The 2017 Developing Northern Australia Conference will be held at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel over 19-20 June.

Professor Sandra Harding

Professor Sandra Harding, Vice Chancellor and President, James Cook University joins us in Cairns this June at the conference to discuss ‘Tropical knowledge for tropical solutions – the case for sustainable infrastructure in the tropics’.

The world’s tropical regions are undergoing a transformation, and the 40% of the Australian mainland in the tropics is no exception. The development of key infrastructure and technology can be transformative for communities and nations, lifting people out of poverty and providing access to services and markets which have been previously unavailable.

In northern Australia we have an opportunity to be innovators in how and where this infrastructure is developed. We are world leaders in tropical infrastructure, agricultural research and development, rural and remote health care, and disaster management. However, it can be difficult to comprehend the scale of development occurring right throughout the tropics.

For example, the population of the tropics will be larger than the rest of the world by the middle of the century – the population of Nigeria will be larger than the United States. In a region where access to electricity can be as low as 20%; the infrastructure need is great. Globally it’s estimated that almost $3.5 trillion annually (more than double Australia’s GDP) is needed to meet requirements for energy, transport, telecommunications, water, and sanitation. Despite great and growing demand for what we in northern Australia do every day, this infrastructure gap is currently not on track to be addressed.

In the face of this great need, what is the role of northern businesses and research institutions like James Cook University? The workshops and analysis of the State of the Tropics have demonstrated the vital importance of generating local knowledge for local solutions. We also have to create avenues for exchanging knowledge and creating business opportunity across the region – this will be essential for sustainable development and economic growth.

For more information on the 2017 Developing Northern Australia Conference and to secure your spot, please visit