Regional governance in rural Australia: An emergent phenomenon of the quest for liveability and sustainability?

Jennifer Bellamy, A.J. Brown

Abstract


Change is inherent to both social and natural systems and their interaction. The complexity of the dynamics of change and uncertainty associated with linked social-natural systems and their multi-scalar and spatially variable nature is widely recognised as adversely impacting on liveability and sustainability in many contexts. Institutions and policies that have traditionally been concerned with managing our social and natural systems for liveability and sustainability are being challenged by the complexity of the policy problems now being faced as well as the growing pace and magnitude of change and the uncertainty that it embodies. An important element of the response to this change is an emerging shift in public policy from uncoordinated hierarchical top-down sectoral or program-specific approaches to more ‘holistic’ regional approaches that emphasise inter-sectoral coordination and cross-scale co-operation. Several disciplines and inter-disciplinary fields have shown an interest in the dynamics of this change identifying the complex, multi-level and nested nature of the governance at the regional or territorial level. Much of this work however has focused on sector-specific issues or particular programmatic policy initiatives, and seldom provides a more holistic examination of the complexity of the overall system of multi-level governance in practice at the regional level and the related challenges and opportunities for supporting livability and sustainability more effectively. Drawing on the concepts of complex systems and adaptive governance in a regional policy context, this paper addresses this gap and reports on the first of three case studies examining the current nature and future options for regional governance in Australia. Based on a case study of the rural and remote region of Central Western Queensland in north-eastern Australia, we examine the nature and emerging trends of the existing system of regional governance and consider its potential for enhancing regional capacity to adapt to change and support liveability and sustainability in rural Australia.

Keywords


social-natural systems, change, regional governance, rural Australia

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