ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Food Security and Regional Australia

Led by A/Prof Vaughan Higgins

The information on these pages is accurate to the end of 2016 when reporting for SRA was completed for the 2015-16 Biennial Report.  All reporting for our projects is now found in relevant areas under the four research themes.

  • About
  • Issues
  • Members
  • Outcomes
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Engagement


The aim of this SRA was to improve understanding of food system vulnerability in rural and regional Australia by, evaluating the adequacy of existing policy and planning responses to vulnerability and conducting research which contributes to the development of more sustainable and resilient food systems.

Two wheel tractorFood security is an issue of growing academic and political significance in Australia. However, there is little systematic analysis of Australian domestic food security in relation to rural and regional areas in Australia. This SRA is addressing this gap, enabling the Institute to develop a comparative advantage in this rapidly growing area. It is doing so by developing research activities that investigate the economic, political, cultural, and equity dimensions of food security in rural and regional areas.

SRA members  worked together in the development of two projects:

  • Social Factors Influencing the Prioritisation and Management of Biosecurity Risks in Agri-Food Supply Chains
  • Quantitative Assessment of Local Food Economies

Some members of this SRA were also engaged in food security research overseas (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe) where the work fits within the scope of this SRA.

The SRA had eight members made up of ILWS members, adjuncts and a practitioner/entrepreneur active in promoting local food in Wagga Wagga with capacity in a range of disciplines including sociology, agricultural science, nutrition and dietetics, environmental science and business.

These researchers have expertise in:

  • Agri-food governance
  • Biosecurity
  • Social dimensions of Natural Resource Management
  • Landholder adoption of sustainable production practices
  • Social capital in rural communities
  • Ethnic entrepreneurship in rural areas
  • Rural development
  • Community participation and engagement
  • Rural nutrition and dietetic practice
  • Rural health management
  • Land management adaptation to climate change
  • Community dietetics
  • Local food economies
  • Soil carbon sequestration

SRA activities and research projects were expected to influence future food security related policies, from how food is produced, and where, to issues associated with access to healthy and culturally appropriate food.

In 2016, the SRA  planned to develop a research project for possible ARC Linkage funding focusing on why, and in what ways, food retailers are seeking to develop short food supply chains; and contribute to the development of a larger-scale multi-Centre initiative focus on Food Futures: Intensification and Sustainability.

Two cross-centre projects (with the Graham Centre) funded by the Department of Agriculture on farm biosecurity practices and the management of emergency animal disease (EAD), and on engaging landholders to adopt profitable and sustainable carbon cropping practices have has been completed, as has an ARC Discovery project which looked at the use of Market Instruments for improved land management in Australia, and a RIRDC project on new immigrants and improving productivity in Australia agriculture.

Current  projects include:

  • social factors influencing technology adoption in the rice industry
  • farm power and conservation agriculture for sustainable intensification

Completed projects include:

  • new immigrants and improving productivity in Australian agriculture
  • profitable and sustainable cropping practices
  • farm biosecurity and emergency animal disease management
  • sustainable farming in Australia examining how market instruments can be used for improved land management
  • landholder responses to water reform and climate change in the Namoi Valley
  • landholder responses to climate variability and climate change
  • triple bottom line reporting and sustainable irrigation
  • managing dryland salinity


Regional and rural Australia is facing serious and growing food security challenges as a result of climate change, declining farm incomes, foreign ownership of farmland, conflicts over the use of land and water, rising fuel costs and diet-related health problems. These challenges threaten the well-being of Basin industries, communities and people as well as Australia's position as a net exporter of food.

For example, Australia's increasing dependence on imported fossil fuels means that at best there is 14 days worth of fuel in reserve. Should this vulnerable system be affected by geo-political disturbances for any longer than a week, domestic food production would be affected and many Australians, especially in rural and regional areas would not have the usual supplies of food they are used to, via the dominant retail food supermarket system.

This SRA sought to develop an improved understanding of the social, economic and environmental impact of these challenges on rural and regional residents, to critically assess the adequacy of the existing food system and policies in dealing with such challenges, and to map out alternatives that are capable of reducing vulnerability and promoting more sustainable and resilient food systems and rural and regional communities.


Team Members



A/Prof Vaughan Higgins Social research on agri-food governance, sustainable land management, biosecurity, landholder adoption of new farming practices
Professor Allan Curtis Social dimensions of regional natural resource management;rural landholder adoption of conservation practices; role of local organisations in rural development; evaluation of natural resource management programs.
A/Prof Branka Krivokapic-Skoko Ethnic entrepreneurship in rural areas, social capital in non-metropolitan areas
Dr Joanne Millar Social research on rural livelihoods, sustainable agriculture and aquaculture systems, natural resource management and rural development
Janice Sangster (Adjunct) Public health nutrition
A/Prof Andrew Rawson (Adjunct) Land management adaptation to climate change, soil carbon sequestration, management of soil organic matter
Pennie Scott (Adjunct)

Local food economies / regenerative farming / retail farming

Enabling prosperous farmers

Jackie Priestly (Adjunct) Community dietetics


Two Wheel tractorSome key research outcomes and impacts include:

  • One cross-centre project (with the Graham Centre) funded by the Department of Agriculture on farm biosecurity practices and the management of emergency animal disease (EAD) has been completed. The findings from the project raise two significant issues that form the basis of the project team's recommendations to the Department of Agriculture, namely that there is a need for:
    • better coordination and collaboration between stakeholder organisations so as to encourage a shared understanding of biosecurity and EAD and to communicate a consistent message to producers about the importance of EAD prevention, and
    • better targeting of communication about the roles of stakeholders as well as practical information about on-farm biosecurity
  • Findings from a project that looked at the use of Market Instruments for improved land management in Australia has provided policy makers with valuable information on implementation and adoption of market-based incentives.

Expected outcomes from current projects:

  • A project funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (2012-2015) is investigating the experiences of immigrant farmers and growers, and temporary and permanent immigrant farm labour in order to better understand the ways in which immigrants can contribute to productivity, sustainability, preserving resources and contributing to rural renewal in Australia. The expected outcome of this research is an improvement in the Australian agricultural industry's success in attracting immigrants to fill labor shortages and an improvement in that sector's future productivity.
  • A project being undertaken in partnership with Swinburne University is investigating social factors that influence technology adoption in the rice industry. Information  from this project is expected to:
    • be used by stakeholders to develop specifically targeted change strategies or to consider ways in which skills training and education can be extended, developed and communicated to growers.
    • help stakeholders develop more effective communication strategies




A Public Debate on "How we can best secure Australia's future food security?" was held at the CSU Albury-Wodonga Campus in August, 2013, in the lead-up to the Federal election and was attended by more than 130 people.

"Food Security in Australia: Challenges and Prospects for the Future" forum, attended by
over 50 people was held in October 2012. The day-long forum included the launch of a book (with the same name) of which Dr Joanne Millar and A/Prof Vaughan Higgins are co-editors.