Abstract: This report deals with priorities for research into rural communities and rural social issues. Although the study was commissioned by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), the views expressed are those of the team from Edith Cowan University responsible for its preparation. These views have been informed and tempered by input from many other organisations and people interested in this important field. The report is based on an extensive literature review, together with information derived from a survey of policy-making agencies and researchers, as well as discussion at a national workshop held in Canberra on 19 May 1999. The literature review concentrates on work published in the past five years, although some seminal, older publications are also mentioned. An e-mail survey questionnaire was used to obtain information on recent publications, research projects currently under way and issues that respondents considered should be accorded priority for further research. The recommendations contained in the report give priority to issues that meet each of the following criteria 1. The issue is itself one of major importance. 2. There is a major gap in recent research in this field. 3. Further research has the potential to inform policy-making, public discussion and/or social practice. The report is structured as follows: Chapter 1 outlines the background, purpose and methodology of the study. Chapter 2 begins with a discussion of issues involved in defining the term ‘rural’. After considering various types of social research, it discusses the relationship of RIRDC’s research program to that of other agencies. Chapter 3 examines the range of large-scale economic adjustments that have affected life in rural Australia, particularly as these relate to agriculture, regional development, local government, demographic change, and the viability of small towns and rural communities. Chapter 4 deals in more detail with labour markets, employment and unemployment in country towns and rural communities. Chapter 5 takes up the issue of social wellbeing, and problems in measuring the impact of policies and socioeconomic changes on different segments of the population. It discusses the integration of social, environmental and economic objectives in the quest for sustainable rural communities. Chapter 6 addresses issues of education and learning as they bear upon rural productivity, employment opportunities, personal development, and the resilience of rural communities. Chapter 7 considers a broad range of health-related issues, including health service delivery, the health needs of particular segments of the population, issues of safety at work and on the roads, and mental health. Chapter 8 discusses further infrastructural issues that are salient to the wellbeing of rural communities. These include telecommunications, banking services, housing, transport and the consequences of a rapidly growing tourist industry. Chapter 9 reviews other possible priority areas for research. These include Indigenous issues, women, youth, farm succession, disasters and risk management, and crime.
Notes: ISBN 0 642 58160 6 ISSN 1440-6845