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Shire's hard sell

Thursday, 23rd July, 2009

The Central Darling Shire Council wants philanthropists to think outback when deciding where to put the $11 billion they donate each year.

General Manager of the Shire, Tim Hazell, said wealthy individuals or corporations considering worthy social causes often did not think of places like Wilcannia, Menindee or Ivanhoe.

But Mr Hazell said the economic and social problems in remote areas made them as deserving as anywhere else for socially-minded investment.

And he said it was business investment and the transfer of expertise and skills that the region needed.

"In Wilcannia, for example, we see a number of opportunities to connect well-meaning investors with projects that are not only economically viable, but would also make a huge difference to the lives of local residents.

"Economic development is the key to sustainable improvements to life opportunities in remote regions, especially among indigenous communities."

Mr Hazell said philanthropic investment in new business ventures would help stimulate economic activity and create jobs in the Shire, which is the State's second most economically depressed region.

"Many of our residents are trapped in a welfare cycle, and to break it we need private initiatives that offer an outlet for creativity, ambition and enterprise," he said.

"Our call is for corporations and wealthy individuals, including retirees, who want to put something back into communities that are doing it hard, to take a close look inland at remote Australia."

Mr Hazell said the Shire was looking at ways to link its location, heritage and the artistic output of local Aboriginal groups as a way of stimulating economic development.

He said discussions were underway with one retired couple who were interested in buying a disused, historic building in Wilcannia for conversion into a tourism venture.

Mr Hazell said the potential investors were partly motivated by a desire to open up opportunities to local Aboriginal people.

The approach followed a Sydney professional's decision to buy a property in Wilcannia following a professional engagement in the Shire.

Advertising executive Stewart Kennedy said working in the far west gave him an insight into both the unique challenges and special appeal of the outback.

"Working in and around Wilcannia and the Darling River has been a personal revelation," Mr Kennedy said.

"The decision to purchase land in the town was a natural step, done for my own reasons but in the knowledge that it would benefit the local community ultimately."

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