The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise (TAASE) at The University of South Australia is undertaking new research to investigate ways to support the long-term economic and social wellbeing of the towns of Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla.
Once heavily dependent on the mining industry, these Upper Spencer Gulf communities have gone through numerous cycles of industrial transformation over the past few decades, with limited success.
Under the guidance of Dr Catherine Mackenzie, the TAASE project will examine how locally developed primary, secondary and service industries support these townships, both economically and socially, and how local enterprise might be fostered and enhanced.
Dr Mackenzie will recruit and supervise a post-graduate research student to investigate the value and potential of local economies in the Upper Spencer Gulf region, and TAASE is encouraging local residents to apply for the position, with scholarship funding available for the right candidate.
“Past research by TAASE suggests local enterprise is an essential part of the fabric of regional communities, providing social as well as economic support, and this new research aims to understand how we can foster that in the Upper Spencer Gulf region.
“While there is some variety in economies in the area, it has been mining-reliant industries that have defined them economically, in the process influencing the social and cultural fabric of the communities that have helped sustain them,” Dr Mackenzie says.
“In recent years, investment from international entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Sanjeev Gupta has brought some promise along with some disappointment, but local options are often overlooked, and our project really aims to highlight those local options.
“An outcome of the research will be to understand the best pathways to foster and develop local entrepreneurs in the region.”
The research will also be supported by Dr Jen Cleary, CEO of Centacare Catholic Country SA, who brings to the project both local knowledge and a wealth of experience in research into regional, rural and remote development.
Dr Cleary says that, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, regional communities face unique challenges, and local economic and social networks will need more support than ever through the recovery process.
“The many aspects of community social and economic wellbeing, relationships and lifestyles that are such positive features will be impacted by the aftermath of COVID-19,” Dr Cleary says.
“School enrolments; service and retail businesses; community volunteers; and sporting and social club memberships will likely continue to decline beyond the immediate impacts, especially if we see people leaving the regions to find employment in urban areas.
“It is therefore imperative that both social and economic challenges are addressed simultaneously to best support our communities to address recovery – both need to be the focus of policymakers, and this research project will be an important means to support and emphasise that focus.”
Prospective domestic students interested in the project would need to apply by 31st October to be considered for a scholarship.