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Starting fightback from adversity

To combat the pain felt from the Grafton Jail downsizing, a community forum will be held to encourage locals to continue the fight for the region's future.
To combat the pain felt from the Grafton Jail downsizing, a community forum will be held to encourage locals to continue the fight for the region's future. Debrah Novak

DESPITE the ongoing pain from the Grafton Jail downsizing, Valley residents are being encouraged to look to the future.

Clarence Valley Community Unions has organised a forum this Wednesday, bringing in academic Professor Bill Mitchell, an expert in jobs and regional communities.

The organisation's Tony King, who will chair the forum, said it was vital for the region to continue the fight and stand together.

"The axing of 108 workers at Grafton Jail showed the devastating impact of what those in Macquarie St can do to Grafton and the region," Mr King said.

"The people who live in the Clarence Valley are the experts on what we need to build, maintain and achieve for a successful future."

The "Future of the Clarence Valley Forum" will be supported by media partners The Daily Examiner and 2GF/FM104.7.

"It has been proven that those in government in Sydney don't care. Andrew Stoner as leader of the Nationals has shown he doesn't care, so that means we need to be more proactive and tell them what we want, not just wait for the crumbs they give us," Mr King said.

"We now need to be channelling our anger into concerted action. We need to take charge of our future and this forum is a vital step in achieving that goal.

"I strongly urge everyone to be involved; make their views known as well as hearing what the rest of the community has to say."

Professor Bill Mitchell is from the economics faculty at the Uni- versity of Newcastle and is an expert in labour markets and macro economics.

He has worked for organisations all over the world as well as here in Australia.

He said his research centre specialises in regional areas and does special analysis and work on labour markets within those areas, looking at the way they grow and contract.

"We have an understanding of the processes that occur to cause a region to start losing job opportunities and the multiplier effects of that," Prof Mitchell told The Daily Examiner.

"When an area loses jobs, it loses services. Income is lost. It then loses a dentist, a grocery shop. These sorts of services start disappearing and the area starts losing teenagers and school leavers go to capital cities."

Prof Mitchell said that while he hadn't done any specific research on the Clarence Valley he will be talking about the general ways areas grow and what factors are important in determining the fate of a region.

He said there was a trend in policy to think regions are divorced from their position in the national economy and are "masters of their own destiny".

"That's not a well-founded view," Prof Mitchell said.

"It doesn't sit well with what we know about regions all around the world that grow.

"Very few can grow on their own effort when there is a hostile external environment."

He said he will give an evidence-based approach on how the Clarence Valley will overcome this loss of jobs and while there were a number of things a region can do, state and federal governments must also have an input.

The forum will take place on Wednesday, August 15 at the Grafton RSL Club from 6.30pm.

Topics:  bill mitchell, clarence valley, grafton jail, jobs


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