Beyond population growth: bringing connection, renewal and agency into regional development
Background Boosting the population growth of towns and cities across regional Australia has long been a popular aspiration. However, the reality of many regional locations is long-term population decline.
Aims Regional development has been underpinned by a growth paradigm which conflates population growth with success. This article explores how some regional communities have experienced renewal, fostered innovation, and enhanced community wellbeing without population growth.
Data and methods A mixed methods approach informs this paper. Five case studies are used to illustrate ways in which regional communities can experience successful economic and social outcomes without population growth. Literature is provided for context and empirical data are used to illustrate key features of the selected towns.
Results The case studies reveal themes of connection, place, agency and wellbeing which contribute to ‘successful’ communities. For example, developing connections with a wider network within the region or across sectors enables economic growth through innovation, irrespective of population growth.
Conclusions Being able to respond to, or take advantage of, change is an important element in regional development and one which creates community renewal and wellbeing even if not population growth.