Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications: Supporting Regional Recovery and Growth

The Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications portfolio contributes to the wellbeing of all Australians through the design and implementation of the Australian Government’s regional development, infrastructure, transport, communications, digital economy and arts and culture policies and programs.

The scope of the portfolio’s work touches the lives of every Australian. It underpins the economic and social activity of our community nation-wide, from the transport and communications networks that Australians use every day, to our cultural expressions. It supports services and entities delivering crucial national economic infrastructure, such as national road, rail, aviation and shipping infrastructure, water infrastructure, communication systems and services such as Australia Post and NBN Co. The Portfolio also includes key national cultural institutions such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the National Library of Australia, and the Australia Council for the Arts. In particular, the portfolio is responsible for national policy initiatives on regional development, providing for programs and initiatives that assist regional communities around the country, and also supports services to Australia’s territories such as  Norfolk Island and Christmas and Cocos Islands.

A significant focus for the Government as a whole and the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Portfolio in particular over the 2020-21 year has been responding to several major domestic and international challenges. COVID-19 impacts on top of previous natural disasters such as bushfires and floods, as well as the response to earlier drought conditions have posed additional demands and have required specially-tailored response initiatives in order to keep our transport and communication systems operating and to support the most affected communities – particularly regional communities – in their recovery.

The portfolio will continue to undertake its large range of portfolio responsibilities throughout 2021-22. Detailed in the New Initiatives below are significant investments in the 2021-22 Budget, which boost the Portfolio’s contribution to key outcomes for regional Australia and provide stimulus for regional recovery and growth. These include new major investments in transport infrastructure which bring the Government’s investment in transport infrastructure to a record $110 billion over ten years, and more than $84 million in further investments in communications infrastructure, including upgrades for regional connectivity.   

Inland Rail is a key initiative of the Australian Government’s $110 billion infrastructure pipeline that includes major road and rail upgrades that are expected to better connect regional communities to domestic and international markets. Inland Rail is delivering a competitive freight service that is expected to increase national productivity and boost regional economies along the corridor in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

In 2020-21 the portfolio led the establishment of several support packages for regional communities such as the $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund. This Fund has delivered targeted assistance to regions, communities and industry sectors disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including support for aviation, fisheries, tourism, events and the arts. Of particular importance for regional communities have been the Fund initiatives supporting the aviation and airfreight sectors. Several of these initiatives, which have been vital to the continued economic viability of regional communities and regional products, are being continued into 2021-22. 

Air connectivity is critical to many regional and remote communities across Australia, enabling the transportation of workers and freight and facilitating the delivery of medical and other essential services. The Australian Government provides assistance to the owners of regional airports across Australia to undertake essential works, promoting aviation safety and access for these communities. The Australian Government also provides targeted support for aerodrome infrastructure and air services to remote areas of Australia, where they are not commercially viable.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the aviation industry. The Australian Government acted swiftly to respond, and has implemented several major support packages to support the industry through the crisis and assist economic recovery post COVID-19. This includes support for regional aviation by guaranteeing minimum connectivity, providing financial support for security screening costs, and stimulating demand on selected routes to key tourism regions.

The portfolio also includes NBN Co Ltd (NBN Co), the mission of which is to provide reliable, fast and affordable broadband to all Australians through the National Broadband Network (NBN). The network is now built and fully operational with over 99.8 per cent of premises able to order NBN services as at February 2021. In 2021-22 will be working with regional businesses and communities to deliver better outcomes for residential and business broadband consumers through its Regional Development and Engagement team which is focused on improving the digital capability of regional Australia. NBN Co has also established 85 Business Fibre Zones in regional areas. Businesses located within these Zones have access to ultra-fast connectivity at no upfront cost and at CBD prices, improving competition, productivity, and fostering innovation and growth for small and medium businesses.

The Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development portfolio also delivers the Australian Government’s regional development programs. The Government is providing an additional $250 million for round six of the Building Better Regions Fund. This and other regional programs provide funding for a range of locally-driven projects that aim to strengthen our regions, their economies and the vibrant communities that make up regional Australia.

In 2020-21, the Government committed $100 million from 2020-21 to 2021-22 to fund Regional Recovery Partnerships to coordinate investments with other levels of government. The Partnerships are supporting recovery and growth in 10 regions: the Snowy Mountains, Hunter and Newcastle and Parkes Regions in New South Wales, Cairns and Tropical North Queensland, Gladstone and Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday Regions in Queensland, the Gippsland Region in Victoria, Kangaroo Island in South Australia, the South West Region of Western Australia and all of Tasmania. This funding continues into 2021-22.

The portfolio also leads the Government’s decentralisation agenda, which is one of the initiatives supporting the Government’s plan for Australia’s future population and regional development more broadly.

As at 31 December 2020, the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Portfolio employed 3,219 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 3,057 staff (95 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 109 staff (3 per cent) in other capital cities and 53 staff (2 per cent) in regional areas.

The portfolio’s regional footprint includes office locations such as Wollongong, Newcastle, Orange, Toowoomba, Dubbo, Albury-Wodonga, Moree, Port Augusta, Broome, Coffs Harbour and Junee, as well as offices in the Indian Ocean Territories, Norfolk Island and the Jervis Bay Territory to deliver vital infrastructure and essential services in Australia’s Territories.

Several portfolio agencies employ staff under their own legislation. Some Portfolio Agencies, such as Air Services Australia, have a considerable presence around Australia supporting aviation movements outside the capital cities. NBN Co has a significant presence in regional areas with the NBN available across Australia.

The Portfolio also has oversight responsibilities for Australia Post, which maintains a retail network of over 4,000 Post Offices, including more than 2,500 in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority employs 443 staff, of which 288 are located in Canberra, 71 in other capital cities, and 84 are based in regional offices. The staff in regional offices support the safe operation of shipping in regional ports and domestic commercial vessel operators (such as fishing and tourism operators) in these locations.

New Initiatives

Tourism Aviation Network Support Program

Aviation and tourism have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism sector’s recovery will be driven by Australians holidaying at home. The Australian Government will continue to support Australia’s recovery, including by subsidising 800,000 discounted airfares to key tourism regions around the country. This will not only support jobs in the aviation industry but will have an economic multiplier effect through tourism in regional Australia, as travellers spend money on accommodation, food and activities and stay longer in these regions. Discounted airfares will be made available for travel in the period from April 2021 up to 30 September 2021.

The program will also provide funding to airlines to increase flights on selected routes to key tourism regions. In combination with the reduced airfares, and other support measures for the aviation and tourism industry, this program will improve airline sustainability with subsequent flow‑own benefits for aviation workers elsewhere in the sector and tourism businesses through increased employment opportunities and supply chain benefits.

Domestic Airports Security Costs Support

Australia’s aviation sector continues to be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the need to continue to meet ongoing operational costs despite reduced revenues. The Australian Government has committed $90 million through the Domestic Airports Security Costs Support (DASCS) program to provide assistance to eligible domestic airports to take some of the costs out of the sector as it recovers from the pandemic. The program will run from 29 March to 30 September 2021.

Typically airports incur significant ongoing operating costs, including costs related to mandatory security screening requirements, regardless of the number of passengers being serviced. This measure will provide direct funding to eligible airports to meet costs related to passenger and baggage security screening obligations required by the Australian Government.

Airports typically recover security screening costs by charging airlines, which ultimately flow through to end users, including travellers. DASCS grant funding is conditional on grant-funded costs cannot be passed on to airport users.

A considerable number of eligible airports are located in regional Australia. The measure will benefit regional Australians by helping to reduce the cost burden of security regulation on airports and by extension airlines, and ultimately the travelling public, as the sector continues its fragile recovery from the effects of the pandemic.

Infrastructure Investment – Major Projects

The Australian Government is continuing its support for job-creating, economy boosting infrastructure. This $110 billion investment over 10 years through the rolling infrastructure plan will see regional Australia bounce back stronger than ever following the global COVID-19 pandemic. This investment will support local jobs and businesses, help meet our national freight challenge, and get Australians home sooner and safer.

Through the 2021-22 Budget, the Australian Government has committed to new projects that bring our investment in regional Australia to over $50 billion from 2013-14 to 2030 - 31. This commitment will help get more regional Australians back to work and keep business’ doors open through the return to a new normal. As Australia moves to the next phase of post COVID-19 economic recovery the Government is focusing on new investments in productivity driving infrastructure across Australia, committing to key projects in regional areas including:

  • $400.0 million for the Inland Freight Route (Mungindi to Charters Towers) Upgrades, delivering a long-term program of priority works improving freight movements between the New South Wales border and north Queensland;
  • $400.0 million for Jervis Bay Road to Sussex Inlet Road - Stage 1, to improve the Princes Highway in New South Wales between Jervis Bay Road and Hawken Road, and a further $100.0 million towards a new intersection at Jervis Bay Road, as part of the Government’s now $900 million commitment to upgrading this corridor in NSW to improve safety for all road users and reduce congestion;
  • $200.0 million for Great Eastern Highway Upgrades - Coates Gully, Walgoolan to Southern Cross and Ghooli to Benari in Western Australia to deliver upgrade works such as realignment, widening, bridge replacement or improvement, passing lanes, intersection improvements, rest areas and improvements to drainage;
  • $161.6 million for Truro Bypass to improve the regional connection between Adelaide and the Riverland region for freight, tourism and local commuters, and $32.0 million for the Kangaroo Island Road Safety and Bushfire Resilience Package in South Australia;
  • $150 million for Northern Territory National Network Highway Upgrades (Phase 2) to provide a better quality and more efficient road network, allowing for growth in traffic volumes, as well as improving road safety;
  • $80 million for the Bass Highway Safety and Freight Efficiency Upgrades Package in Tasmania.

A number of other projects also received additional funding as part of the 2021-22 Budget to continue to deliver safety and connectivity benefits across regional Australia, driving employment and supporting Australia’s economic recovery. This includes an additional $27.6 million for the Overpass at Port Wakefield and Township Duplication project in South Australia, $24.0 million for the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation - Tranche 3 – Port of Burnie Shiploader Upgrade, and $16.0 million for Western Australia’s Regional State Road Safety Improvement Program.

Great Western Highway Upgrade – Katoomba to Lithgow – Construction of East and West Sections

To facilitate growth in the New South Wales central west region the Australian Government has committed $2.03 billion for upgrades on the Great Western Highway corridor between Katoomba and Blackheath, and between Little Hartley and Lithgow. This upgrade forms part of a broader upgrade of this corridor, and will address a critical missing link in terms of access through, and congestion within, the Blue Mountains. It will separate local and through traffic, improving freight access, network efficiency, safety and community outcomes.

Bruce Highway Upgrade Program

As part of its continued investment, the Australian Government has committed a further $400.0 million at the 2021-22 Budget to the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program to support freight efficiency and connectivity along the Queensland coast. This more than $13.0 billion combined total investment to the Bruce Highway is providing critical linkages for freight movements between inland production areas and eleven coastal ports and major regional centres. The new investment will deliver a program of priority works between Gladstone to Rockhampton and Mackay to Proserpine.

Roads of Strategic Importance Initiative

The Australian Government is committing more than $4.9 billion from 2018-19 to upgrade key freight routes through the Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI) initiative. The rolling nature of the investment over 10 years ensures the ROSI initiative delivers substantial social and economic benefits, including ongoing opportunities for greater regional employment and business growth. This initiative ensures that our key freight roads efficiently connect agricultural and mining regions to ports, airports and other transport hubs.

Through the 2021-22 Budget, the Australian Government has committed an additional $80.0 million for the Tasmanian Roads Package - Bass Highway Safety and Freight Efficiency Upgrades Package - Future Priorities to further enhance freight efficiency, safety and connectivity on the Bass Highway, and $32.0 million of new funding for Upgrades to Hargraves Lane and Federation Street along the Toowoomba to Seymour corridor in New South Wales. This project will enhance connectivity between Inland Rail and the Newell Highway, as well as enhancing the liveability and function of Gilgandra by diverting heavy vehicles away from the town centre.

The Australian Government has committed $173.6 million for the Northern Territory Gas Industry Roads Upgrades. The investment in this new corridor will support the development of gas resources in and around the Beetaloo Sub-basin.

To support industry and agriculture in Victoria, additional funding of $20.0 million and $15.0 million respectively has also been committed across the Green Triangle and Melbourne to Mildura corridors. A further $14.4 million in additional funding has been added to the West Australian section of the Port Augusta to Perth corridor for the Great Eastern Highway – Walgoolan to Southern Cross and Coates Gully to deliver widening works and improve safety.

Additionally, through the 2021-22 Budget the Australian Government has allocated funding to projects on Roads of Strategic Importance corridors across Australia, including:

  • projects along the Toowoomba to Seymour corridor across New South Wales and Victoria to address issues that are impacting the performance of this critical freight corridor, be ready for changing freight dynamics from Inland Rail and open up access to essential freight networks in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria;
  • two projects along the Tenterfield to Newcastle corridor in New South Wales, which will upgrade important linking roads to the required standard to support safe and efficient freight movements;
  • three projects on the Tennant Creek to Townsville corridor which will deliver works such as widening on priority sections of the Flinders Highway between Julia Creek and Cloncurry and new overtaking lanes south-west of Townsville, and;
  • two projects on the Alice Springs to Darwin corridor, which will include works such as the construction of a new section of approximately 2.8km of the Arnhem Highway to improve the flood immunity of the highway at the Adelaide River flood plain.

Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program

As part of its continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government is continuing to support Australia’s economic recovery by committing an additional $1.0` billion to fund further local priority projects through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, bringing the total to $2.5 billion over 2020-2023.  The Government’s investment will support local governments to deliver community infrastructure projects, supporting an estimated 9,000 jobs across Australia over the life of the program, and supporting local business across the nation.

As at 1 May 2021, more than $1.24 billion has been allocated to over 5,200 projects nation-wide to quickly stimulate regional economies, support local job opportunities and deliver community infrastructure projects. Projects include new or upgraded bicycle and walking paths, community halls, picnic shelters and barbeque facilities at parks as well as projects to support tourism and accessibility in regional areas. The projects delivered under this program are contributing to making regional communities safer, stronger and more sustainable.

Road Safety Program

As part of the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to improving road safety for all Australians an additional $1.0 billion over 12 months has been committed to the Road Safety Program. This funding will include two additional six-month tranches, extending the program from July 2022 to June 2023.

The Road Safety Program projects will be rolled out over 30 months in five six-month allocations, the first tranche of projects commenced in January 2021. Over $890 million has been allocated to projects in regional areas in tranche 1.

This initiative will positively benefit the economy and is expected to materially reduce road casualty rates across predominantly regional communities, which disproportionately bear the brunt of fatal road injuries. Regional communities suffer 9.6 deaths per 100,000 compared to metropolitan areas who suffer 2.2 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Road safety treatments will include: shoulder sealing and installation of audio tactile line markings, to support the safe return of vehicles from the shoulder into the travel lane; physical barriers to prevent run off road crashes; and, median treatments to prevent head-on vehicle collisions. The application of these road safety treatments will raise road safety standards across high risk roads.

Major Project Business Case Fund

As part of the 2021 Budget, the Australian Government has allocated $10 million towards the Orrong Road Expressway - Graham Farmer Freeway to Leach Highway Planning project in Western Australia. This investment will fund planning works for an expressway that connects the Graham Farmer Freeway to Leach Highway along Orrong Road, including the development of a business case to assess the scope, design and cost of the expressway.

This forms part of the $250 million Major Project Business Case Fund, which enables the Australian Government to partner with state and territory governments in the development of nationally significant projects

Advanced Train Management System

In February 2021, the Australian Government announced a further $220 million for the Australian Rail Track Corporation to plan and design the roll out of Stage 3 of the Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) between Melbourne and Perth, as well as develop and install ATMS train-borne units. These works are expected to take place between mid-2021 to mid-2023. The system is expected to provide a number of benefits for regional communities by improving productivity, efficiency, track capability, safety and reliability as well as employment and supply benefits.

The roll out is expected to:

  • Support 300 direct and 700 indirect local jobs
  • Provide for greater capacity on existing rail infrastructure by allowing trains to run closer together
  • Improve access to and from regional markets for businesses, in particular agricultural business, through transport of agricultural commodities, lower freight costs and by enhancing completion and service offerings in the rail freight market
  • Provide safety benefits through the ability to automatically safely slow and stop trains.

Narrabri to Turrawan Line Upgrade

In December 2020, the Australian Government announced the commitment of $44.7 million for the Australian Rail Track Corporation to upgrade 35km of Narrabri to Turrawan Line between the Hunter Valley Coal Network and Inland Rail. The upgrade is expected to be completed by mid-2023, allowing longer and heavier freight trains travelling from Northern NSW – transporting grain and cotton – to access the ports of Newcastle and Sydney. By maximising the freight volume of each train traveling on the line, the upgrades are expected to result in reduced transport costs and enhance the competitiveness for Australian exports. Australian Rail Track Corporation is consulting with local communities and the Department on the final scope of the proposed upgrades, including the interface between the line and Inland Rail.

Southern Highlands Overtaking Opportunities 

The Australian Government committed $41.6 million through the MYEFO 2020-21 budget update for Australian Rail Track Corporation to provide overtaking facilities on the Southern Highlands Line in New South Wales. Track and signaling infrastructure improvements are expected to enable faster services to overtake freight trains of up to 1,800 metres in length. Providing more overtaking opportunities is expected to reduce transit time for direction modal freight between Melbourne and Sydney and enable mode share shift from road to rail to encourage growth and increase customer satisfaction. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2023.

Melbourne Intermodal Terminal

To unlock freight efficiencies in Victoria and the broader national network, the Australian Government committed up to $2.1 billion for a new intermodal terminal in Melbourne. The Melbourne Intermodal Terminal will improve supply chain productivity, and drive further benefits for regional producers and communities accessing goods and freight through an enhanced national network. Construction of the terminal is expected to support up to 1,350 jobs during construction and will be delivered in time for the commencement of Inland Rail operations, with the first trains expected to operate between Melbourne and Brisbane in 2027.

Establishment of the National Freight Data Hub

The Australian Government has committed $16.5 million over four years to establish the National Freight Data Hub.  This builds on the investment in the 2019-20 Budget of $5.2 million to work closely with industry and others to settle the design of a National Freight Data Hub and to build a prototype website. 

The prototype website is an important first step to demonstrate the value of improved freight data. The website showcases government and industry cooperation on a number of projects and allows users to search for data relevant to their business. Over the next four years, the National Freight Data Hub will build on the prototype website to enhance the collection and access to freight data across all modes and supply chains.  It will provide a data driven approach to strategic planning and investment, and support day-to-day operations.

Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project Phase 2

The $12 million for Phase 2 of the Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project (SLGAAP) builds on the success of the SLGAAP Phase 1 pilot, due to be completed in June 2021. On a national basis, Phase 2 will increase the knowledge of local government road managers on the capacity of local government road assets. This can result in a wider range of heavy vehicles having greater access to the road network without requiring infrastructure upgrades and investment. Local governments across regional Australia have shown strong support and willingness to participate in Phase 2 with around 800 assets registered from approximately 90 councils through the Phase 1 process.

Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme

The Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES) was introduced by the Australian Government in 1976 to support the Tasmanian economy and regional Australia. It provides financial assistance for the cost incurred by shippers of eligible non-bulk goods moved by sea between Tasmania and mainland Australia, and between the main island of Tasmania and King Island or the Furneaux Group, to help reduce the higher cost of shipping across Bass Strait. The TFES also provides assistance to eligible goods leaving Tasmania that are being trans‑shipped via mainland Australia. The objective of the Scheme is to provide Tasmanian industries with equal opportunities to compete in other markets, recognising that, unlike their mainland counterparts, Tasmanian shippers do not have the option of transporting goods interstate by road or rail.

In August 2019, the Government announced a suite of improvements to the TFES, including increased assistance for high density goods, reduced claims processing times and interest payments for late claim payments.

In the 2021-22 Budget, the Australian Government has committed $67.7 million over four years to provide assistance under the TFES for the shipment of imported goods to Tasmania via the mainland, where proof can be provided that there is no Australian equivalent good. This extension of the southbound component of the TFES further reduces the added cost of shipping across Bass Strait inputs to manufacturing, mining and primary production, ensuring Tasmanian businesses can compete on a level playing field with their mainland counterparts. It will help Tasmanian businesses keep producing at this critical time and is a definite action to keep Tasmanians in jobs and businesses producing as the economy recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.

Regional Connectivity Program Expansion

The Australian Government will continue to fund targeted, place-based connectivity solutions in regional, rural and remote Australia through the Regional Connectivity Program (RCP).

Under the first round of the RCP, the Government committed up to $90.3 million in grants to deliver new or upgraded digital connectivity to regional, rural and remote Australians. This funding is generating a total investment of over $180 million in telecommunications infrastructure in regional Australia.

Round 1 of the RCP was oversubscribed with applicants seeking more than $270 million in Commonwealth funding for over 200 proposals. The Government will continue to build on the success of this program by committing a further $84.8 million in funding to the program.

Similar to Round 1, RCP Expansion will target investment in telecommunications infrastructure projects which respond to local priorities and maximise economic opportunities and social benefits for regional, rural and remote Australian communities and businesses. Funded projects will complement the NBN and the Mobile Black Spot Program by delivering new and improved access to broadband and mobile connectivity in areas of high economic and social value outside of the NBN fixed-line footprint.

The Government is also providing $68.5 million in dedicated funding to improve telecommunications infrastructure across Northern Australia through the Regional Connectivity Program and the Mobile Black Spot Program.  

Community Broadcasting Program

The Government has provided additional funding of $4.0 million per annum over two years from 2021-22 to support the community broadcasting sector, through the Community Broadcasting Program (CBP). This is in addition to the Australian Government’s ongoing, indexed funding of $16.1 million per annum to the CBP from 2021-22.

More than 450 non-profit, community based organisations deliver community broadcasting services across Australia – with 70% of these stations located in regional or remote areas. Community radio supports communities in regional Australia by broadcasting local news, telling local stories, and providing a platform for local voices and music. The Government is committed to supporting community broadcasting to continue to realise these benefits for Australian communities.

Funding for eSafety Commissioner to protect Australians online

The Australian Government will provide $24.0 million over four years from 2021-22 for the eSafety Commissioner to continue its work protecting Australian women and their children from online harms.

The package includes $15 million over two years for eSafety to increase its investigations capability for serious online harms. This will allow eSafety to recruit new staff to investigate and respond to reports of cyber abuse and other forms of harmful online content.

$3 million over two years will fund a pilot program to implement technologies that identify intimate images that have been shared without consent, and assist in the rapid removal of image-based abuse material. The project will enhance eSafety’s image-based abuse scheme and allow eSafety to provide greater support to victims.

$3 million over four years will allow eSafety to develop a new program of resources to combat the growing threat of technology-facilitated abuse involving children. This program will allow the creation and provision of new resources for front-line domestic violence workers, children and young people, adult victims who are parents of affected children and child welfare services.

$3 million over four years will be used to boost community resilience to child sexual abuse. eSafety will expand its existing suite of education resources with the addition of new, specialised content on child safety and online abuse for parents and families. The products will provide practical guidance for parents and carers to support children and young people including recognising and preventing harmful behaviours online.

In addition, the Government will provide $5.2 million in 2021-22 to fund a National Online Safety Awareness Campaign. Following its passage through the Parliament, the Online Safety Bill will further extend Australia’s world-leading online safety framework by creating new and strengthened schemes to keep Australians safe when things go wrong online. The funding will provide a targeted online advertising campaign and supporting public relations activities to inform Australians about the complaints based schemes that will become available through the eSafety Commissioner.

National Messaging Service

This proposal is to develop a design for a cell broadcast National Messaging Service (NMS) which will provide the Government with a cell broadcast capability to send messages to all mobile phones in the country or within a geo-location.

The NMS is intended to complement the Emergency Alert, which sends voice messages to landlines and mobile phones. If implemented, the NMS will enable the government to quickly and reliably deliver information to the Australian public in relation to events of national significance, including disaster events impacting regional communities.

Measuring Broadband Australia

This measure will continue funding for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to deliver the Measuring Broadband Australia (MBA) program. The MBA program, which was established in 2017, provides public reporting of the performance and reliability of fixed-line broadband services to help inform consumers while keeping industry accountable for their broadband speed and performance claims. The importance of the program’s renewal is accentuated by the launch of new higher speed NBN products and the increased reliance on broadband due to COVID-19.

Extending the program to areas covered by NBN fixed wireless and the emerging market for fixed wireless broadband connections based on 4G and 5G technology, will support consumers, including regional consumers, to make informed decisions between these products and NBN broadband services. This extension will provide competition and transparency benefits to this important and growing segment.

  • Over the forward estimates, the cost of the program ($7.7million) will continue to be recovered in full via the Annual Carrier Licence Charge (ACLC), administered by the Australian Communications Media Authority.

National Water Grid Fund

On 27 March 2021, the Government announced a new funding pathway within the Fund to drive the construction of smaller-scale projects. The Government will provide up to $160.0 million over two years from 2021-22 to establish the National Water Grid Connections funding pathway to deliver small scale water infrastructure projects and provide short-term economic stimulus. Up to $20 million per state and territory (and capped at $5 million per project of Australian Government contributions) will be made available, for targeted projects that align with the Government’s strategic investment priorities.  This new initiative will help shape the development of the National Water Grid, with benefits flowing to our regions sooner.

Through the 2021-22 Budget the Government has committed $75.7 million in funding for the new and augmented projects:

  • Eurobodalla Southern Storage (New South Wales) - $51.2 million. This project is expected to improve water availability and security, as well as increase storage for downstream irrigators and stock watering.
  • Werribee Irrigation District Modernisation (Victoria) - $11.0 million. This project will replace an inefficient channel-based irrigation network to reduce water losses and improve reliability.
  • Recycled Water on the Bellarine (Victoria) - $5.5 million. This project will upgrade an existing water reclamation plant to improve quality and volume of supply and productive reuse of important waste streams.
  • Warwick Recycled Water for Agriculture – Recycled Water Treatment Upgrade (Queensland) - $0.5 million. This project will upgrade an existing recycled water treatment plant by constructing a new complete filtration system to provide an increased daily supply of recycled water.
  • An additional $7.5 million for Rookwood Weir ($183.6 million in total) to enhance our existing investment in delivering water security in north Queensland by raising the weir wall a further 700 millimetres, which will yield an additional 10,000 megalitres of water.

The Government has also committed a further $22.3 million for the development of business cases for an additional eight projects nationally. These business cases will help inform the Government’s investment decisions in new water infrastructure as part of the National Water Grid Investment Pipeline.

The eight additional business cases are: Lostock Dam to Glennies Creek Dam Pipeline (New South Wales); Nyngan to Cobar Pipeline (New South Wales); Pakenham Cora Lynn Recycled Water Scheme for Agriculture (Victoria); Coliban Regional Modernisation (Victoria); Sunbury-Bulla-Keilor Agricultural Rejuvenation (Victoria); Tyabb-Sommerville Recycled Water Irrigation Scheme (Victoria); New Water Infrastructure to the Barossa (South Australia); and the South East Integration Project (Tasmania).

Collectively, the Government’s investments under the Fund will help support resilient water supplies in these regions as part of developing the National Water Grid.

We are investing a total of $3.5 billion through the National Water Grid Fund to build vital water infrastructure across the country. The National Water Grid Fund replaces the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and better reflects the relationship between the Australian Government's commitment to the National Water Grid and the National Water Grid Authority's role in overseeing delivery.

Building Better Regions Fund

In the 2021-22 Budget the Australian Government has announced an additional 250 million towards a sixth Round of the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF), bringing the total commitment for this program to $1.29 billion from 2017-18 to 2024-25.

The Building Better Regions Fund supports regional and remote communities by funding shovel-ready infrastructure projects up to the value of $10 million, which will create jobs and drive economic growth.  It also funds up to $1 million for new or expanded events, strategic regional plans, or leadership and capability strengthening activities which provide economic and social benefits across the relevant region. Local governments and incorporated not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.

The first Four Rounds of Building Better Regions Fund supported 995 projects, delivering benefits across regional and remote Australia, such as:

  • Replacement of the tanker jetty to help revitalise the waterfront precinct in Esperance, Western Australia ($4 million);
  • Expansion of the Temora Aged Care Facility, New South Wales ($3.6 million);
  • Construction of the Spinal Life Healthy Living Centre in Cairns, Queensland ($4.5 million);
  • Upgrade of radio communications at Flinders and Cape Barren Islands, Tasmania ($7.8 million)
  • Development of the Clare & Gilbert Valleys Cultural Tourism Strategy in South Australia ($7,260).

Stronger Communities Programme

In the 2021‑22 Budget the Australian Government has announced a further $22.7 million to deliver a seventh round of the Stronger Communities Programme (SCP), bringing the total commitment for this program to $145.1 million between 2015-16 and 2021-22.

The Stronger Communities Programme provides funding to small capital projects which deliver important social benefits to communities across Australia. Around 12,000 community-based projects have secured funding under the first five rounds of the program. Round six is currently being implemented.

Funding of up to $150,000 will again be available in each of the 151 federal electorates. Members of the House of Representatives will continue their role in identifying important community projects, with funding of between $2,500 and $20,000 available for eligible projects.

Input from the community is a key element of the Stronger Communities Programme. Each Member of Parliament is required to establish a community consultation committee to identify projects for consideration under the program. 

Rebuilding Regional Communities Program

The Australian Government will provide $5.7 million to deliver the Rebuilding Regional Communities Program in partnership with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR).

The program will provide microgrants across two streams to grassroots community organisations to assist communities in their recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The Micro Projects stream – will provide small grants of up to $10,000 for communities in regional Australia with fewer than 50,000 people to help sustain local organisations and their work;
  • The COVID Recovery stream – will provide up to $50,000 for larger projects which enhance the process of recovery of communities affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Community groups play a critical role in supporting and sustaining local regional communities.  These grants will help local groups restart activities and avoid lasting loss to the social fabric of regional towns.

Supplementary Local Roads Funding for South Australia

In addition to the funding provided to local governments in South Australia under the Financial Assistance Grant program, the Australian Government is providing additional supplementary funding of $40 million over two years to South Australia to address the disadvantage experienced by South Australian local councils in maintaining and upgrading their local road network.

Regionalisation and Decentralisation

The Australian Government is continuing to deliver its Regional Decentralisation Agenda, commissioning two pieces of work to underpin business and employment activity in the regions:

  • A targeted study which will identify Australian, state, territory and local government regulations impacting business relocation to the regions, and quantify the cost of those regulations. The study will inform work to remove regulatory barriers and reduce the cost of doing business in regional Australia.
  • A scoping study into the establishment of Australian Public Service Hubs in regional Australia, which would support the Australian Public Service as an employer of choice and allow employees to work within the communities they serve. The study will inform further consideration by the Government of the feasibility, cost and benefits of regional Hubs.

Local Government Financial Assistance Grant

The Local Government Financial Assistance Grant program is established under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 and provides untied financial assistance to local governments across Australia to enable them to meet local priorities. The Australian Government is continuing the Financial Assistance Grant program, which will provide an estimated $9.6 billion to local government over the period 2021‑22 to 2024‑25.

The funding is untied and consists of two components:

  • A general purpose component distributed between the states and territories according to population.
  • An identified local road component distributed between the states and territories according to fixed historical shares.

The Australian Government will make an early payment in the 2020‑21 financial year of approximately 50 per cent of the 2021-22 Financial Assistance Grant estimate. This cash injection of $1.3 billion will give councils vital support to assist with the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Services to Territories Program

The Australian Government has responsibility for delivering “state-type” services to the non-self-governing territories including funding for essential infrastructure, refurbishment of key assets by the National Capital Authority (NCA), support for essential services on Norfolk Island and economic diversification in the Indian Ocean Territories (IOT).

Services to Norfolk Island

The Australian Government will provide $42 million over four years from 2021-22 to support the provision of essential services and infrastructure maintenance to Norfolk Island. This funding will be used for the provision of the following:

  • Child protection and family wellbeing social services on Norfolk Island, including supporting the development of a holistic sexual assault service, domestic and family violence response and other community wellbeing programs.
  • Managing and supporting court and legal proceedings for Norfolk Island both on Norfolk Island and on the mainland.
  • Providing additional staffing resources at the Norfolk Island Central School to deliver learning support, library and science laboratory assistance, technology support, Norfolk Language delivery and other general support services.
  • Support for the Norfolk Island Residential and Aged Care Services (NIHRACS) by providing critical Information and Communications Technology infrastructure and systems, commercial accounting resources to assist with their financial functions and corporate governance, and supporting NIHRACS achieving the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards Accreditation.
  • Continue the eradication program of the highly invasive Argentine Ant on Norfolk Island.
  • Promoting Norfolk Island to the domestic Australian tourism market to better support small businesses.
  • Develop a Ports Management Strategy Business Case in preparation to upgrade port infrastructure to increase reliability of the Island’s primary freight service.
  • Address water scarcity and improve water quality on Norfolk Island by improving fresh and waste water management.
  • Develop a Record Authority to retain or destroy records on Norfolk Island for all Commonwealth records, subject to the Archives Act 1983.
  • To address the recommendations stemming from the independent audits for the governance, operations, financial performance and sustainability of the Norfolk Island Regional Council.

Indian Ocean Territories Economic Diversification

The Australian Government will provide funding of $2.3 million over two years from 2021-22 to promote economic diversification and growth in the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This funding will be used for the provision of the following:

  • Performing a water security assessment which includes identifying the capacity of existing water sources, as well as providing advice for the infrastructure required to further enhance future water security;
  • Developing a waste management strategy by identifying barriers to waste management as well as opportunities to work and partner with the Shires, communities, and industry to better manage waste in the region.; and
  • Grant funding of $0.5 million for trialling niche agricultural methods on Christmas Island to reduce the community reliance on expensive imports.

COVID-19 Response – arts and culture initiatives

On 25 March 2021, the Australian Government announced an additional $125 million, for the successful Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund. $100 million of this additional funding is provided in 2021-22, and $25 million was provided in 2020-21. This funding will support around 230 projects and up to 90,000 jobs through competitive project grants towards the costs of putting on activities such as festivals, concerts, tours, productions and events, including in regional areas. An additional $10 million from the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund will be provided to the charity Support Act, building on the $10 million investment announced on 9 April 2020.

On 26 March 2021, the Government announced funding of $20 million from the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund to provide business support to the independent cinema sector through the Supporting Cinemas’ Retention Endurance and Enhancement of Neighbourhoods (SCREEN) Fund. Administered by Screen Australia, the SCREEN Fund will assist independent cinema operators, including in regional areas, that have experienced significant declines in revenue due to the pandemic by providing one-off business continuity grants.

On 11 April 2021, the Government announced a six month extension of the $50 million Temporary Interruption Fund for the local film and television sector so it can continue to secure funding for production. Some production will take place in regional areas, benefiting local communities and businesses.

On 19 April 2021, the Government announced $5 million from the COVID-19 relief and Recovery Fund for the Playing Australia Regional Recovery Investment administered by the Australia Council, to support performing arts touring in regional and rural communities as they rebound from the effects of COVID-19.

On 29 April 2021, the Government announced a new $3 million Culture, Heritage and Arts Regional Tourism (CHART) grants program, administered by the Australian Museums and Galleries Association, to help community museums, galleries and historical societies continue to offer appealing cultural tourism experiences in the regions that foster increased visitor stays, support local jobs and contribute to a sense of place.

Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Innovation and Growth Funding Package

Increased funding of $5 million per annum indexed and ongoing is being provided to support innovation and growth in the Indigenous visual art sector, with more detail to follow with the release of the National Indigenous Visual Arts Action Plan in mid-2021.

In 2021-22, the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program will contribute $21.5 million to the operations of around 85 Indigenous-owned and governed art centres, with 73 per cent of art centres in remote or very remote areas. It will also support a number of art fairs, regional hubs and industry service organisations that, with Indigenous art centres, are at the heart of Australia’s internationally renowned Indigenous visual art movement. Together these organisations enable the development, production and marketing of Indigenous visual art. They provide professional opportunities for more than 8,000 Indigenous artists and 500 Indigenous arts workers to generate income and participate in the nation’s economy. In 2019-20, art centres and art fairs funded through the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program sold artworks to a value of $30.4 million.

The Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program supports a professional, viable and ethical Indigenous visual arts industry, with strong participation by and employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Bundanon Trust – funding increase

The Australian Government has committed an additional $3 million per annum in operational funding for 2021-22 and 2022-23, and an additional $1.1 million for capital works in 2021-22, to create greater access to Bundanon Trust’s collection, increase visitation and secure Bundanon as a leading attraction in regional Australia.

This follows the provision of $22 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21 to fund the Bundanon Trust Masterplan. The Masterplan, which is expected to be open to the public from early 2022, includes a subterranean gallery and storage, to protect and display the Trust’s $43 million art collection. It creates world class facilities for students and artists, will expand education and public programs and provide additional on-site accommodation.

The Bundanon Trust is a wholly owned Australian Government company limited by guarantee, established in 1993 to own and manage the properties and art collection donated by Arthur and Yvonne Boyd “as a means of a gift to the nation”. Including the increase in funding, the Australian Government will provide $4.5 million in operational and $1.1 million in capital funding to the Trust in 2021-22.

The Bundanon Trust supports arts practice and engagement with the arts through a diverse range of programs such as its artist in residence, education, performance and environmental programs which have long-term cultural, economic and social benefits for the Shoalhaven region and beyond.

Current initiatives

The Remote Air Services Subsidy (RASS) Scheme

The Remote Air Services Subsidy (RASS) Scheme is part of the Australian Government's Regional Aviation Access Program (RAAP). RASS subsidies a regular weekly air transport service for the carriage of passengers and goods such as, educational materials, medicines, fresh foods and other urgent supplies to communities in remote and isolated areas of Australia. Due to the distances involved and with road access to many communities often cut for several months during the wet season, a regular air service offers the only reliable means of transport. Mail is carried on these flights under a separate contract with Australia Post.

The RASS Scheme provides some 375 communities in remote and isolated areas of Australia with improved access through the subsidy of a regular air transport service. This includes 269 directly serviced locations and a further 106 neighbouring communities that receive mail through RASS ports. The 269 directly serviced locations include 87 Indigenous communities.

Regional Airports Program

In the 2019-20 Budget the Australian Government committed $100 million over four years to 2022-23 to establish the Regional Airports Program, a competitive grants program to support upgrades to infrastructure and deliver improved aviation safety and access to regional airports.

The program helps improve the safety of aircraft, operators and passengers using regional airports or aerodromes, helps meet the operational requirements of aeromedical and other emergency services, facilitates improved delivery of essential goods and services such as food supplies, health care and passenger air services and improves the connectivity of Australia’s regions to domestic and global market opportunities.

In June 2020, 61 successful projects were announced by the Australian Government with $41.2 million in funding under round one of the program. One project has subsequently withdrawn. As at 30 April 2021, five round one projects have been completed. Applications under round two are currently under consideration, with projects to be delivered by the end of 2022-23 financial year. 

Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program

In the 2018-19 Budget the Australian Government committed $24 million over four years to 2021-22 to provide a further three rounds of the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program, a competitive grants program to support safety and access upgrades at airstrips in remote and very remote areas of Australia.

Projects funded under the program improve the safety of aircraft, operators and passengers. Safe, operational airstrips are vital for the delivery of essential goods and services in remote communities, particularly where road access can be disrupted for extended periods due to seasonal weather conditions. The airstrip supports the delivery of health care services such as those provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service or other aeromedical providers and provides access to work and education opportunities for remote communities.

Successful projects under round six of the program were announced by the Australian Government in March 2019, with 34 projects approved at a cost of $10.2 million. One project has subsequently withdrawn. As at 30 April 2021, 26 projects have been completed. Successful projects under round seven were announced in May 2020 with 45 projects approved at a cost of $9.0 million. Three projects subsequently withdrew. As at 30 April 2021, eight projects have been completed. Applications under round eight are currently under consideration, with projects to be delivered by the end of the 2021-22 financial year.

Domestic Aviation Network Support Program

Following the sudden and drastic capacity cuts by airlines in the initial response to COVID-19, the Australian Government moved quickly to re-establish minimum levels of domestic aviation connectivity. This connectivity has allowed repatriated Australians to get to their homes and ensured critical workers, health supplies and freight continue to move to support the health pandemic needs across the country.  The program covers the top 50 routes, by passenger capacity flown in the 2018-19 year.

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded and travel restrictions continued to impact on passenger demand and ability to travel, the Government announced extensions of the DANS program, through to 30 September 2021.    

The DANS Program ensures a minimum level of flights can continue, while also supporting flexibility and responsiveness so that airline networks can respond to meet community needs in what continues to be an uncertain environment. In this way, the Government is ensuring that Australian aviation networks are able to continue to operate throughout the pandemic, and that airlines are in a position to respond quickly to domestic travel demand as the situation changes and improves.

On 11 March 2021, the Government announced the extension of the program through to 30 September 2021.

Regional Airline Network Support Program

Due to travel restrictions and border closures put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, very few domestic aviation services in regional Australia remained commercially viable. Air transport is critical for many regional communities.

The Australian Government has therefore committed up to $198 million over three financial years from 2019-20, through the Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) Program. RANS is facilitating the continued operation of a minimum network of passenger flights to regional and remote communities across Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the support of the Australian Government, many regional locations would not have air connectivity. More than 110 regional or remote locations across all states and territories have received flights under the Program.

RANS flights are carrying essential medical and service workers to remote areas, and enabling people living in regional locations to travel to major cities to access medical treatment and other services. A number of the flights service remote Indigenous communities, including island communities, which are particularly reliant on access to services via air.

RANS flights are also enabling essential workers to continue to travel to and from their work locations, supporting key industries such as mining and agriculture. Passenger flights are also a key means of carrying vital freight, including Australia Post parcels, medical supplies, and machinery parts, as well as supporting regional exporters to get goods to market. By facilitating the continued operation of regional airlines, the RANS Program is also supporting a range of suppliers, including ground handling suppliers, refuelling agents, travel agencies, and regional airports.

Regional Airports Screening Infrastructure Program

The Government is providing $66 million for the Regional Airports Screening Infrastructure (RASI) Program, to support enhanced security screening costs at regional airports. For eligible regional airports across Australia, this funding will contribute towards the minimum necessary capital and initial operating costs of complying with enhanced security screening requirements enacted by the Department of Home Affairs through transport security regulations.

Regional airports eligible for the RASI Program are located all across Australia. Regional communities will benefit from this measure by avoiding security screening costs being passed on by airports to airlines, and ultimately to passengers. This initiative is expected to benefit a wide range of sectors dependent on air transport and regional airports across Australia.

In 2020-21 the full $66 million of funding was awarded to grantees. The RASI program will run through to 2022-23.

Infrastructure Investment – Major Projects

The Australian Government’s $110 million rolling ten year infrastructure investment plan is continuing to deliver on the Government’s economic plan for a stronger and more resilient Australia. As at March 2021, there were more than 360 regional projects in planning, underway or under construction, with 47 additional projects in progress which will benefit regional and urban communities.

The Government is continuing to support investment to assist in getting regional Australia back in business following the pandemic through a number of priority projects including:

  • $1.5 billion invested over three years from 2020-21 to Shovel ready projects and targeted road safety works for priority regional and urban transport infrastructure to support local jobs and economic recovery. This investment includes $500 million to deliver smaller but critical projects to improve road safety and bolster the resilience of our road networks to improve safety across the country. Funding for regional Australia under this initiative totals more than $970 million;
  • $1.6 billion to the M1 Pacific Motorway Extension to Raymond Terrace project. The project will deliver a 15 kilometre dual carriageway extension of the M1 Pacific Motorway connecting the motorway at Black Hill to the Pacific Highway at Raymond Terrace. It will also include a 2.6 kilometre bridge over the New England Highway and Hunter River, and upgrades to the surrounding network, including the Hexham Straight widening to three lanes;
  • $682 million to the Bunbury Outer Ring Road (stages 2 and 3) in Western Australia to facilitate the development of the Bunbury Port and south-west industry, improving access to industrial areas, reducing congestion on the existing network, and improving travel times and road safety;
  • $591.6 million committed to the Newell Highway Upgrade programs. This corridor is a key route for the agricultural and mining sectors, and provides important connections to freight networks in New South Wales from the Queensland border to the  Victorian border;
  • $447.7 million committed to the Gippsland Rail Line Upgrade to deliver level crossing upgrades and replacement of corrugated steel drainage pipes along the corridor, with major delivery works involving additional level crossing and pedestrian crossing upgrades, rail control system upgrades, upgrades to four stations, and associated works along the rail corridor. In March 2021, the contract to deliver the project’s major package of works was awarded, with major construction to commence between Pakenham and Traralgon from mid-2021;
  • $330 million from 2013-14 to 2028-29, committed to upgrade up to 730km of the Outback Way across Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. These upgrades are aimed at improving the reliability, access and connectivity of the route to benefit Indigenous and remote communities, and support industries including tourism, mining and freight;
  • $452 million from 2013-14 to 2023-24 for upgrade of the Midland Highway to improve safety on the highway and achieve a minimum 3 Star AusRAP Safety Rating;
  • $180 million committed to the Central Arnhem Road Upgrade towards sealing, reconstructing, widening, and flood immunity improvements to priority sections of the route to a fit-for-purpose standard. Of this, $28.6 million is allocated to 2021-22 which will support the completion of two early works projects. The overall project is improving travel reliability and access to Nhulunbuy which in turn is helping support the communities and industries who rely on this link, and;
  • $160 million has been committed to the Joy Baluch AM Bridge to duplicate the existing two lane bridge as well as widening the approach roads to allow for two lanes in both directions. Construction work has commenced, and the new bridge is expected to open to traffic in 2022.

Northern Australia Roads Program

The Australian Government has committed $600.0 million, from 2016-17 to 2022-23, to the Northern Australia Roads Program to deliver upgrades for priority road projects in northern Australian that are essential to the movement of people and freight to support economic development. Works include upgrades, as well as safety and productivity improvements such as widening, overtaking lanes and pavement renewal.

This commitment includes $59.99 million for the Capricorn Highway - Rockhampton to Gracemere Duplication project in Queensland to duplicate five kilometres of the Capricorn Highway to four lanes. This project will support the movement of people and freight and will support the development of northern Australia.

The Northern Australia Roads Program is well advanced with 11 projects completed, 8 projects underway and the final project (Peak Downs Highway) is expected to commence in mid-2021. This project will deliver targeted road safety improvements, including wide centrelines, audiotactile linemarking, shoulder widening, installing safety barriers as appropriate, and removing roadside hazards.

Developing Northern Australia – Improving Northern Cattle Supply Chains (Northern Australian Beef roads Program)

The Australian Government is investing $100.0 million from 2016-17 to 2023-24, including $80,000 in 2021-22, towards the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program, to provide targeted upgrades to key roads to improve the reliability, productivity and resilience of cattle supply chains in northern Australia, reducing freight costs and strengthening links to markets.

Under the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program 17 projects across Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia are complete, with the remaining project, widening of the Gregory Development Road south of Charters Towers, to commence in 2021. The project will widen approximately 1.6km of road, and replace culverts on the southern and northern approaches of the Gregory Developmental Road in Queensland.

The Australian Government is also working with jurisdictions to maximise Indigenous employment and supplier use opportunities for all northern Australia road projects, funded under both the Northern Australian Roads and Beef Roads programs.

Roads to Recovery Program

The Roads to Recovery Program contributes to the Infrastructure Investment Program by supporting maintenance of the nation’s local road infrastructure asset. This, in turn, facilitates greater access for Australians and improved safety, economic and social outcomes. The Program provides funding to all local councils and states/territories in areas where there are no councils (unincorporated areas).

The Australian Government has committed a total of $6.2 billion to the Program from 2013-14 to 2023‑24, with an on-going commitment of $500 million each year following. The 2021-22 allocation is around $500 million. Around 50 per cent of this funding goes to rural and regional local councils.  

As part of the Government’s response to the enduring drought, the 128 drought-declared Councils eligible for funding under Drought Communities Programme Extension were provided with $138.9 million in additional funds under the Program in 2020.

Councils have a set program allocation and choose the projects on which they will spend their funding based on local priorities. Projects range in size from thousands of dollars, to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Black Spot Program

The Australian Government is providing $1.22 billion to the Black Spot Program over 11 years from 2013-14 to 2024-25, to fund safety works in places where there have been serious crashes or where serious crashes are likely to occur. This includes $137 million allocated for 2021-22. In 2020-21, the Government approved 372 projects across Australia that will reduce crashes and save lives on Australian roads through works including the construction of roundabouts and crash barriers, and upgraded street lighting.

More than 60 per cent of road deaths and a significant proportion of serious injuries occur outside of metropolitan areas. In line with national road safety policy objectives, approximately 50 per cent of Black Spot Program funds in each state (other than Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) have been set aside for projects in non-metropolitan areas. The Black Spot Program continues to deliver reductions to fatal and serious injury crashes at treated sites by up to 30 per cent. As at April 2021, more than 2,700 projects have been funded since 2013-14. Each state and territory receives a share of the total funding, based on crash data, population and vehicle kilometres travelled.

Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program

The Australian Government is investing a total of $538 million over 10 years from 2013-14 to 2023-24 to the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, which will provide funding to infrastructure projects that improve productivity and safety outcomes of heavy vehicle operations across Australia. Since 2015, more than 90 per cent of funding under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program has gone to projects located in rural and regional areas. The 2021-22 allocation under the program is around $77 million.

Seven funding rounds have been successfully completed under the Program. Under Round Seven, announced late 2020, 146 projects seeking over $140 million in Australian Government funding were successful.

Bridges Renewal Program

The Australian Government is investing a total of $676 million over eight years from 2015-16 to 2023-24 to the Bridges Renewal Program, to provide funding for upgrades to bridges that enhance access for local communities and facilitate vehicle access to enhance the local economy. The 2021-22 allocation is around $89 million. Around 85 per cent of funding under the Program has gone to projects located in rural and regional areas.

Five funding rounds have been successfully completed under the Program. Under Round Five, announced late 2020, 205 projects seeking over $140 million in Australian Government funding were successful.

Increasing job and business opportunities for Indigenous Australians in Regional Australia 

All states and territories agreed to the Australian Government’s National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects in 2019, which introduced the Indigenous Employment and Supplier-use Infrastructure Framework. The Framework aims to create opportunities for Indigenous job-seekers and businesses on Australian Government funded infrastructure projects under the Infrastructure Investment Program.

The Framework aligns with Outcome 8 of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, by improving socio-economic participation through the provision of increased opportunities for Indigenous businesses and individuals to work in the road and rail construction industry.

Under the Framework funding recipients (state, territory and local governments) are required to develop an Indigenous Participation Plan establishing employment and supplier use targets for new road and rail construction projects receiving $7.5 million or more of Australian Government funding; projects funded under the Roads of Strategic Importance in Northern Australia; and where there is high potential to support Indigenous outcomes.

As at 1 May 2021 over 140 projects under the Infrastructure Investment Program have agreed employment and supplier use targets in place under the Framework. This represents an estimated 900 jobs and hundreds of millions of supplier-use spend for Indigenous Australians over the life of the projects.

Office of Road Safety

The Office of Road Safety (ORS) was established on 1 July 2019 to provide a national leadership role to reduce road trauma. ORS is responsible for driving road safety outcomes at a national level, improving coordination and leadership across all levels of government. ORS is focused on supporting the achievement of zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roads by 2050 by promoting innovation, and facilitating collaborative activities including research and awareness outcomes. ORS also delivers multiple programs of national significance, including the $2 billion Road Safety Program which will make a significant contribution to proactively detecting and treating deficiencies in road infrastructure, including in regional areas. ORS is focused on the elimination of road trauma across all Australian environments, noting that two thirds of road deaths consistently occur in regional and remote areas.

Road Safety Innovation Fund

The Road Safety Innovation Fund is providing $12 million in grants over four years until 2022-23. The Office of Road Safety is administering the program. Round 2 opened in February and is expected to close in late-March to early-April 2021. Priority areas include improving road safety in regional and remote areas, reducing driver distraction and drug driving, improving safety for vulnerable road users, and supporting road safety research and initiatives specific to the Australian context.

Keys2drive

The Australian Government is providing a $16 million total funding commitment over four years to 2023 to the successful Keys2Drive program. Keys2drive provides a free theory and practical lesson to learner drivers and their supervisors, as well as providing access to a website with resources and information. The program will continue to have a focus on improving the reach of Keys2Drive into regional and underserved communities.

Australasian New Car Assessment Program

The Australian Government is continuing to encourage the purchase of safer vehicles through the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) with a funding commitment of $6.64 million over five years until 2022-23.

National Road Safety Data Hub

The establishment of a National Road Safety Data Hub (the Hub) costing $5.5 million over four years commenced in late 2020. The Hub will bring together road safety data to inform governments’ investments in road infrastructure and measure its effectiveness, and provide a robust evidence base to facilitate best practice road safety policy outcomes, including in regional Australia which is overrepresented in road fatalities. Having access to data that is accurate, robust and available in a timely manner allows policies to be targeted and agile providing for faster interventions that will make a difference and save lives sooner and help identify and improve roads with high safety risk in regional areas.

Awareness and Enablers Fund

The $4 million Road Safety Awareness and Enablers Fund announced in the 2019-20 Budget has been finalised, with 20 projects funded over up to four years (seven projects were election commitments and 13 projects were awarded through an open grants round held in late 2019). Funded projects include the Rural Road Safety Month Campaign and Driver Reviver Revitalisation Project to provide drivers with locations to rest and recharge across Australia.

Inland Rail

The Australian Government has committed up to $14.5 billion in equity for the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to deliver Inland Rail. The 1,700km rail line will complete the ‘spine’ of the national freight network, providing cost competitive and reliable transport between Melbourne and Brisbane in under 24 hours, while connecting major ports and all mainland State capitals.

Inland Rail is nationally significant infrastructure involving the construction of 600km of new rail track and the upgrade of 1,100km of the existing rail corridor. ARTC is expected to deliver the most complex section between Gowrie to Kagaru in Queensland through a Public Private Partnership.

At its peak in 2023-24, construction is expected to support more than 21,500 jobs and provide significant stimulus to regional communities and businesses along the alignment in Victoria, New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland. Approximately $3.6 billion is expected to be invested locally on wages and with local businesses to deliver the supplies, materials and services that support construction of Inland Rail.

The project is expected to deliver a boost of more than $18 billion to Gross Domestic Product during construction and the first 50 years of operation.

In September 2020, trains commenced operation on the Parkes to Narromine section of Inland Rail. More than 1,800 people worked on the Parkes to Narromine project, including 762 local residents. Nearly $110 million was spent with 99 local businesses supplying and servicing Inland Rail – demonstrating the capacity of the project to stimulate regional economies and jobs immediately through construction.

Construction of the second section between Narrabri and North Star began in November 2020. The remaining 11 sections of Inland Rail, including those in Victoria and Queensland, are expected to be under construction by2023 following State environmental approvals. The first trains to run the full Melbourne to Brisbane alignment are expected to operate in 2027.

Inland Rail  is expected to act as a catalyst for new and expanded regional investments in food and fibre processing, manufacturing, packing, distribution and transport, supporting a further 2,500 full time jobs for regional Australia in the 10th year of operation.

The Australian Government is developing business cases with the Victorian and Queensland governments to explore options for the development of intermodal terminals capable of meeting the Inland Rail service capability in Melbourne and Brisbane respectively. With the delivery of fit for purpose terminals at the end points of Inland Rail, the infrastructure is expected to deliver improved access to and from regional markets, reduced costs for business and improved linkages within the national freight network.

To drive further value from the Inland Rail infrastructure the Australian Government has provided business case support for the development of 38 local project proposals under the $44 million Interface Improvement Program.

Regional Officers in Toowoomba, Moree, Dubbo and Wodonga continue to provide a direct connection between the Australian Government and regional communities and industry to maximise the benefits of Inland Rail.  They connect people with opportunities and information to help realise the jobs, investment and supply chain enhancements.

The complementary investments and business expansions expected alongside Inland Rail are estimated to provide a further boost of up to $13.3 billion to Gross Regional Product (GRP) in the first 50 years.

Supporting National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities

The Australian Government is committed to maximising the benefits of better connecting the national freight rail network with regional Australia. It is expected that strategic business cases will continue to be developed, identifying opportunities to support more productive rail-based supply chains at major regional centres. This is expected to build capacity on key country rail lines enabling heavier, faster and longer country freight rail services.

The following rail initiatives are expected to help contribute towards the Government’s wider commitment to the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy and Action Plan to address the need for safer and better freight performance: 

Grade Separating Road Interfaces in New South Wales

In October 2020, the Australian Government committed $150 million in funding over four years for a Grade Separating Road Interfaces project. The project is a joint venture between the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government. New South Wales is contributing $37.5 million to the project, taking the total combined funding to $187.5 million. The project interfaces with national, State and regional roads. The funding is expected to enable additional grade separations along the Inland Rail alignment in New South Wales. The Australian and New South Wales governments are working constructively to implement the funding commitment. Work in 2021 includes the identification, prioritisation and agreement of interfaces to be investigated under a project proposal report.

Northern New South Wales Inland Port – Narrabri

In October 2020, the Australian Government announced $7.8 million to support the delivery of the Northern New South Wales Inland Port project, which is located in Narrabri. This project is expected to support improved freight productivity and connectivity between regional New South Wales and key markets. The project involves construction of a 1,800 metre‑long rail siding with slip road infrastructure to facilitate rail loading and storage capability of the New South Wales Inland Port Logistics and Freight Hub. The Australian Government funding complements the existing New South Wales Government commitment of $16.8 million to the hub. The project is in its early planning phase.

Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme

On 7 January 2021 the Australian Government announced $6 million in assistance under the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme (BSPVES) to fund a temporary higher rebate which will make the sea transport of an eligible car or bus across Bass Strait free of charge.  The increased rebate will also reduce the transport of other eligible passenger vehicles under the scheme during the applicable travel period 1 March 2021 to 30 June 2021. The temporary higher rebate will help accelerate Tasmania’s economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 through increased sea passenger numbers and tourism. In 2021-22 the BSPVES is budgeted to provide $52.6 million in rebates to eligible passenger vehicles.

National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety

Australia’s domestic commercial vessel industries are mainly located in coastal and regional Australia and are an important part of tourism, transport and fishing.

Since July 2018, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has been solely responsible for delivering the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety (the National System), achieving nationally consistent delivery of vessel safety regulation for the first time.

A review of all costs and charges for the National System was to be conducted in 2020-21 and involve wide public consultation. In recognition of the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australia’s maritime industries, the Australian Government decided to delay this review. The review is now expected to commence in mid-2021. The review will consider the appropriateness of charges for the national system, informed by data and public consultation.

To ensure AMSA can continue delivering vital safety regulation for our maritime industries, the Australian Government will provide $11 million funding in 2021‑22 for the National System while the review is being undertaken. Safety standards and services should not be compromised as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, or by deferring the charging review, so the Government is ensuring there is stable funding for AMSA.

This further funding extends the Government’s 2018 commitment – that no levy would be charged to industry for the first three years of AMSA’s delivery of National System services – by 12 months, meaning no levy will be charged to industry in 2021-22.

Universal Service Guarantee (USG)

The USG provides people across Australia with access to telephone, payphone and broadband services on reasonable request, using infrastructure provided by NBN Co, Telstra and other statutory infrastructure providers. The telephone and payphone components of the USG are delivered by Telstra, through the historical universal service obligation (USO). While the USG and USO apply nationally, they are particularly important in rural and remote areas, where the cost of service delivery means support is required. The Department manages the USO contract with Telstra, under which Telstra is paid $253 million per annum in support of the delivery of telephone services and $44 million per annum in support of payphone services. This contract runs to 2032. The broadband component of the USG is largely delivered by NBN Co, which receives support through the Regional Broadband Scheme.

Australian Postal Corporation – supporting regional communities

Australia Post has the largest retail network in Australia and through this network is able to provide essential services to communities across Australia, including those in rural and regional areas. Post Offices provide access to a variety of vital products and services including letter and parcels services, financial and banking services, identity services, and a range of State and Federal Government services, including Passport renewals. In particular, Australia Post’s Bank@Post service provided a valuable service to regional communities when more than 400 bank branches temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Post Offices operate in-conjunction with other small businesses.

Regional Connectivity Program

Access to reliable, affordable and innovative digital services and technologies is critical for regional communities. Improving digital connectivity will support regional industries to continue to navigate recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, capitalise on changed businesses conditions, and better engage in the digital economy.

The Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) targets investment in place-based telecommunications infrastructure projects which respond to local priorities and maximise economic opportunities and social benefits for regional, rural and remote Australians.

Under Round 1 of the RCP, $82.1 million in Commonwealth funding has been allocated towards 81 communications infrastructure projects to provide new or improved connectivity across regional Australia. This is leveraging a total investment of over $180 million in telecommunications infrastructure in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Government also committed funding of up to $3 million for the Regional Tech Hub through the 2019-20 Budget as part of the RCP. The Government entered into a contractual agreement with the National Farmers’ Federation to manage and operate the Hub in partnership with the Australian Communications and Consumer Action Network. The Hub launched in December 2020 and provides independent advice to regional, rural and remote Australians on how to make the most of the digital connectivity available in their area. The contract for the operation and management of the Hub is in place until September 2021 with the option to extend the contract for an additional 12 months.

The RCP is also funding the Government’s $2 million Alternative Voice Services Trials, which are designed to identify, test and demonstrate new ways to deliver voice services, more in line with changing consumer preferences, in rural and remote areas. Grants have been awarded to Concerotel, NBN Co, Optus, Pivotel, Telstra and Zetifi. The Trials run to June 2022.

Viewer Access Satellite Television

The Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) program provides funding through to 30 June 2024 for broadcasters to deliver commercial free-to-air television services to over 210,000 households, largely in regional and remote areas, who would otherwise not be able to receive free-to-air television services. The VAST service includes dedicated news channels carrying nightly bulletins from regional commercial television broadcasters. The VAST platform is also used by ABC, SBS and some community radio and television broadcasters to deliver broadcasts via satellite to a largely regional and remote audience.

Mobile Black Spot Program

The Australian Government has committed $380.0 million to the Mobile Black Spot Program, which has leveraged a total investment of more than $836 million in telecommunications infrastructure that improves mobile coverage and competition across Australia, making it the largest government investment to improve mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia in our history. The first five rounds of this program have funded the delivery of more than 1,200 new base stations, over 922 of which are now on air. 

The latest round of the Program, Round 5A, includes a focus on improving mobile connectivity along major transport corridors and in natural disaster-prone regions, as well as testing new technologies that support shared mobile coverage in regional areas. Funding for Round 5A will be drawn from the unused portion of the funding allocated to Round 5 in the 2019-20 Budget. The application process for Round 5A closed on 5 March 2021 and applications received from Mobile Network Operators and infrastructure providers are currently being assessed. The outcomes from this round will inform the design of Round 6, which will commence in the second half of 2021. $80 million has been budgeted for Round 6.

Investments in the National Broadband Network (NBN)

NBN Co Limited (NBN Co) announced in its 2021-2024 Corporate Plan that it will invest $4.5 billion by 2023 to deliver better outcomes for residential and business broadband consumers. These investments include:

  • $700 million Business Fibre initiative to offer wholesale symmetrical speeds up to 1 Gigabits per second (Gbps) on-request at no up-front build cost to 90 per cent of business premises. This includes the establishment of 240 Business Fibre Zones to provide metro-equivalent priced enterprise grade broadband to more than 700,000 businesses
  • $3.5 billion network upgrade program that will provide 75 per cent of NBN fixed-line premises with access to ultra-fast broadband (of up to 1 Gpbs) by 2020
  • $300 million development fund to co-invest with local, state and federal governments to boost connectivity in regional Australia

For regional Australia, the investments by NBN Co are expected to result in:

  • Around 950,000 Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) premises in regional areas having access to speeds up to 1 Gbps on demand by 2023
  • 250,000 regional businesses located in Business Fibre Zones with access to ultra-fast broadband capability and metro-equivalent wholesale pricing
  • By partnering with state, federal and local governments, the $300 million co-investment fund will deliver more fixed-line broadband infrastructure into the NBN Satellite and Fixed Wireless footprints 
  • Investments are expected to create an estimated 10,000 additional regional jobs by 2024
  • Investments are expected to create an estimated 2,800 new regional businesses by 2024
  • Investments are expected to generate $1.5 billion in additional gross domestic product annually for regional Australia by 2024
  • $50 million FTTN line speed uplift program to resolve in-home wiring issues
  • $50 million Business Fibre co-investment fund to create more business fibre zones, including in regional areas.

NBN Co will fund these upgrades through existing and new private debt facilities. There will be no impact on the Commonwealth Budget or the Commonwealth’s funding of the company.

Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters Package

The Australian Government has committed to a new $37.1 million Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND) Package to prevent, mitigate and manage telecommunications outages during emergencies. This initiative forms a key part of the Government’s $650 million Regional Recovery and Development Program for locally-led bushfire recovery. This initiative will increase network resilience and preparedness so communities can better deal with future emergencies and natural disasters.

The measures within the STAND Package include:

  • $10 million for temporary telecommunications infrastructure deployments, comprising a $1.7 million tied grant to NBN Co for the purchase of five new NBN Road Muster satellite trucks and 12 portable satellite kits and competitive grants open to national carriers for facilities such as cells on wheels (COWS) and mobile exchanges on wheels (MEOWs)
  • $7 million to deliver up to 2000 NBN Co satellite services to rural and country fire service depots and evacuation centres across the country
  • $2.1 million to improve Government information to communities about access to telecommunications in emergencies.

Access to power is a critical issue for communication networks: the April 2020 Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) report on the impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires found that 1,390 telecommunications facilities across Australia were impacted by the bushfires, and that network outages were overwhelmingly due to loss of power rather than fire damage. As part of the STAND Package, the Government has also committed $18 million for a new Mobile Network Hardening Program to keep mobile infrastructure operating for longer during emergencies, with a focus on strengthening back-up power supplies.

The first stage of the Mobile Network Hardening Program will provide funding to upgrade mobile base stations built under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program, to increase back-up power to 12 hours, where feasible. The second stage will be a new competitive grants program that will improve the resilience of regional telecommunications infrastructure more broadly.

Australian 5G Innovation Initiative

As part of the Job Maker Digital Plan announced on 29 September 2020, the Australian Government allocated $22.1 million over three years from 2020-21 to deliver the Australian 5G Innovation Initiative (the Initiative). The next generation of mobile technology, 5G, offers higher speeds and reliability, lower latency, and supports a much higher number of connections. As well as enhancing mobile services for consumers, the technology can support novel industrial applications that can improve innovation, productivity, and Australia’s international competitiveness. 5G has a range of potential applications, including for autonomous farm machinery, networks of sensors to monitor crops and environmental conditions, and automated vehicles in the transport sector.

The Initiative will provide up to $20 million in for trials of 5G technology that support emerging commercial uses in key industry sectors, bringing forward the potential economic and productivity benefits of 5G to the Australian economy. The grants program is open and competitive, and the projects that are funded are dependent on the applications received. Projects are expected to include those in the agriculture, transport, manufacturing and logistics sectors, where applications of 5G have the potential to support economic development and productivity including in regional Australia.

Improved Spectrum Management

As part of the Job Maker Digital Business Plan announced 29 September 2020, the Australian Government committed to investing in improved systems to manage the allocation of electromagnetic spectrum. Timely allocation of spectrum is required to allow telecommunications providers to deploy 5G services throughout Australia, which will improve telecommunications services and support economic growth in regional areas. The Government is investing $1.8 million over two years from 2020-21 on an updated spectrum auction system, so that high-value, 5G-suitable spectrum can be allocated efficiently.

The Government is also investing $5.3 million over two years from 2020-21 under the Job Maker Digital Business Plan on an updated and simplified digital licence system. Thousands of businesses, including many in regional Australia, rely on access to spectrum to support their operations, for example, to communicate with a helicopter mustering cattle, two-way communications running reef and rainforest tours, and in infrastructure such as remote irrigation systems or managing a grain silo. An updated licence system will make it easier for businesses to apply for and maintain radio communications licences.

Online Safety Grants Program

The Online Safety Grants Program enables non-government organisations to apply for grant funding to deliver projects that improve online safety of Australian children, including in regional communities. In the first round in 2020-21, eight grants were awarded totalling over $2.2 million which included two projects specifically targeting rural, remote and regional communities. This program will continue in 2021-22, with the second round of the Program having $4.5 million in grant funding available.

Public Interest News Gathering Grant Program

On 29 June 2020, the Australian Government announced that 107 regional publishers and broadcasters would share in $50 million under the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) Program. The objective of the PING Program is to support regional broadcasters and publishers to maintain or increase their production and distribution of public interest journalism in regional communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 brought about unprecedented circumstances in regional media, triggering significant drops in advertising revenue affecting the sustainability of regional broadcasters and publishers. Grantees are using the funds for a range of activities including journalist and staff wages, training and technology upgrades that will allow them to keep delivering quality news to their local communities.

As at 29 April 2021, a total of $48.6 million in PING funding has been paid out to grantees to maintain or increase their production of public interest journalism to regional Australian communities. The Department is currently assessing six month reports which indicate that grantees under the PING Program have increased both the number of journalists employed in regional Australian communities and the number of mastheads which are being produced.

Keeping Australians Safe Online

The Australian Government’s Online Safety Bill will deliver new and strengthened schemes to keep Australians safe online. Due to become law in 2021, the new legislation will strengthen and extend Australia’s world leading online safety framework for Australians – no matter where they live – including:

  • a new adult cyber abuse complaints and take-down scheme
  • a new set of basic online safety expectations for industry that make clear how they should keep users safe online
  • expanding the remit of the eSafety Commissioner’s powers to capture relevant players such as overseas-based social media services, gaming platforms, app stores and search engines
  • a new power for the eSafety Commissioner to act quickly in a crisis to ask internet service providers to block access to terrorist and extreme violent content
  • greater powers to the eSafety Commissioner to issue take-down notices for seriously harmful content – no matter where in the world this is hosted.

In the 2020-21 Budget, the eSafety Commissioner was provided with $39.4 million over three years from 2020-21 to support the introduction of this important legislation and to keep Australians safe online.

Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund – 2020 Round

On 24 April 2020, the Australian Government announced the opening of a $5 million grant program (with a maximum of $400,000 per applicant), administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, to support regional and small publishers. On 5 August 2020, the Australian Government announced that 41 regional and small metropolitan publishers would share $5 million to boost the sustainability and ongoing production of news in a modern media environment. On 12 November 2020, the ACMA awarded funding to an additional 2 publishers. This was possible due to a reduction of grant funding to an existing 2020 Round grant recipient.

As at 30 April 2021, the ACMA has paid $3.15 million (GST exclusive) in grants of financial assistance.

In 2021-2022, the ACMA will analyse post-grant information submitted by grantees to assess the benefits and outcomes of the grants.

City and Regional Deals

City and Regional Deals are long-term agreements between the three levels of government and the community, focussed on aligning planning, investment and governance to accelerate growth and job creation, stimulate urban renewal and drive economic reforms. City Deals are the primary mechanism for delivery of the Australian Government’s Cities agenda. 

City Deals are being delivered in Townsville, Launceston, Darwin, Western Sydney, Hobart, Geelong, Perth and Adelaide. A commitment has been made to develop City Deals in South East Queensland, North West Melbourne and South East Melbourne, and a pilot Regional Deal in Albury-Wodonga.  The delivery of the Hinkler and Barkly Regional Deals will continue to drive jobs, economic growth and liveability in key urban centres and regions.

Eight City Deals and three  Regional Deals are being delivered with a total Australian Government commitment of $8.28 billion. The Australian Government commitment has leveraged additional investment from deal partners of $8.93 billion.

Updates on the progress of all City and Regional Deals is available at https://infrastructure.gov.au/cities/.

A focus of the Deals in regional cities has been to coordinate efforts across governments to support urban renewal, stimulate industry and employment opportunities and improve liveability. City Deals which are targeting regional Australia are listed below.

Albury Wodonga Regional Deal

The pilot Regional Deal in Albury Wodonga is currently under negotiation. The Statement of Intent for the Deal was signed on 10 July 2020 between the Australian Government, New South Wales Government, Victorian Government, Albury City Council and the City of Wodonga Council.

The Regional Deal is an opportunity to ensure that Albury Wodonga prospers over the next decade by supporting population growth and economic development while also ensuring it remains a nationally-significant, liveable and prosperous region.

Hinkler Regional Deal

The Hinkler Regional Deal is a five year partnership between the Australian Government, Bundaberg Regional Council and Fraser Coast Regional Council that integrates the major centres of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay and their surrounds. The Deal focuses on facilitating innovation and new industries to ensure that the region can capitalise on its comparative advantages, enhancing local communities with new facilities to live, work and play, and unlocking regional transport to maximise economic opportunities for the region.

The Hinkler Regional Deal involves place-based opportunities to build on the area’s strengths to boost economic growth and long-term employment. Initiatives underway include the redevelopment of the Hervey Bay Airport, establishing a new hospice in Hervey Bay and an Agricultural Technology facility in Bargara. Future projects under the Hinkler Regional Deal also include the redevelopment of the Hervey Bay City Centre ($40 million), the construction of a multi-use conveyor belt for the Port of Bundaberg ($10 million) and various road upgrades in the region ($85.7 million).

Barkly Regional Deal

The Government is providing $45.4 million from 2019‑20 for the Barkly Regional Deal.

The Barkly Regional Deal is the first regional deal in Australia – a 10 year, $78.4 million commitment between the Australian Government, the Northern Territory Government and Barkly Regional Council to improve the productivity and liveability of the Barkly region by stimulating economic growth, improving social outcomes and supporting local Aboriginal leadership.

The funding includes $15.4 million for the installation of a new weather radar near Tennant Creek, with a co‑contribution of $2.5 million from the Northern Territory Government; and $7.6 million for community infrastructure projects funded through the Building Better Regions Fund.

South East Queensland City Deal

The City Deal for South East Queensland is currently under negotiation. On 15 March 2019, the then Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, the Queensland Deputy Premier and the Chair of the Council of Mayors SEQ co-signed a Statement of Intent outlining a shared 20 year vision for the Deal.

Western Sydney City Deal

The Western Sydney City Deal is a 20 year agreement between the three levels of government to deliver jobs, connectivity, skills and education pathways, and improve liveability for the people of Western Sydney through 38 commitments, including the Western Parkland City Liveability Program and the Western Sydney Housing Package.

Geelong City Deal

The Geelong City Deal is a 10 year partnership between the three levels of government to secure the economic success of Geelong and its people. The Geelong City Deal supports the revitalisation of Central Geelong and the region’s continued economic diversification, with particular focus on unlocking the significant economic potential of the visitor economy of the Great Ocean Road region.

Perth City Deal

The Perth City Deal is a 10 year partnership to deliver economic stimulus, jobs and liveability outcomes for Perth CBD. The Deal has 15 commitments, with the centrepiece being a commitment to deliver the Edith Cowan University Cultural and Creative Industries CBD Campus.

Darwin City Deal

The Darwin City Deal is a 10 year partnership that will position Darwin as a vibrant and liveable tropical capital city. As the centrepiece, the Education and Community Precinct will transform the city centre and increase vibrancy. The Darwin Living Lab will help to cool and green the city by establishing best-practice in tropical urban living. The Deal also provides support for the Larrakia people as the traditional owners of Darwin, through funding for the design phase of a new Larrakia Cultural Centre.

Adelaide City Deal

The Adelaide City Deal is a 10 year partnership between the Australian and South Australian Governments and the City of Adelaide to grow South Australia’s innovation and cultural economy and to develop and maintain cultural and environmental assets in the surrounding region.  Deal partners are investing in Lot Fourteen as a hub for research, innovation, and entrepreneurialism in technology and the arts; and support cultural and environmental projects in Adelaide’s suburbs.

Hobart City Deal

The Hobart City Deal is a 10 year partnership that will provide the framework to guide and encourage further investment in the city by embracing opportunities for growth and addressing key strategic and infrastructure challenges. By working with the Tasmanian Government and the Clarence, Glenorchy, Hobart and Kingborough Councils, the City Deal will ensure Hobart can get ahead of the curve on population growth by tackling traffic congestion and housing affordability.

Townsville City Deal

The Townsville City Deal, signed in December 2016 by the Australian Government, Queensland Government and Townsville City Council, is a 15 year plan to secure the economic success of the city by bringing together all relevant policy, program and funding levers to achieve a shared vision for Townsville as an economic gateway to Northern Australia and a lifestyle-rich city for residents and visitors alike.

Launceston City Deal

The Australian Government, the Tasmanian Government and the City of Launceston are delivering in partnership on the Launceston City Deal’s ten year vision to make the city one of Australia’s most liveable and innovative regional cities. A key initiative under the City Deal is the relocation and redevelopment of the University of Tasmania’s Launceston campus to Inveresk in the city’s CBD. A suite of projects to improve the health of the Tamar Estuary is already in progress.

National Water Grid Fund

The Australian Government is continuing delivery of the National Water Grid. Eight construction projects are now operational, with seven of these having been completed since the establishment of the National Water Grid Authority (NWGA) in late 2019. 

  • The eight completed projects are (figures represent the Australian Government contribution): South West Loddon (Victoria) - $20 million, Macalister Irrigation District Phase 1B (Victoria) - $20.0 million, the Sunraysia Modernisation Project 2 (Victoria) - $3 million, the Warwick Recycled Water for Agriculture 1 (Queensland) - $0.8 million, McLaren Vale Treated Water Storage (South Australia) - $2.5 million, Coolanie Water Scheme (South Australia) - $0.7 million, the Scottsdale Irrigation Scheme (Tasmania) - $25.3 million and Mitiamo (Victoria) which has reached practical completion- $14.5 million.
  • A further five projects are currently under construction (figures represent the Australian Government contribution): Western Irrigation Network (Victoria) - $48.1 million, Macalister Irrigation District 2030 Phase 2 (Victoria) - $31.3 million, Rookwood Weir (Queensland) – $183.6 million, Mareeba-Dimbulah (Queensland) - $11.6 million, and the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme (South Australia) - $45.6 million.
  • With nine projects currently in planning (figures represent the Australian Government contribution): Wyangala Dam (New South Wales) - $325 million, Dungowan Dam and Pipeline (New South Wales) – $242.0 million, the East Grampians Water Supply (Victoria) - $32.0 million, Emu Swamp Dam (Queensland) - $42 million,  Big Rocks Weir (Queensland) - $30 million, Hughenden Irrigation Scheme (Queensland) - $180 million, Myalup-Wellington (Western Australia) - $140 million, Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme (Western Australia) - $39.7 million, and the Tasmanian Irrigation Tranche III Phase 1 (comprising multiple schemes in Tasmania) - $100 million.

Western Queensland Irrigation and Agriculture Scheme Assessment

In 2020-21 and 2021-22, the Australian Government is providing $3 million through the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority to support potential new irrigation based development opportunities in regional northern and western Queensland. This initiative is enabling a technical and engineering assessment to identify prospective areas in Burdekin and Flinders River Basins suitable for large scale irrigation through the provision of water infrastructure. The project complements the $24 million Hells Gates Dam Scheme and $10 million Hughenden Irrigation Project detailed business cases which are due for completion in early 2022.

COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund

The Australian Government established the $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund (the Fund) in March 2020 to deliver targeted assistance to regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Through the Fund, the Australian Government has supported industries including aviation, fisheries, tourism, events and the arts.

The Fund is administered by the Department, with each initiative under the Fund administered by the relevant department or agency with portfolio responsibility.

The following Fund initiatives administered by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications have been agreed since Budget 2020-21 or announced as being extended to provide support into 2021-22:

  • Supporting Cinemas’ Retention Endurance and Enhancement of Neighbourhoods (SCREEN) Fund ($20 million)
  • Playing Australia Regional Recovery Investment ($5 million)
  • Support Act – Further support for artists, crew and music workers ($10 million)
  • Regional Airline Network Support Program ($198.0 million)

Other measures that are administered by another department or agency that the Government has announced as extended into 2021-22 to meet the continued need of the tourism and trade sectors include:

  • Supporting Australia’s Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums ($94.6 million)
  • Business Events Grant program ($50.0 million)

Regional Recovery Partnerships

In the 2020‑21 Budget, the Australian Government committed $100 million over two years from 2020‑21 to fund Regional Recovery Partnerships. The Partnerships coordinate investments with other levels of government to support recovery and growth in 10 regions: the Snowy Mountains, Hunter and Newcastle; and the Parkes Regions in New South Wales; Cairns and Tropical North Queensland, Gladstone, and Mackay-Isaac, Whitsunday Regions in Queensland; the Gippsland Region in Victoria; Kangaroo Island in South Australia; the South West Region of Western Australia; and all of Tasmania.

As of May 2021, projects have been announced in a number of regions. Commitments for projects to be delivered in Queensland include $10 million for the Cairns Gallery Precinct, $5 million for a hydrogen knowledge centre and $5 million for the Auckland Hill economic development in Gladstone, and $3.2 million to upgrade the Clermont Saleyards and Showgrounds in the Isaac Region.  In Gippsland Victoria, $10 million has been committed to seven community-based projects to boost the visitor economy, such as the East Gippsland Rail Trail.

Drought Communities Programme Extension

The Drought Communities Programme Extension supports communities in regions impacted by and recovering from drought. $297 million is being provided by the Australian Government to 180 eligible Local Government Areas for projects which deliver an economic stimulus, use local resources, and support communities.

Over 520 projects have been funded across New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, with 343 projects completed (at 22 April 2021). The program is closed to new entrants and remaining projects are to be completed by 30 June 2022.

Drought Communities Outreach Program

The Australian Government has provided $7.5 million in grant funding to Rotary Australia World Community Service Limited (Rotary) from the Drought Communities Outreach Program to support farming households facing hardship as a result of the drought. Rotary is providing $500 vouchers to meet immediate household expenses and supporting the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency’s outreach activities. The program ends on 31 December 2021.

Tackling Tough Times Together

The Australian Government provided a $15 million grant to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal’s Tackling Tough Times Together community grants program. Government funding is contributing to Rounds 11‑22 of the program. The outcomes of Round 22 are expected to be announced by December 2021. 

Building Resilient Regional Leaders Initiative (Pilot)

The Australian Government is investing in current and emerging regional leaders to further develop current leadership and resilience skills to support their local communities through future economic challenges. The Building Resilient Regional Leaders Initiative (Pilot) is investing $5 million over two years from 2021­‑22 to 2022‑23 to deliver place based leadership training in regional communities. Local leaders have a significant role to play in boosting the resilience and vibrancy of their community. Recent events, such as floods, bushfires and the COVID‑19 pandemic have tested local regional leaders in unprecedented ways and it is more important than ever to ensure leaders are supported to develop their skills and tenacity. Investing in the leadership capacity within regional communities by supporting resilience training and development for leaders will ensure adaptability and togetherness into the future. It is expected providers will be engaged in the second half of 2021.

Continued Funding for the Regional Australia Institute

The Australian Government is continuing its investment in the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) Intergovernmental Shared Inquiry Program (ISIP), committing a further $400,000 over two years from 2020-21 towards the research program. The Intergovernmental Shared Inquiry Program is a collaborative partnership between Regional Australia Institute, governments with regional development responsibilities, and a select number of universities. The research and policy program explores opportunities and challenges facing regional communities—now and into the future—to better inform and coordinate government policy responses. The Intergovernmental Shared Inquiry Program is an ongoing program of work for Regional Australia Institute, which is collaborating with its partners on future research priorities.

The Australian Government is contributing $4.6 million over two years from 2020-21 towards Regional Australia Institute’s National Awareness Campaign. This is to promote the benefits and opportunities of living in regional Australia, helping to recover from recent crises such as COVID‑19, the summer bushfires, drought and flood events. The Regional Australia Institute’s National Awareness Campaign, Move to More, was officially launched by the Deputy Prime Minister in March 2021. Expected activities for 2021-22 include the launch of the Population Mobility tool, the Annual Regional Jobs Report and the Regions Rising Summit and Series for 2022.

Regional Development Australia Committees

The Regional Development Australia (RDA) network comprises 52 Regional Development Australia Committees (RDAs) and the Indian Ocean Territories Regional Development Organisation (IOT RDO). They work with all levels of government, business, industry, educational institutions and community groups to support economic and workforce development, local procurement, strategic regional planning and inform government programs and infrastructure investments.

To further strengthen the Regional Development Australia network the following improvements to the program came into effect on 1 January 2021:

  • Regional Development Australia Committees have been given greater role clarity through a streamlined Charter with a focus on growing strong and confident regional economies.
  • The role of Capital City Regional Development Australia Committees has been refocused to support economic development of regions by advocating for pro-regional policy, planning and decentralisation opportunities, influencing state capitals and city based businesses on regional issues.
  • Regional Development Australia Committees are required to facilitate the development of regional strategic plans, to help align effort and identify key regional priorities and catalytic projects to support economic growth.
  • The term of Regional Development Australia Committees’ funding agreements has been extended from 3 to 4 ½ years to provide a sustainable medium term operating environment.
  • Funding indexation has been reintroduced in line with the Regional Development Australia program appropriation.

The Australian Government is providing $77.2 million for the Regional Development Australia Program over the period 2020‑21 to 2023‑24.

Better Data Use to Support Delivery for Regional Australians

The Australian Government has invested $13.7 million over four years commencing in 2020-21 for the program, which will provide government and community decision-makers with better economic, social and demographic data on regional Australia. As part of this program the Regional Data Hub will make location-specific data publicly accessible and searchable to improve outcomes for regional Australians, building on existing regional data resources such as the Progress in Australian Regions dashboard. The Government has begun consulting with data users and providers to identify use cases that meet the data needs of regional Australia and in 2021-22 will begin progressively incorporating data into the Hub.

Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

The Australian Government maintains and improves the overarching legislative framework of the self-governing territories of the ACT and NT.

In the Australian Capital Territory, the Australian Government has retained policy responsibility for some planning and land management activities (administered by the National Capital Authority). The Australian Government also provides funding to the ACT Government for National Capital Functions, to support Canberra’s role as the national capital $2 million 2021-22.

In the Northern Territory, the Government appoints and funds the salary and travel for the Northern Territory Administrator $429,000 in 2021-22.

Services to Indian Ocean Territories

The Australian Government supports the communities of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands through the provision of essential services and funding for major infrastructure. Services delivered by the Australian Government − either directly via agreement with the Western Australian Government or under contract to the private sector − include healthcare, education, power, water, ports and airports. In 2021-22, the Australian Government is providing $113.4 million in administered funding and allocated $10 million in capital funding support to the Indian Ocean Territories.

Services to Norfolk Island

Since passing legislation which extended Commonwealth laws to Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016, the Australian Government has continued to invest in improvements to service delivery for the Norfolk Island community. In 2021-22 the Australian Government is providing $67.6 million in funding for essential services to Norfolk Island. The Australian Government has also allocated $5.0 million in capital funding in 2021‑22 for the maintenance of Commonwealth assets.

Services to Jervis Bay Territory

The Australian Government supports the community of the Jervis Bay Territory by funding the provision of state-level and local government type services. In 2021-22 the Australian Government is providing $6.5 million in funding for service delivery and allocated $0.5 million in capital funding. State-level services, such as education, justice and welfare are delivered by the Australian Capital Territory Government under a service delivery agreement.

Australia Council

The Australia Council provides significant support to the arts in rural, regional and remote Australia with grants for individuals, groups and organisations, national touring programs, and strategic national development and capacity building programs.

This includes supporting a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultural activities in regional and remote areas. The Australia Council also supports artists and arts organisations based in metropolitan areas to deliver projects, tour and engage with regional communities.

Every year the Australia Council invests in artistic activities in regional Australia, increasing access for audiences, fostering the vitality of artists and arts organisations in regional and remote communities, and strengthening the mobility of diverse and excellent Australian work. In 2019-2020, the Australia Council invested $20.9 million in artists and organisations based in regional Australia.  This investment supported the creation of art with and by regional communities and artists; the operation of regionally based organisation; professional development for regional leaders; and touring of work by regional artists and organisations. The Australia Council is on track to deliver a similar level of investment to regional Australian in 2021-22.

Australian Museums and Galleries Association Bursary program

The Australian Museums and Galleries Association (AMaGA) National Conference Bursary (Bursary) Program provides funding to support the attendance of museum staff and volunteers from regional and remote areas in Australia and Indigenous Australians at AMaGA’s annual National Conference as a delegate or a speaker. The 2021 National Conference will be held from 7 to 10 June in Canberra, and AMaGA’s next National conference will be held in the first half of 2022.

The bursary assistance provides recipients with an opportunity for professional development, peer engagement and the sharing of knowledge. It also provides recipients with exposure to what is happening in the museums and galleries sector at a national level, an opportunity that may not otherwise be readily available to them.

In 2021-22 the Australian Government will provide $22,000 to support the Bursary Program. AMaGA distributes funding to eligible applicants to assist with paying conference registration fees and travel, and transfers and accommodation expenses for conference attendees.

Community Heritage Grants

The Community Heritage Grants Program will receive $490,000 of Australian Government funding in 2021-22, along with support from the National Library of Australia, National Film and Sound Archive, National Museum of Australia and National Archives of Australia. The Program will deliver grants of up to $15,000 to community groups, including historical societies, regional museums, public libraries and Indigenous and migrant organisations, to support the preservation of publicly accessible heritage collections which are locally owned and nationally significant.

These collections contain a wide range of materials including artefacts, letters, diaries, maps, photographs and audio visual material. First-time recipients also receive expert preservation and archival training at support workshops provided by the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum of Australia. Since 1994, 1,506 projects across Australia have received over $7.65 million in funding, a significant proportion of which has gone to regional organisations.

Creative Partnerships Australia

Since its creation in 2013, Creative Partnerships Australia has delivered capacity-building and mentoring programs that assist artists and cultural organisations to diversify their revenue streams through philanthropy, sponsorship and fundraising. Creative Partnerships Australia also delivers matched funding programs for artists and arts organisations, and manages the Australian Cultural Fund, a fundraising platform that facilitates tax-deductible donations from arts supporters.

In 2021-22, the Australian Government will provide $4.7 million to assist Creative Partnerships Australia to build the capacity of artists and arts organisations across Australia, including in the regions, to secure revenue from private sector giving.

Cultural Gifts Program

Under the Cultural Gifts Program (CGP), the Australian Government offers a tax incentive to encourage taxpayers to donate culturally significant items to Australian public collections for all Australians to access.

In terms of dollar values, the CGP produces the following outcomes:

  • In the financial years 2018-19 and 2019-20, 863 donors donated $127 million worth of cultural items to 182 public collecting institutions;
  • On average, approximately $6.5 million worth of cultural items are donated to the collections of regional and remote public institutions each year.

Festivals Australia

The Festivals Australia program provides communities in regional Australia with access to a diverse range of high quality and innovative arts projects that grow audiences at festivals. In 2021‑22, $1.3 million will be provided to support arts projects that encourage partnership and collaboration across the arts sector and community participation in arts activities at festivals in regional and remote areas.

Indigenous Languages and Arts Program

The Indigenous Languages and Arts Program will invest $20.8 million in 2021-22 to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to express, preserve and maintain their cultures through languages and arts activities throughout Australia. For Indigenous languages, the Program provides annual operational funding to a network of 20 Indigenous language centres, 17 of which are based in regional and remote communities. These place-based, Indigenous-led organisations, work with Indigenous language groups to capture, revitalise, maintain and promote traditional First Nations languages. The Program also supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to develop, produce, present, exhibit or perform Indigenous arts activities that showcase Australia’s traditional and contemporary Indigenous cultural and artistic expressions.

The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap introduced on 30 July 2020, includes Target 16 that specifically identifies Indigenous languages – By 2031, there is a sustained increase in the number and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages being spoken. The National Agreement commits parties to establishing policy and place-based partnerships which respond to local priorities, including in Regional Australia. 

The United Nations has designated the period between 2022 and 2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. The Australian Government is continuing to take a leadership role and has secured a place on the Global Task Force for the decade.

Indigenous Repatriation

The Indigenous Repatriation program facilitates the return of Australian Indigenous ancestral remains in overseas collections, and Australian Indigenous ancestral remains and secret sacred objects held in seven state and territory museums and the National Museum of Australia, to their communities of origin. The Australian Government has supported repatriation of ancestors from overseas for over 30 years with more than 1,610 ancestors repatriated to Australia. Domestically, more than 2,710 ancestors and 2,240 objects have been returned to the custodianship of their community from eight major Australian museums since 1998. Many of these communities are located in regional and remote Australia.

Location Incentive Program

The Government is providing $505 million over eight years from 2019-20 under the Location Incentive Program to attract large budget international screen production to Australia, bringing international investment and providing local employment and training opportunities. Some production will take place in regional areas, benefiting local communities and businesses through significant expenditure and employment opportunities, as well as potential tourism benefits.

Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme

Many cultural institutions and community organisations around Australia care for maritime items of historical and national significance.

The Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme (MMAPSS), which is administered by the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM), is a grants program which collects, conserves and exhibits Australia’s rich maritime heritage by helping these groups undertake this important role. The program targets smaller collecting institutions around Australia.

In 2021-22 the scheme will receive $105,000 from the Australian Government, with the ANMM providing an additional $20,000. The scheme provides grants of up to $15,000 to cultural institutions and community organisations for collection management initiatives, including documenting and caring for collections; and presentation projects, including education programs and workshops. It also supports staff or volunteers, from regional or remote organisations, to spend time learning specific skills and making valuable connections. The ANMM may also provide in‑kind support to successful MMAPSS applicants.

In addition, the ANMM funds an internship program, worth up to $3,000 per recipient. Internship applications are sought during the annual MMAPSS round. The internship program supports staff or volunteers from remote or regional organisations to spend time learning specific skills and making valuable connections.

The Australian Government has provided more than $1.9 million to over 460 projects and over 60 internships under the Scheme, since its inception in 1995.

National Cultural Heritage Account

The National Cultural Heritage Account (the Account) is established under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. It supports cultural organisations to acquire Australian Protected Objects for display and safe-keeping. In doing this, the Account helps to retain and protect Australia’s cultural heritage for future generations and provide public access to important objects that tell a story about our cultural identity.

In 2021-22 the Australian Government will provide funding of $0.5 million for the Account, which is open all year.

The Government understands the importance of preserving and displaying Australia’s unique artefacts locally for current and future generations. Funding has supported national and state institutions as well as regional organisations across Australia, including museums, art galleries, libraries, archives, and historic buildings to purchase significant objects that they could not otherwise afford. Regionally based organisations that have received assistance in recent years include the Orange Regional Museum, NSW, the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, SA and the Southern Tablelands Vintage Farm Machinery Club in Taralga, NSW.

National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program

Engagement with regional and remote communities is a longstanding priority for the National Collecting Institutions (NCIs). The NCIs deliver a variety of initiatives through a combination of on-site offerings, as well as physical and virtual outreach activities.

In 2021-22 the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach (NCITO) program will make available funding of $1.0 million to assist the NCIs to develop and tour exhibitions from their collections. The program also promotes international awareness of Australia’s cultural heritage through touring material from NCI collections overseas, and expands Australian appreciation of international cultural material by enabling NCIs to bring works from international collections for exhibition or touring within Australia.

The program aims to make Australian and international cultural material accessible to all Australians, especially those in regional communities.

National Library of Australia – Treasured Voices

The Australian Government is providing $10 million over four years from 2019-20 to support the National Library of Australia’s Treasured Voices program which will have far reaching positive benefits for the Australian regional community. The continued digitisation of the National Library of Australia’s collection will provide free access for all Australians, via Trove, to a significant collection of material, including the digitised papers of eminent Australians including General Sir John Monash and Sir Robert Menzies. These papers would otherwise only be available for viewing on-site in Canberra.

Since its launch in 2009, Trove has become a fundamental piece of our national research infrastructure, providing widespread access to museum pieces and documents. In 2019‑20 Trove recorded 25.32 million visitor sessions, demonstrating the ongoing success of the platform as a repository of Australian heritage material.

National Performing Arts Training Organisations

Australia’s seven national arts training organisations, which in 2021-22 will receive funding from the Australian Government in the order of $23.2 million, have a national reach as centres of excellence. These organisations are: the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA); the Australian National Academy of Music; the National Institute of Circus Art; the Australian Youth Orchestra; the Australian Ballet School; the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association; and the Flying Fruit Fly Circus.

As leaders in performing arts training, the organisations accept students from all states and territories and conduct annual auditions, including in regional areas. Those unable to attend auditions due to geographic distance are invited to submit postal and/or digital applications and show reels. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students auditioning for the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College can seek support from ABSTUDY towards travel and accommodation expenses, ensuring students from remote and regional communities have equal access to auditions.

Regional Arts Fund

The Regional Arts Fund provides support for sustainable cultural development in regional and remote Australia. The program provides funding for a mix of quick response grants and project grants for arts projects, professional development for artists and arts workers, and community capacity building projects. The program also funds high priority strategic projects.

For 2021-22, the Government has allocated $3.6 million to the Regional Arts Fund. The program is delivered on behalf of the Australian Government by Regional Arts Australia and organisations in each state and territory.

Register of Cultural Organisations

The Register of Cultural Organisations is a list of nearly 1900 cultural organisations that can receive tax deductible gifts. The Register aims to strengthen private sector support for the arts and encourages Australians to contribute to the nation’s vibrant cultural life. Australian organisations, including those in regional areas where other sources of philanthropic funding may be more difficult to secure, can be listed on the Register if their principal purpose is to promote cultural activities in Australia.

Support for the Australian Music Industry

In the 2019-20 Budget context, the Australian Government announced investment of $30.9 million over five years to grow Australia’s thriving music industry. The programs are supporting the provision of live music to Australian communities and ensuring local artists can expand into lucrative international markets. The package includes funding to establish a grants program to support live music venues to increase performance opportunities for musicians and regional audiences; to establish a development program for Indigenous musicians and bands to support touring, recording and the set-up of touring circuits; a mentorship and training program aimed at empowering women working in the Australian music industry by assisting them to build skills and develop relationships they need to get a foot in the door and take the next step to establish and build their careers.

Visions of Australia Program

The Visions of Australia program improves access for Australians particularly in regional and remote areas to Australian cultural material held in a wide variety of national, state and local collections.

The Australian Government will provide $2.5 million in 2021-22 through the Visions of Australia program to cultural organisations towards the costs of developing and touring exhibitions of cultural material of historic, scientific, design, social or artistic significance, with a focus on touring to regional venues.

The program also encourages partnerships between organisations, particularly collaboration across the collections sector, to form curatorial partnerships and deliver professional development.