Jobs and Small Business: Regional Australia—A Stronger Economy Delivering Stronger Regions 2018–19

Regional Australia is at the heart of Australian culture and a key contributor to our economy. The Australian Government is committed to ensuring regional Australia thrives with the creation of more jobs, assistance to grow small businesses, and promotion of further investment to bolster the economic and social wellbeing of regional Australians. 

As part of the Jobs and Innovation portfolio, the Department of Jobs and Small Business has a central role in advising and delivering policies and programs that assist families and communities to prosper. These initiatives seek to facilitate jobs growth, promote greater workplace productivity and increase workforce participation—especially for younger and older Australians.

The Australian Government recognises regional Australia is undergoing change in terms of industry transformation and an ageing population. Change has impacted some regional areas more than others based on a region’s industrial base, infrastructure investment, population size and access to higher education.

In light of this, the 2018-19 Budget is focusing on regionally tailored approaches that will help communities respond to change and promote future jobs growth. Additionally, the Australian Government is rolling out More Choices for a Longer Life—jobs and skills for mature age Australians to provide support and incentives for older Australians to find the right job, stay in the workforce, have flexibility in their later working years and retire with security. Further funding is also being provided to the highly successful Transition to Work service to help young people improve their work readiness and move into work (including apprenticeships and traineeships) and education.

New Initiatives

More Choices for a Longer Life—jobs and skills for mature age Australians

More Choices for a Longer Life—jobs and skills for mature age Australians provides older Australians, including people in regional areas, with practical assistance to stay in the workforce, share their skills and experience with younger workers and importantly continue to benefit from the economic and social wellbeing that having a job brings. The package includes seven initiatives focused on jobs and skills:

  • Facilitating a life-long approach for skills development for mature age people
    The Australian Government will introduce a Skills and Training Incentive to encourage mature age workers aged 45-70, or their employers, to co-invest with the Government in skills development. The aim is to help mature age workers become more resilient to future changes in the workforce by encouraging further investment in their skills and training. The incentive is valued up to $2 000 per participant and must be matched either by the worker or the employer. Participants will be required to first complete a Skills Checkpoint assessment, through the Department of Education and Training’s Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers program, which will identify suitable training linked to the worker’s current job (e.g. upgrading skills), a future job opportunity, or an industry or skill in demand.
  • Collaborative Partnership on Mature Age Employment
    A Collaborative Partnership on Mature Age Employment will be established between the Department of Jobs and Small Business, the Age Discrimination Commissioner, business, industry peak bodies, universities and other experts. The objective of the partnership will be to increase the employment of older Australians by promoting the benefits of a diverse workforce, the advantages of recruiting and retaining older workers and the benefits of flexible work arrangements.
  • Restart wage subsidies—additional places and securing funding for future years
    The Australian Government will improve the funding arrangements for wage  subsidies to ensure that they will continue to be available. This includes the Restart wage subsidy which provides employers with a strong incentive to hire and retain mature age people aged 50 and over. There is strong demand for wage subsidies which can vary from $6,500 to $10,000 (GST inclusive).
  • Career Transition Assistance Program—bringing forward the national rollout and extending eligibility
    A national rollout of the Career Transition Assistance (CTA) Program, announced in the 2017-18 Budget, will be brought forward by a year, to 1 July 2019. Furthermore eligibility will be expanded to include people aged 45 to 49 years.
  • Encouraging Entrepreneurship among Older Australians
    From January 2019, the number of Entrepreneurship Facilitators (introduced as part of a 2016-17 Budget measure) will be expanded to encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment among older Australians with an additional 20 facilitators, 10 of which will operate in regional locations. New facilitators will deliver services to all people in a region, however their primary focus will be on mature age people. The existing facilitators have a focus on young people.

    The 20 new Entrepreneurship Facilitators will be located in the following regions:
New South WalesQueensland
Coffs Harbour—Grafton
Richmond —Tweed:
  • Ballina
  • Tweed Heads
 Sydney—South West:
  • Liverpool
  • Campbelltown
Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven
Fitzroy Ipswich Wide Bay
  • Gympie
  • Bundaberg
South Australia
Adelaide —West Barossa —Yorke—Mid North
VictoriaWestern Australia
Ballarat Latrobe —Gippsland Melbourne —South East:
  • Dandenong
  • Pakenham
Mandurah Perth —North East
Greater Hobart and South-East Tasmania
Northern Territory
  • ‘Job Change’ initiative to assist mature age workers to remain in employment
    Job Change targets mature age workers who are considering early retirement, and retrenched workers, by providing them with support to continue in employment. For many Australian workers there is no longer a ‘job for life’. This initiative will provide a range of proactive measures to assist mature age workers gain the skills needed to transition into alternate employment opportunities.

Regional Employment Trials Program

The $18.4 million Regional Employment Trials Program will be introduced in 10 selected disadvantaged regions. The trials will inform the delivery of future employment services and help Australians in selected disadvantaged regions to better access localised employment services and economic growth opportunities.

To better respond to the particular employment challenges of trial regions, a $1.0 million per region grant program will be implemented to help stimulate communities to deliver tailored employment solutions at a local level.  Additionally, the Department of Jobs and Small Business will engage employment facilitators to work with Regional Development Australia committees to generate projects, connect with local stakeholders and promote economic opportunities as they arise.

Funding additional Transition to Work placements

The Transition to Work service is at the forefront of the Australian Government’s ongoing efforts to tackle high youth unemployment. It is achieving excellent outcomes for young Australians.

Transition to Work currently operates within a fixed budget of $458.1 million over four years from 2018-19, with service providers required to accept all referrals from the Department of Human Services. Providers are assisting more young people than anticipated and this has been putting pressure on the service to continue to effectively help young people. This measure means that Transition to Work will now be funded based on the demand for services and will be able to continue delivering quality services to all eligible young people.

Streamlining Services for Refugees

This initiative will simplify the approach for newly arrived refugees accessing support services. Newly arrived refugees will be able to participate in the Humanitarian Support Program and the Adult Migrant English Program before becoming eligible for full jobactive services after six months on activity tested income support. This will allow them to focus on adjusting to life in Australia and gain English language proficiency skills to help them enter the workforce.

Current Initiatives

Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS)

Small business contributes to jobs creation, innovation and the growth of the Australian economy. The Australian Government wants to assist small business enhance their competiveness and provide tools to assist them to further flourish. Australian Small Business Advisory Services is the Australian Government’s primary small business advisory initiative that provides small business with access to low cost, high-quality advice and activities to build sustainable and productive businesses.

There are currently two ASBAS initiatives underway:

  • ASBAS Digital Solutions 2018
    The Australian Government is providing up to $18.0 million over three years, starting from 2 July 2018, as part the ASBAS Digital Solutions 2018 round. Australian small businesses in metropolitan and regional areas will have access to specialist advisers who can help employers capitalise on new opportunities available in the digital economy.

    Service providers will focus their services on improving the digital capabilities of small businesses in the following areas: website and selling online; social media and digital marketing; using small business software; and online security and data privacy. Services will be offered proportionately across metropolitan and regional areas.
  • ASBAS Northern Australian Initiative
    The ASBAS Northern Australia Tourism Initiative (NATI) is one of the programs in response to the Australian Government’s North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia. The three-year program started in July 2016 aiming to enhance the capacity of established, not-for-profit small business advisory service providers to  deliver low-cost small business advisory and information services to tourism small businesses in Australia’s north.

    Service providers are required to deliver six tourism advisory streams: funding avenues and financial analysis; building your business; making the most of your talent and team; management capabilities; digital engagement implementation; and tourism ready.

    A total of $4.2 million has been made available to fund ASBAS NATI grants over the three-year period, ending on 30 June 2019.

Stronger Transitions—transition of retrenched workers into future jobs

As part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2017-18, the Australian Government announced the Stronger Transitions $10.3 million package to support workers in industries and regions significantly impacted by industry transformation to transition to future jobs.  It will be available in five regions, starting from 1 July 2018: Mandurah, North/North-West Tasmania, North Queensland, Adelaide and Melbourne North/West. Elements of this package include:

  • Skills and training support—this component includes forming partnerships with employers to help workers prior to retrenchment, e.g. career advice, training and recognition of prior learning, skills assessment, and online job search support.
  • Employment support—this component will provide immediate access to Stream B jobactive services post retrenchment, including an additional $550 Employment Fund credits.
  • Better connecting skilled workers to employers and training—local employment facilitators will work directly with retrenched workers to connect with training, job opportunities and support services. Jobs Fairs will be held to connect job seekers and employers.
  • Supporting workers to relocate for work—this component will provide workers with immediate access to the Relocation Assistance To Take Up a Job Program.
  • Access for small business opportunities—this component will support retrenched workers to pursue small business opportunities through the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS).

Career Transition Assistance

Starting on 1 July 2018, Career Transition Assistance will support mature age job seekers 50 years of age and over become more competitive in their local labour market. Career Transition Assistance will be trialled in five regions prior to a national rollout. From July 2019, Career Transition Assistance will be available to mature age job seekers aged 45 years of age and over in all Employment Regions across Australia.

It aims to support participants to increase their confidence in the skills and experience they have, and their motivation and resilience to continue looking for work. It will help participants to increase their understanding of the opportunities available in their local labour market and support the tailoring of job applications to particular industries and employers.

It includes an optional Functional Digital Literacy component which will help to develop participants’ ICT skills by providing them with the core digital literacy capabilities required to work in a variety of workplaces.

Closing the Gap—Employment Services package

The 2017-18 Budget included funding of $55.7 million for Closing the Gap—Employment Services package to give providers greater flexibility to assist Indigenous Australians find employment. The package includes:

  • expanding the Transition to Work service to more Indigenous youth
  • immediate access to wage subsidies and an increase of up to $10,000
  • culturally tailored support through jobactive, including access to pre- and post-employment mentoring support, culturally appropriate pre-employment training and preventative health activities through the Employment Fund
  • additional support to participate in community-based work experience and Work for the Dole projects
  • development of a trial of jobactive service delivery designed and delivered by the Yarrabah Indigenous community
  • pre-employment support to incarcerated Indigenous Australians, delivered in prison prior to release through the Time to Work Employment Service.

Employee Assistance—Protection for Unpaid Employee Entitlements

The Australian Government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee is a safety net of last resort.  It protects employees who lose their job through liquidation or bankruptcy of their employer and are left with unpaid employment entitlements. Employees in this situation may claim financial assistance under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee for unpaid wages, annual leave, long service leave, payment in lieu of notice and redundancy pay. Some eligibility conditions and payment thresholds apply.

Employment Fund

The Employment Fund is included within the Budget for jobactive employment services model. All jobactive providers across Australia have access to the Employment Fund which is a flexible pool of funds that can be used to assist eligible Australians build their experience and skills to get and keep jobs. The Employment Fund focuses on training that meets the specific needs of job seekers and employers, work‑related items and post‑placement support to help Australians stay in work.

Empowering YOUth Initiatives

The Empowering YOUth Initiatives are testing new approaches to assist young people, 15 to 24 years of age and at risk of long-term welfare dependency, on the pathway to sustainable employment. A range of innovative initiatives in locations across the country, including regional locations, have been funded for a maximum of two years each. An evaluation of each initiative will provide learnings to inform future policy design and service delivery to young people.

Initiatives funded in the first funding round will end by June 2018. Initiatives funded in the second funding round will end by June 2019.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship and Self‑Employment

The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) assists individuals not in employment, education or training to start their own business by providing accredited training, help with a business plan, and business mentoring and advice. NEIS has been helping people to create their own job for over 30 years and supports up to 8,600 people each financial year.

NEIS providers also deliver two-week “Exploring Being My Own Boss” workshops to give up to 1,000 individuals a taste of what is involved in self-employment.

Three Entrepreneurship Facilitators are located in areas of high youth unemployment; Cairns, the Hunter Valley (including Newcastle) and Launceston and North-East Tasmania. The facilitators promote entrepreneurship and support people to establish their own businesses in regional areas including by connecting them with existing services such as NEIS.

The SelfStart online hub is a starting point for people who wish to explore and develop their ideas into a successful business. SelfStart connects people to existing services and provides targeted information to help them start their own business.

Harvest Labour Services and National Harvest Information Service

Harvest Labour Services help employers in horticultural areas to supplement local labour with out‑of‑area workers where there is an acknowledged shortfall in the local labour market. Harvest Labour Services are delivered by five organisations through 15 sites across 11 harvest areas, in the Northern Territory and all states except Tasmania. The National Harvest Labour Information Service coordinates and disseminates information about harvest‑related work opportunities across Australia, including those areas not serviced by Harvest Labour Services.


The jobactive employment services model has been successfully meeting the needs of job seekers and employers, promoting stronger workforce participation and building a prosperous economy since its introduction nearly three years ago. jobactive is delivered from over 1,700 sites across Australia with providers having flexibility to deliver services based on the needs of job seekers and employers that are tailored to local labour market conditions.

Launch Into Work

The Launch into Work program trials pre-employment projects, co-designed with employers, that provide training, work experience and mentoring to Australians to increase their skills, experience and confidence. Projects are intended to train job seekers for specific roles within the organisation, and may be conducted in a variety of industries.

Launch into Work projects support participants to:

  • move from welfare into paid work
  • build the skills and experience required to overcome individual barriers to employment
  • develop increased confidence and self-worth associated with engaging in meaningful work
  • gain the opportunity to have a career and plan for the future.

National Work Experience Program

The National Work Experience Program gives employers the opportunity to develop the skills of potential employees. Eligible job seekers can undertake voluntary work experience in businesses for up to 25 hours per week for a maximum of four weeks. Participants continue to receive their income support payment and a supplement to assist with the costs of participating. From 1 July 2018, the National Work Experience Program is being expanded and enhanced to provide more work experience opportunities for people (particularly mature age people) looking for work. The number of places will increase from 6,000 to 10,000 annually. The program’s eligibility will be expanded to include people aged 17 years or over and incentive payments will be available for host businesses and employment services providers.


ParentsNext is a pre-employment program that connects parents of young children to services in their local community and helps them plan and prepare for employment by the time their children start school. From 1 July 2018, the ParentsNext program will be expanded nationally, including to all regional areas of Australia to allow more parents to access personalised assistance to improve their work readiness.

The national expansion is delivered in two streams—an intensive stream and a targeted stream. Both streams will connect parents to a wide range of services, including pre-employment education and training, assistance accessing childcare, mentoring, work experience and job opportunities. The intensive stream provides services in 30 locations—10 where the program has been delivered since April 2016 and a further 20 where there is a high proportion of Indigenous Parenting Payment recipients. The targeted stream provides services in the remainder of the 51 Employment Regions.

Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job Program

The Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job Program helps to connect Australians to regional jobs by providing practical and financial assistance to eligible long‑term unemployed who relocate to take up work. The Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job Program provides assistance of up to $6,000 who move to a regional area or up to $3,000 for eligible job seekers who move to a metropolitan area. Families with dependent children can receive assistance of up to an extra $3,000.

Seasonal Work Incentives for Job Seekers—trial

As part of the 2016-17 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Australian Government announced a two year trial of incentives aimed at increasing the number of job seekers who undertake horticultural seasonal work, such as fruit picking. The trial started from 1 July 2017. The measure responds to concerns about the ability of the Australian horticulture industry to attract sufficient numbers of seasonal workers.

There are three incentives aimed at increasing the number of job seekers who undertake horticultural seasonal work:

  • a seasonal horticultural work income exemption allowing participants in the trial to earn up to $5,000 each year from seasonal horticultural work without it being assessed under the social security income test
  • a seasonal work living away and travel allowance of up to $300 for eligible job seekers where the job is more than 120 km from their home
  • a Provider Seasonal Work Incentive Payment of $100 per week for up to six weeks to an employment services provider who successfully places an eligible job seeker in seasonal work as part of the trial.
  • To be eligible for the incentives, job seekers will need to be participating in jobactive, Transition to Work or Disability Employment Services. Job seekers must also have received Newstart or Youth Allowance (Other) continuously for at least three months.

Seasonal Worker Program

The Seasonal Worker Program contributes to the economic development of participating countries by supporting workers to undertake certain unskilled jobs so they can work in Australia and send money back home. It also assists Australian employers who are unable to source enough local workers to meet their seasonal labour needs. Over 90 per cent of seasonal workers undertake placements in the agriculture sector in regional Australia including in Robinvale, Mildura, Shepparton and Koo Wee Rup in Victoria; Griffith and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales; Renmark in South Australia; Cairns, Bowen and Mundubbera in Queensland; Katherine in the Northern Territory; and Carnarvon, Margaret River, Kununurra and Broome in Western Australia. The 10 countries participating are Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor‑Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, all of which experience challenges such as small economies of scale, remoteness from larger markets and low levels of investment.

Structural Adjustment Packages

A range of assistance is in place to assist retrenched workers to quickly transition to new employment.

The Government provides Structural Adjustment Packages on a case by case basis to assist workers in areas where expectations of future employment opportunities in industries that are low or where large scale closures may impact on the local labour market. This helps to reduce the regional impacts of large scale redundancies by:

  • providing retrenched workers from eligible companies with immediate access to intensive jobactive employment support services.
  • delivering Jobs Fairs to help connect retrenched workers to new employers and employment opportunities.
  • providing a local Employment Facilitator to assist retrenched workers in specific regions to connect with training, job opportunities and to link them with other existing support.
    • Employment Facilitators are located in North Queensland (Cairns and Townsville), Geelong, Gippsland, Whyalla/Port Augusta, Adelaide and North/North‑West Tasmania.
    • In August 2017, an Employment Facilitator was appointed in Mandurah, Western Australia, to assist retrenched workers impacted by the transition from mining.
    • In February 2018 an Employment Facilitator was appointed in the Melbourne West and North West region as part of the Stronger Transitions package.

The Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Program is in place to assist retrenched workers from the automotive manufacturing industry.

Time to Work Employment Service

As part of the Closing the Gap—Employment Services package announced in the 2017‑18 Budget, the Time to Work Employment Service (formerly known as the Prison to Work Employment Service) is a new national in-prison employment service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The service will start progressively across 70 non-remote prisons throughout 2018.

The Time to Work Employment Service aims to better prepare Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison for their release, by improving their prospect of connecting with post-release support services and better supporting the post-release employment services providers to place them in jobs.

All sentenced adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners are eligible to volunteer for service three months prior to their earliest known release date. Those who wish to participate will receive employment assessments, assistance to develop a Transition Plan and a Facilitated Transfer to a post-release employment service provider.

Transition to Work

The Transition to Work service for youth aged 15 to 21 years offers intensive pre‑employment support to participants to improve their work readiness and help them into work or education. The service providers support young people through strong connections with employers, community services and schools in their local area.

From 1 January 2018, eligibility was expanded to include Indigenous young people with a Year 12 certificate.

Wage Subsidies

Wage subsidies support the Australian Government’s broader objectives of increasing workforce participation by providing a financial incentive to employers to hire eligible job seekers. There are a number of wage subsidies available, including for job seekers who are long‑term unemployed, Indigenous, parents, youth (under 30 years of age), and mature age (50 years or over) under the Restart Program.

Work for the Dole

Work for the Dole provides work‑like experiences for job seekers across Australia to help improve their job readiness and employability skills, as well as meeting their mutual obligation requirements. At the same time, Work for the Dole provides an opportunity for Australians to give back to their local community. The establishment of Indigenous specific activities that link to community goals and help support employment pathways for Indigenous participants is actively encouraged.

Youth Jobs PaTH—(Prepare—Trial—Hire)

Youth Jobs PaTH is part of the Australian Government’s Youth Employment Package announced in the 2016-17 Budget. It has three elements:

  • Prepare: Employability Skills Training ensures young people understand what employers expect of them in the workplace, and equip them with the skills, attitudes and behaviours for them to be successful in a job. Since April 2017, job seekers in jobactive who are aged under 25 years receive training in the basic employability skills that businesses need, such as reliability, team work and punctuality. For most job seekers, the training becomes compulsory after five months in jobactive.
  • Trial: PaTH Internships of four to 12 weeks help young people 17 to 24 years gain the skills and work experience they need to get and keep a job.
  • Hire: a Youth Bonus wage subsidy of up to $10,000 (GST inclusive) encourages the employment of young people 15 to 24 years.

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