Development of a spatial model to quantify access to services in rural and remote areas of Australia

  • Dennis Arnold Griffith

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This study describes a model, the Griffith Service Access Frame, which quantifies the relative access disadvantage of rural and remote population centres in Australia. The study limits the application of the model to educational services to enable a detailed comparative analysis to be undertaken using the Griffith Service Access Frame and the Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education and Training's Country Areas General Component formula, from the National Equity Program for Schools. The Country Areas General Component is the Commonwealth Government program specifically dedicated to targeting and allocating funding to school communities that have restricted access to educational services due to their geographical isolation.

    In the study Australia's commitment to equality of access to educational services is discussed as are the reports and inquiries that resulted in the Commonwealth Government introducing an educational program, the Country Areas General Component, to address the access disadvantage of the inhabitants of Australia's geographically isolated areas. The implementation of the program and its political implications for the States and the Northern Territory are considered.

    Research questions are posed to determine if the current Country Areas formula is effective, and if there is a more efficacious model for identifying the target group and for allocating program funding. These questions are addressed based on the findings of the study. The public policy processes and the implications of implementing social justice policies in the context of competing political and financial priorities within the rotating electoral cycles of Commonwealth, State and Territory governments are discussed.

    The current Country Areas General Component formula is critically examined to determine if it identifies the target group and allocates funding on the basis of relative access disadvantage. It is established that the formula is deficient in this regard.

    Rural and remote definitions and the various methods of conceptualising rurality and remoteness are investigated. Previous attempts to define and quantify relative access to services are critically assessed and the Griffith Service Access Frame is proposed as an alternative model to quantify relative access disadvantage.

    The Griffith Service Access Frame model is explained and its component parts justified on the basis of established research and widely used statistical and mathematical techniques. A comparison of the efficacy of the Griffith Service Access Frame and the Country Areas General Component formula is made using both hypothetical and actual population centres.

    The implications of the study are explained in that the Griffith Service Access Frame is proposed as the model that will provide a reliable and objective measure of relative access disadvantage as it is service specific, research based and uses current data sources and, established statistical and mathematical techniques. The study provides evidence of the Griffith Service Access Frame's face validity by providing evidence of a high correlation between the perceptions of the inhabitants of seventeen education regions, through their ranking of schools in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Queensland and their rankings as generated by the Griffith Service Access Frame. It is further proposed in the study that Griffith Service Access Frame model generated scores be attributed to the catchment areas of schools based on the Australian Bureau of Statistic's smallest population unit, the collection district. These clusters of collection districts create geographical units described as Zones of Relative Access (ZORA's). These zones provide researchers, policy makers, administrators with a geographical unit that is homogenous and allows comparative analysis of geographical areas Australia wide for determining funding allocations, undertaking research and measuring educational outcomes.

    The conclusion of the study recommends the adoption of the Griffith Service Access Frame by the Commonwealth and State Governments to improve the quantification of access disadvantage across Australia and to allow funding targeting the geographically isolated to be distributed on the basis of their relative need.
    Date of Award1996
    Original languageEnglish

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