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The Social and Economic Performance of Australia's Large Regional Cities and Towns: Implications for Rural and Regional Policy

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Australia's large regional cities and towns display wide variation in how they are adjusting to the socio-economic transitions occurring in Australia. That variation is exposed using a multi-variate model analysing performance on a range of socio-economic variables over the decade 1986 to 1996 for 122 cities and towns with populations of 10 000 and above at the 1996 census. Those places are classified into seven clusters of community performance reflecting opportunity/vulnerability, and their spatial patterns are mapped. The resulting framework is then used to show how the recent geography of the socio-economic performance of the large regional cities and towns has a distinctive selectivity and contributes to opportunity in some places and the vulnerable performance of others. The influence of that selectivity can be seen in the mismatched geographic patterns evident from an analysis of shares of national population and employment change, investment in non-residential construction, levels of welfare dependency, and the ratio between household income tax generation and transfer benefits received. The paper uses the insights drawn from that analysis to pose questions suggesting the need to rethink national policy perspectives for addressing change in non-metropolitan Australia.

Keywords: cluster analysis; regional performance; regional towns; socio-economic differentiation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Queensland, Australia; 2: University of Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: July 1, 2003


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