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Australia’s rural regions typically have fragile and narrow economic bases specializing in agriculture, mining, or leisure and recreation. We canvass the major sources of economic fragility, which is growing fast through global competition, massive technological progress, and many other pressures for change. These severely diminish the capacity of governments to deliver effective top-down and one-size-fits-all regional development strategies. The antidote to fragility resides instead in local self-help strategies designed to increase communities’ entrepreneurial, technological, future-oriented, and innovative capacities. Knowledge about optimal delivery of such outcomes in Australia’s sparsely settled regions is, however, limited. This suggests an agenda of action research to promote and document local experiences – both successes and failures – in promoting the cultural change necessary to deliver stable adaptation.
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