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EOI Open for Rural Economies Centre of Excellence

The Queensland Government is seeking expressions of interest from organisations to host the new Rural Economies Centre of Excellence. 

Up to $3 million will be available over three years to establish the Centre. The Centre will be a joint initiative and interested partners will be expected to provide financial and administrative support to ensure the Centre is a long-term initiative beyond the initial three years. 

This new Centre is intended to be innovative and collaborative, with a focus on providing ‘on-the-ground’ solutions that will help create vibrant rural economies and rural communities.

An ‘Expression of Interest’ to host the Centre is now available on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website.

All interested organisations, including research bodies and universities are encouraged to have a look and submit their proposal to the department by 25 August 2017.

An Advisory Committee will be formed to guide the development and implementation of the Centre through this process. It will be made up of representatives from rural business, government and industry.

It is expected the Centre will focus on identifying polices, strategies and outreach programs that will significantly enhance the capability of public, private and community sectors to optimise economic prosperity for rural Queensland.

More information on the Expression of Interest, visit call 13 25 23.

Sponsorship Grants for Student Science Engagement and international Competitions

The Australian Government’s Sponsorship Grants for Student Science Engagement and International Competitions is now open for applications.

I encourage schools and organisations to apply for assistance to support young Australians to take up science engagement opportunities in Australia and overseas.

This is the program’s second year of operation with the Government having supported more than 1000 students to attend Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics-related events and competitions in 2016-17.

For example, a Canberra-based student received funding to attend the London International Youth Science Forum and a group of students from near Brisbane was sponsored to compete in the national finals of competitions to build a F1 car and four‑wheel drive vehicle.

Through this program, the Government is providing up to $1.6 million in grants in 2017–18 to assist students under the age of 18 to participate in science events including conferences and competitions. This will help them to develop skills and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Nurturing the STEM skills of the next generation is essential to Australia’s prosperity given 75 per cent of future jobs will require expertise in STEM disciplines.

Under the program, grants of up to $1500 for domestic events and $5000 for international events are available, with up to $20,000 for group applications.

Grants may be used to support travel and event registration for opportunities such as attending science fairs, pitching innovations to entrepreneurs and participating in STEM competitions. Applications can be made until the annual funding allocation is exhausted.

The Sponsorship Grants for Student Science Engagement and International Competitions is part of the Government’s Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Programme to inspire, motivate and cultivate a scientifically-engaged community.

For more information on the grants program, go to

Inaugural Tourism Innovators Conference

NewBook is bringing together industry leaders, clients and exhibitors who are the forefront of success around Australia and New Zealand. You’ll meet owners, managers and staff from tourism operators, hotels, major holiday park brands, apartments, resorts and marinas. We’ll have the trade exhibitors you are familiar with, as well as a hand-picked selection of new providers you haven’t seen at a conference before.

It’s time for business owners to embrace new products and strategies to run a more efficient business and make way for future growth. Talk to award-winning, visionary property owners and staff to learn how you and your team can use innovation and technology to be cutting-edge in your business.

Registration is from 5pm Monday 24 July, the conference commences at 8.30am on Tuesday 25 July. 

>> Click here to view the program

>> Click here to register now! 

How Many People Can Australia Feed?

Population growth has profound impacts on Australian life. This article was written by Professor Bill Bellotti and is part of a series, Is Australia Full?, which aims to help inform a wide-ranging and often emotive debate.

Australia feeds a lot of people. As a big country with a relatively small population, we have just over two arable hectares per person, one of the highest ratios in the world. Our diverse soils and climate provide a wide variety of fresh food all year round.

Historically we produce far more than we consume domestically. We sell around 65% of farm production overseas, making Australia a leading food-exporting nation. We therefore contribute to the food security not just of Australia, but of many other nations.

However, despite being a net food exporter, Australia also imports foods such as coffee, chocolate, processed fruit and vegetables, and key ingredients used in baking our daily bread. We are part of a global food system.

How will a swelling population, projected to reach between 36.8 million and 48.3 million by 2061, affect our food security? Are we set up to weather the storm of climate change, the degradation of our natural resources, and competition for land and water use from mining and urban expansion?

By the numbers

Current Australian government policy is to increase agricultural production and food exports, with a specific focus on developing Australia’s north.

In addition to providing food and nutrition security, the Australian food sector is a key driver of public health, environment, the economy and employment. The gross value of production from Australia’s 135,000 farmers varies between A$55 billion and A$64 billion a year, with exports accounting for between A$45 billion and A$48 billion.

Horticultural production (fruit, nuts and vegetables) will swell as Australian growers move to satisfy growing Asian demand.

Australian food processing companies add a further A$32 billion of value from 150 large food processors. We exported $A26 billion worth of processed food and beverages in 2015-16 and imported A$16.8 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of A$9.1 billion (rounded to one decimal place).

The food retail sector has an annual turnover around A$126 billion, with about 70% of Australians shopping at Woolworths or Coles. It’s also worth noting that considerable land and water resources are devoted to non-food commodities such as forestry, cotton and wool, and to environmental outcomes such as carbon sequestration or biodiversity plantings.

One in seven Australian jobs (1.6 million) are in the farm-dependent economy, and food and beverage processing employs around one-third of all Australian manufacturing workers, with promising growth prospects. Many jobs are seasonal and based in the regions. Farm and food enterprises rely on foreign workers for many key tasks, resulting in the food sector being particularly sensitive to changes in temporary work visas.

How to feed more people

If Australia reaches its projected population of between 36.8 million and 48.3 million by 2061, could we feed everyone?

For the sake of this exercise, let’s leave aside food we import, and assume that Australia will continue to export 65% of the food we produce.

Currently, our exports feed (at least in part) 36.6 million people outside Australia. If we add that to our domestic population, 61 million people will eat Australian food in 2017.

If we apply the same assumptions to projected high and low Australian populations for 2061, we arrive at a total (domestic plus export) population fed by Australian production of 92 million to 121 million, or an increase of 51-98%.

Could Australia double the number of people we feed by 2061? The answer is yes, but not simply by doubling the amount of food we produce. Three broad strategies will need to be integrated to reach this target:

  1. Increase food productivity. We need to aim for 2% growth in annual food production by increasing investment research and development for food and agriculture. For comparison, between 1949 and 2012 we have averaged 2.1% annual growth, although from 2000-12 that slumped to 0.6%. Achieving this productivity target will be difficult, given the challenge of climate change and other constraining factors.
  2. Reduce food waste. We currently waste around 30% of the food we produce. Reducing food waste benefits the environment and the economy. This strategy requires ongoing improvements in supply chain efficiency, changes in marketing, and consumer education.
  3. Change our eating patterns. Moving towards sustainable diets will improve public health and environment outcomes. Reducing overconsumption (a contributor to obesity), eating more vegetables and less discretionary “junk” foods represent initial steps in this direction.

The next few decades will present unprecedented challenges and opportunities for the Australian food sector. Placing the consumer at the centre of healthy, sustainable and ethical food systems will be increasingly important, whether that consumer lives in Brisbane or Beijing. New ways of connecting consumers to producers will become commonplace, creating more informed and empowered consumers, and rewarding innovation.

Research highlighting the interconnections between food, health and environment will be required to support Australia’s claims to being a clean, green provider of food.

It’s easy to conclude that Australia can feed many more people than we currently do, but the real issue is to do this while ensuring our food system is healthy, sustainable and fair. Ultimately, exporting the research, technology and education that underpin our future food system will benefit far more people than those directly consuming food produced in Australia.

Great Barrier Reef valued at $56 billion

Deloitte Access Economics have released a report that looks at the social, economic, and iconic value of the Great Barrier Reef, identifying is economic value at $56 billion.

It is possible that this value is conservative with a financial value not placed on the biodiversity and the natural wonder value on a global scale.

The research identified that Great Barrier Reef contributed $6.4 billion in terms of the value added to the economy and over 64,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2015-2016.

Click here for the full report.


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