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Trip to the North West

Trip to the North West

I am very pleased to rise today to talk about my recent travels to the Pilbara and Kimberley, in my electorate of Durack, late last week. Western Australia's north-west is indeed one of the most unique, diverse and picturesque regions in Australia. As stated in the northern Australia white paper, Our north, our future, the Pilbara and the Kimberley have enormous potential, and the Turnbull government is committed to developing not just those two regions but the whole of northern Australia, which is why we have now seen the appointment of a minister for the region, Josh Frydenberg. The reason for this? The north is important. We know that the earnings from the Pilbara alone are larger than 119 countries' economies yet are generated by only 60,000 people—a remarkable achievement.

Last Wednesday, I was pleased to be able to chair the 'Aboriginal engagement in the Pilbara' session of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia's Future of the Pilbara forum. I discussed the work I am doing on the Indigenous affairs standing committee, such as our recent inquiry into the effects of alcohol in Indigenous communities and our upcoming inquiry into educational outcomes for Indigenous students. We have heard it before: the Pilbara became the epicentre of Australia's recent mining boom. Mining jobs in the region more than doubled, from 8,512 in 2006 to 18,500 in 2011, and the region's gross regional product grew from $7 billion in 2008-09 to nearly $35 billion this year. The forum discussed and dissected both the challenges and the opportunities the region faces in the future. It was an excellent event—congratulations to CEDA. It was attended by a diverse range of people with one key goal: to see the Pilbara thrive and develop into the economically diverse powerhouse we know it can grow into.

On Thursday, I had the honour of representing the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to launch the Aboriginal Family Law Service WA's Sparkle and Grow program in Kununurra—I love saying that: Sparkle and Grow. It has a great ring to it. The Aboriginal Family Law Service provides a professional legal service while aiming to be a leader in the provision of family violence legal services, support and education for Aboriginal people who have experienced or are experiencing family or sexual violence. Sparkle and Grow is an inspirational program aiming to build confidence and self-worth for teenage girls—but I note it can be adapted to teenage boys—with a focus on human rights and family law. The organisation started the program last year and it is run for five two-hour sessions for over five months, targeting 12- to 16-year-olds but adaptable to a range of ages.

On Friday, I attended and spoke at the Kimberley Economic Forum, held in Broome. Hosted by the Broome Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the forum was an opportunity for business and community leaders from throughout the region to discuss the opportunities the Kimberley faces in the future. Many senior members of the community spoke at the event, such as Mayor Graeme Campbell, who is also the chair of Regional Development Australia in the Kimberley; James Brown, Chair of the Broome Tourism Leadership Group; Glen Chidlow, CEO of Australia's North West Tourism Board; and Wayne Barker, festival and cultural events coordinator of the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre. I had the opportunity to speak about the work the Turnbull government is doing for the Kimberley, as set out in the northern Australia white paper, such as the commissioning of a water resource assessment in the west Kimberley to identify water and soils for further development. This is necessary to entice investors. We have committed $5 million to conduct an examination of the economic feasibility of the development of stage 3 of the Ord River in Kununurra. We are also spending $100 million to improve the cattle supply chains through a northern Australian beef roads fund. And we must not forget the $5 billion concessional loan scheme for important infrastructure.

This government is fair dinkum about developing the north, and I am proud to play my role on the implementation committee to ensure that the northern Australia white paper does not sit on a shelf gathering dust in the future.

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