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Welcoming Address

Dr Rosemary Clarkson

Executive Director, Rural Industries Business Services, Department of Primary Industries

It is a great pleasure to be here tonight to represent the Department of Primary Industries. Warren Hoey and I were talking yesterday about how much we were looking forward to coming, for the stimulation, the chance to take on board new ideas and ways to improve our services to our rural clients and simply to spend time with you.

DPI is proud to be a sponsor of this very significant event for Queensland's rural communities and particularly to bring Agnes to the conference as a keynote speaker. We will work you very hard Agnes and get our pound of flesh I am sure.

DPI is fully committed to rural development and to working in partnership with you to achieve your vision and your goals for a positive and prosperous rural future.

DPI's theme for its contracts with its clients, what we call our "priorities statements" have the theme "creating the future", a theme very much in keeping with the aims of this conference. This is supported by our stated aim to work in partnership with our clients and the steps we have taken to establish industry development councils and boards and advisory groups for every major decision making and strategy formulating area of the department.

I should like cover briefly the breadth of the DPI programs and services focussed specifically on rural agribusiness development, some of which you may not be as familiar with as our technical, marketing, economic and health services.

The formation of rural development teams in each region recognises world trends, and our clients' demand, for assistance to develop marketing and trading partnerships and larger agribusiness community partnerships to create new products and markets and influence existing markets. Examples of communities we are assisting include the Atherton Tablelands directions committee, the Burnett Inland Economic Development Organisation and the Eastern Downs Turnaround Group. In every region we are working with numerous horticulture, beef and other product partnerships across the state.

These teams are made up of specialists in information retrieval and management, trade development, economics and partnership facilitation. So, what does this team offer? It provides groups with facilitation and other assistance to:

  • identify their issues, opportunities and goals;
  • appreciate their skills and development needs and how they can be more as a group than as a single entity; and
  • develop skills in locating the right information and expertise, analysis and interpretation of trade and economic data and preparation and implementation of their own development strategy.

The building rural leaders, Future Profit and Farm Financial Counselling programs focus on individual people and enterprises. They help rural people to develop effective leadership, strategic decision making and sound business skills which can, of course, be translated into skills they then bring to community partnerships.

Rural adjustment services help producer groups to develop drought management strategies and access state and commonwealth assistance for drought survival and recovery.

The new Queensland centre for climate applications assists rural industry groups and individual producers to make better decisions using the rapidly increasing knowledge of climate variability, climate change and seasonal forecasting and to link this to market forecasting and strategic directions set for their business through the leadership and property planning programs already mentioned.

Much of our clients' capacity to succeed in the future will depend on access to and capacity to use today's information today. The conference focus on information technology and education is very timely in this regard. DPI's client information services are at the forefront in this regard. The Agrinfonet, Agrilink, Farmfax, publishing services and library databases will be well known to many of you.

Our two new services, the DPI call centre, and DPI web services, are significantly improving the access of rural communities to information from DPI and other agencies.

Since its establishment in July last year the DPI call centre has handled over 37,000 inbound calls with eighty-one percent answered within thirty seconds, at an average speed of answer of just twenty seconds.

Through the databases underpinning this service, the majority of these enquiries can be answered at a high satisfaction level by the call centre operators, with fewer than 40% referred to specialist staff.

Since launching the web site in August 1997 DPI has provided hands-on-experience on the Internet to over 2,000 rural people in all parts of Queensland through our mobile training room.

The DPI web site now contains over 2,000 pages of information plus another one thousand PDF files and we are recording some 13,000 visits to the site each month.

To improve your access to this service DPI is installing trial Internet kiosks at Bundaberg, Charleville, Charters Towers, Emerald, Gympie, Longreach, Mareeba, Roma and Warwick. The first of these kiosks was opened at our research station here in Biloela this morning.

I encourage you to visit the DPI display here at the conference to obtain more information on DPI services and particularly our web services.

Finally, in addition to the obvious service benefits our staff brings to rural communities many of them are also closely involved with the development of their communities as active members of these communities. -

I trust that we can use this conference to further enhance our relationships with you and to develop new partnerships. I wish you every success both at the conference and in your future endeavours to build -a positive rural future.

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