Strengthening rural and remote family business resilience

With primary producers, small business owners and community leaders in outback Queensland, we are discovering ways to structure family businesses for resilience.

Dr Thea Voogt is leading a pilot study to discover the best ways to structure family businesses in Queensland’s drought-affected regions to ensure they not only survive, but thrive.

Benefits for farmers and small business owners in outback Queensland

Her research aims to benefit many farmers and small business owners in Central West Queensland – an area that has about 10,000 people but covers 23 per cent of Queensland’s land mass.

The vital work is a collaboration between the UQ Law School, the Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD), and the Rural Financial Counselling Service North Queensland.  

RAPAD CEO David Arnold believes the research Dr Voogt is conducting is vital to understanding the challenges of family businesses in remote areas and the steps needed for survival.

“Small businesses, whether agricultural or town-based, are the lifeblood of rural communities,”

“At a time of significant natural disasters such as we are experiencing now, never has the need for support for these businesses, and our communities, been greater.

“Thea’s research combined with our monitoring and evaluation of agriculture performance at a farm level across the region has allowed us to more critically assess our inputs and client outcomes.”

 - RAPAD CEO David Arnold

Working with drought-affected farms and businesses in the RAPAD region

Dr Voogt is investigating how local farms and town businesses are structured in Queensland’s so-called ‘RAPAD region’, comprising the local government areas of Barcaldine, Barcoo, Blackall-Tambo, Boulia, Diamantina, Longreach and Winton.

Drought has hit the region hard – some areas have gone without significant rainfall since 2013.

Her aim is to understand the unique challenges these businesses face, and to develop policy solutions and cashflow optimisation strategies to support their long-term viability.

Dr Voogt says that while government schemes and tax allowances are available to support primary producers, little is known about the interaction between these and how these policy instruments help farm families and farm businesses to be self-reliant.

Small and family firm structure

It is estimated that 70 per cent of all businesses in Australia are family businesses, although there’s a distinct lack of data about what a family firm actually is and how they are structured for tax purposes.

The structure adopted for these businesses, however, is vitally important.

Dr Voogt says family firms often select a business structure without knowing the long-term effects, benefits and challenges it will bring.

“Tax policy uncertainty and ongoing tax changes make it difficult for family firms to plan ahead.”

In the pilot study, Dr Voogt is working with primary producers, small business owners and community leaders to determine how businesses in the RAPAD region are currently structured, taking into account the unique features of the area.

Breaking ground with Farm Management Deposits

Mr Arnold believes the UQ researcher’s input is a gamechanger, “In particular, Thea’s work on Farm Management Deposits is ground-breaking and should be welcomed by policymakers as they continue to inform and advise government.”

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