute of Australia.”.
“It’s important that local, federal and state governments continued to provide support to the regions and to listen to the voices of the community, communicated through the diverse selection of stakeholders from the region. The Regional Community Forum is an important vehicle for this to occur.”
“This group differs from so many of the other advocacy groups in the region because we discuss issues from Mission Beach in the south, all the way up to the Cape. This is the first group set up by Premier’s Department, so it is representing the region, and it’s many facets, as a whole. I give credit to the Premier for this initiative. She obviously felt they needed a bigger voice in the regions. At each forum, one of the senior ministers are present, as well as Director Generals of various departments. Having the vehicle to be able to deliver consistent messaging of the 20 representatives in each region, from diverse backgrounds, is very powerful.”
“There is sometimes some crossover from the interest groups of the representatives, however being able
to debate the issues and then prioritise them is a good thing.”
“I think anything that gives a voice to region is a good thing”.
In addition to the forums, the Government has also opened four additional regional offices of the Department of Premier. These offices located in Cairns, Mackay, Longreach and Toowoomba, complement the existing Townsville office and provide further access for the regional centres to be represented.