Remaking the Country: Australia's Rural Reconstruction Commission: 1943-46

Troy Whitford, Donald Boadle

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    Abstract

    Australia's Rural Reconstruction Commission remains the most ambitious inquiry ever conducted into rural production and resource management, agricultural commodity marketing, and country lifestyle. Yet most commentary on the commission is cursory, unsupported by close textual analysis of the 330 recommendations in its ten published reports, and preoccupied with assessing whether commissioners satisfied ministerial expectations by ticking off recommendations which were actually implemented by federal and state governments. For the most trenchant of these commentators the commission's failure' is to be found in its preoccupation with rigorous long-term planning' and expert direction' of the rural sector which, it is claimed, no government could have contemplated at the end of a war fought to preserve individual freedoms. The present paper rejects this finding, arguing that this commentary is over-weighted to the regulatory, as opposed to the coordinating, function of the commission's institutional recommendations, and correspondingly neglectful of commissioners' commitment to the principles of individualism, mutuality and self-help. Convinced that country people had responsibilities as well as rights, commissioners exploited the procedural informality that a policy advisory inquiry allowed them to persuade stakeholders that sustainable rural development was not simply a matter of governments ameliorating problems of land utilisation and management, but of rural families on farms and rural communities in towns taking the initiative in addressing their own needs.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)52-76
    Number of pages25
    JournalJournal of the Royal Australian Historical Society
    Volume95
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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