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The Regionalisation Ambition - 2023 Progress Report

One year ago, the Regional Australia Institute led the development of a holistic framework to better plan for and invest in the growth of regional Australia – the Regionalisation Ambition 2032.

Spanning five pillars, the Ambition is underpinned by 20 targets addressing fundamental aspects of regional living. If achieved, these targets will improve the lives of regional Australians for generations to come and, importantly, create a better Australia.

To keep the nation accountable, the RAI committed to reporting annually on progress against the 20 targets. Here, the RAI presents the first Regionalisation Ambition – 2023 Progress Report.

Read the report in full to dive deeper into the year that was in regional Australia! 

Download the 2023 Progress Report

Explore an overview of the progress against each target by clicking on a pillar below


What's in the 2023 Progress Report?

This report looks at progress made towards the Ambition’s targets and showcases the great work our policymakers, corporate leaders and championing communities are delivering to shift the targets in the right direction.

This year several target measures have moved in the right direction, particularly across education, migration and the transition to net zero in our regions.

However, several target measures are lagging in areas that continue to dominate the national conversation. In particular, the measures of recruitment difficulty and housing availability are not yet shifting in a positive direction.

This year as part of the RAI’s broader activation of our research and purpose, we kicked off a series of local workshops to talk community wins, opportunities and actions for regional areas to thrive into the future.

Read more about the conversations from these workshops via our Latest news!

The Western Downs Regional Council is a member of the Regional Activators Alliance and contributed to the shaping of our Regionalisation Ambition 2032 last year. Since the launch of the Ambition, the Council has leveraged the Framework’s pillars and targets in their own region, as part of the recent refresh of their Economic Development Strategy.

Learn more about their process via our Latest news.

The Future Shapers leadership program, delivered by the Committee for Ballarat, highlights how non-government organisations are creating impact from the Ambition. As part of a refresh of the program this year, the Framework pillars and 20 targets were leveraged to structure their dialogue and focus topics.

Read about their application of our Framework via our Latest news.

 Jobs and Skills

Click on a target below to explore progress at a national level, and across states!

Legend for target indicators:

 Progress moving in the right direction

 Progress continues unchanged

 Progress moving in the wrong direction

 Reduce the recruitment difficulty in regional Australia to below 40%

Regional recruitment difficulty remains high, increasing from 64% to 69% (between 2022-2023), still higher than capital cities (at 66%, June 2023)

Regional Queensland has the lowest recruitment difficulty of all regions at 60% (2023), with the Northern Territory seeing the largest drop in recruitment difficulty between 2022 and 2023, from 76% to 66%

 Increase the share of skilled workers employed in regional Australia to 80% of the regional workforce

No year-on-year change, with 73.2% of the regional workforce in skilled occupations, compared to major capitals at 79.2% (May 2023)

The Northern Territory continues to have the highest proportion of skilled workers at 80.9% (2023)

 Increase the school attainment rate of young people in regional Australia to 75% or above

The attainment rate for regional students has increased from 69.6% in 2020 to 71.4% 2021, lower than capital cities (at 82% in 2021)

Regional South Australia continues to have the highest school attainment rate of all regions, at 84.7% (2021)

 Boost post-school qualification completion in regional Australia to 65% or above

The proportion increased from 57.5% in 2021 to 58.4% in 2022, however the gap between regions and major cities is persisting (with major cities at 64.9%)

The Northern Territory continues to have the highest post-school qualification rate at 66.5% (2022)

RAI’s report Regional Jobs 2022: The Big Skills Challenge highlights the record demand for workers in regions, with December 2022 recording a 10% annual increase in the number of roles advertised (outpacing growth in capital cities of 3%).

This year the RAI launched ‘It’s Your Move’ – Regional Australia’s Biggest Ever Recruitment Drive. Spotlighting the diverse and rewarding jobs on offer across our regions, you can find your next dream job in regional Australia!

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank are proactively supporting the Ambition’s Jobs and Skills pillar by helping young rural and regional Australians access higher education and training opportunities and increasing skilled work opportunities in our regions.


Click on a target below to explore progress at a national level, and across states!

Legend for target indicators:

 Progress moving in the right direction

 Progress continues unchanged

 Progress moving in the wrong direction

 Continue to increase the life satisfaction and wellbeing score of Australians living in regional communities to a score of 75 in the Regional Wellbeing Survey

Regions’ score increased from 72 in 2020 to above 73 in 2021, in both the Personal Wellbeing Index and Global Life Satisfaction, higher than metro counterparts (at 70)

Regional Western Australia has the highest Personal Wellbeing Index score of 75.2, meanwhile, regional NSW has the highest Global Life Satisfaction score of 74.5 (2021)

 Increase regional Australia’s Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) score to 75 or above, equal to metropolitan Australia

The regional ADII has increased from 67.4 (2021) to 69.8 (2022) but remains lower than 74.8 in metro areas

Regional Victoria has the largest proportion of Local Government Areas (6.1%) with a Digital Inclusion Index higher than the metro average (2022)

 Improve access to transport services in and between regional communities

Regional Australians are less satisfied with their access to public transport, with the Regional Wellbeing Survey score dropping from 3.5 (2020) to 2.9 (2021) out of 7, similar to metro areas (dropping from 5.4 to 4.4)

Northern Territory rates access to public transport the highest of all regional areas, at 3.7 out of 7 (2021)

 Increase rental vacancy rates in regional areas to above 3% and ensure annual building approvals keep pace with population growth

The regional vacancy rate has increased from 1.0% to 1.5% (Q2 2022 - Q2 2023), and is higher than that in capitals (at 1.1%)

Meanwhile, monthly building approvals for regions have been decreasing since August 2021, a similar trend to capital cities

Monthly building approvals dropped the least in regional South Australia between August 2021 and May 2023, by -11.5%, compared to -23.8% across regions nationally

 Lift the access to medical practitioners in regional Australia by over 100 FTE per 100,000 population

The number of medical practitioners in regional Australia (per 100,000 population) increased from 323 FTE in 2020 to 334 FTE in 2021, remaining lower than metropolitan areas (at 481)

The Northern Territory has the highest medical practitioner FTE per 100,000 population, at 574 (2021)

 Halve the population classified as living in a regional childcare desert (to below 2 million)

The number of childcare services in regional Australia increased by 5.2% between 2021 and 2022, a larger increase compared to major cities (2.0%)

Regional Queensland has the lowest proportion of regional population living in a childcare desert at 25.8% (2021)

 Increase the percentage of students in regional Australia who meet or exceed the minimum standard in NAPLAN testing, with this proportion equal to metropolitan students, across each year level

Across all domains and year levels (except Year 7 spelling), the gaps between Major Cities’ and Very Remote students achieving at or above the minimum standard have decreased, though they are still significant (2022)

The proportions of students at or above the minimum standard in NAPLAN testing in regional Victoria is higher than the national regional averages across all domains and year levels, except for Year 7 and 9 writing (2022)

 Strengthen access and opportunities for engagement in arts, cultural, community and recreational experiences in regional Australia

Regional Australians sense of ‘getting involved in the community’ in the Regional Wellbeing Survey was strengthened in 2021, with the score increasing to 3.3 out of 7 (from 2.3 in 2020), higher than the metropolitan score of 2.9

Regional Western Australia scored the highest for 'getting involved in the community' in the Regional Wellbeing Survey at 3.8 out of 7 (2021)

The RAI Childcare Study, funded by Origin Energy, in Queensland’s Western Downs and Maranoa regions highlighted that there are currently nearly two people with relevant childcare qualifications for every person employed in the sector within the region

As part of their pledge to support Liveability, Nutrien Ag Solutions delivered 45 courses in 2023, training 630 regional Australians in lifesaving trauma first aid skills.

Read the report to find out more about their work!

New research by the National Rural Health Alliance this year found that healthcare spending in rural Australia is almost $850 lower per capita than in urban areas.


Click on a target below to explore progress at a national level, and across states!

Legend for target indicators:

 Progress moving in the right direction

 Progress continues unchanged

 Progress moving in the wrong direction

 Over 11 million Australians are living prosperously in the regions by 2032

Regional Australia’s population increased from 9.5 million in 2021 to 9.6 million in 2022

Regional Queensland saw the highest regional population growth in 2022, and has the most geographically balanced population with over half (52.1%) of Queensland’s population living in the regions (2022)

 Increase regional Australia's younger population share (15-39 years) to 35% by 2032

The share of younger regional Australians dropped in 2021 to just under 29.8% (compared to 30.3% in 2020), in line with an ageing population nationally, with metropolitan areas also declining from 36.8% to 36.2%

The Northern Territory continues to have the highest share of younger population at 40.1% (2021)

 Double the proportion of new migrants settling in regional Australia by 2032 to 40%

The proportion of overseas arrivals settling in regions in 2021 increased slightly to 18.5% (from 17.4% in 2020)

Regional Queensland attracts the highest regional share of overseas arrivals to Australia, at 6.1% in 2021-22. Meanwhile, regional Victoria saw the highest increase in overseas arrivals, jumping by 474% between 2020-21 and 2021-22

The Regional Movers Index (RMI) a project delivered in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, has continued to highlight the heightened mobility of city-dwellers to our regions, with capital-to-regional migration reaching its third highest level in five years in our March 2023 quarterly release.

Overseas migrants continue to play an integral role in the growth of regional Australia. Between the 2016 and 2021 Census periods, 70% of the 254 local government areas that saw an increase in population in both Australian and overseas-born residents, were regional areas

This year, the RAI launched a new Podcast series, ‘You Moved Where?!’, and several new short films sharing stories of satisfied people who have #movedtomore - check them out at

 Productivity and Innovation

Click on a target below to explore progress at a national level, and across states!

Legend for target indicators:

 Progress moving in the right direction

 Progress continues unchanged

 Progress moving in the wrong direction

 Increase regional Australia’s contribution to national output, boosting Australia’s GDP by an additional $13.8 billion by 2032

The regional contribution to national output in 2022 (35.5%) was nearly the same as the previous year (35.3%)

Regional Australia experienced higher Gross Regional Product (GRP) growth (4.2%) than metropolitan areas (3.4%) between 2021 and 2022

 Increase workforce participation in regional Australia to 68% or higher

The regional workforce participation rate increased slightly from 63.5% to 63.9% (between May 2021 and 2023), however remains lower than capital cities (at 68.4%)

The Northern Territory continues to have the highest workforce participation rate at 74.3% (2023), while Western Australia is the only state where regional workforce participation (at 69.6%) is higher than the capital city (with Perth at 69.1%)

 Increase new business and innovation in regional Australia

There was a small increase in the regional share of new business entries, from 27.7% in 2021 to 28.8% in 2022

There has been a slight increase in the share of trademarks registered in regions, from 13.0% (2020) to 13.1% (2021), and share of businesses owner managers in regions, from 38.3% (2016) to 38.5% (2021)

Regional Queensland continues to hold the largest regional share of national registered trademarks at and new business entries at 5.4% (2021) and 9.0% (2022) respectively. Meanwhile, regional New South Wales continues to have the highest share of business owner managers, at 12.9% of the national total (2021)

A report released by the CSIRO and Tech Council of Australia this year, 'The geography of Australia's digital industries', highlights that many digital clusters are thriving in regional areas, identifying 36 regional ‘niche’ clusters. Check out their Tech Industry map to find out where!

The Youth Entrepreneurship Summit set up in Dalby this year, with the support of our RAA member the Western Downs Regional Council. This was the first time the event was hosted outside of a metropolitan city!

Read the report to find out about other highlights from the year.

Elders have led conversations across the country this year championing innovation and productivity in the agriculture industry – attending 48 industry field days, and delivering 18 internal conferences to support continued learning, development and capacity building across Elders’ employees.

Read the report to find out about other pledges in progress.

 Sustainability and Resilience

Click on a target below to explore progress at a national level, and across states!

Legend for target indicators:

 Progress moving in the right direction

 Progress continues unchanged

 Progress moving in the wrong direction

 Regional Australia is trending towards net zero emissions by 2050, unlocking new jobs and industry opportunities

In 2021, over half of employment in renewable electricity generation was based in regional Australia, growing by more than 60% since 2016. This is slower than metropolitan areas, where renewable energy jobs have grown by just over 100%

Tasmania continues to have the highest share of national employment in renewable electricity generation in 2021, at 20.4%

 90% or more of regional Australia has a moderate to high capacity for disaster resilience

No new analysis has been released this year.

Just over 50% of regional Australia has a moderate to high capacity for disaster resilience, compared to over 90% in metropolitan areas (2020)

Regional Victoria has the highest proportion of areas with moderate to high resilience, at 82.7% (according to the Australian Disaster Resilience Index, 2020)

This year the Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) program was delivered in 10 locations, to 200 participants across regional Australia. Through practical tools, expert guidance, and collaborative discussion, the program seeks to build resilience in communities through capacity to implement change, readiness and opportunity, rather than by ‘coping’ or ‘surviving’ crises.

Read More 

The NRMA have continued to grow their regional EV fast charging network, installing 99 chargers and partnering with the federal government to deliver a further 117 regional fast charging sites across the national highway network.

Read the report to find out about other pledges in progress.

We've had 63 pledges from supporters right across the nation.

Are you delivering great work to improve outcomes across our Ambition in regional Australia?

Pledge now