The Central Highlands region spans the east-west transport corridor, connecting Melbourne to western

Map of Central Highlands including the six local government areas; Ararat, Ballarat, Golden Plain, Hepburn, Moorabool, and Pyrenees.

Victoria. The region’s major centre, Ballarat, is the fastest growing regional city in Victoria. The region includes six local government areas:

  • Ararat
  • Ballarat
  • Golden Plains
  • Hepburn
  • Moorabool, and
  • Pyrenees.

The region includes the traditional lands of the Wadawurrung and the Djab Wurrung peoples.

The Central Highlands is home to over 200,000 Victorians. It has a diverse economy based on manufacturing, services and agriculture.

Five topics relevant to Central Highlands are below. More details are in the topic links. Complete the survey. Tell us what you think about the draft recommendations for regional Victoria and Central Highlands.

Draft recommendations

Expand the tabs below to read the draft recommendations for each topic.

Central Highlands residents have:

  • lower rates of internet connection
  • slower internet speed, and
  • less reliable mobile coverage than Melbourne.

One in six Central Highlands households do not have internet access, rising to one in four in Ararat and Pyrenees.

This means many people cannot access online services (for example banking, job search, health and social services, and education). Unreliable internet connections can make it hard to do business. It can also affect communities’ ability to access public safety information in times of emergency.

There are opportunities to improve internet access and digital connections in Central Highlands. These include continuing to address coverage gaps and help communities remain connected in times of emergency. We can also improve internet access for those who don’t have it at home, using the facilities and expertise in Central Highlands’ library network.

What are our draft recommendations?

Draft recommendation 80. Continue to address regional Victoria’s digital connectivity gaps (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

In the next five years, continue delivering regional digital connectivity improvements, and review the need for further government investment following the roll-out of the Digital Future Now initiative.

Draft recommendation 86. Improve resilience of regional telecommunications infrastructure (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

In the next 10 years, develop more resilient regional telecommunications infrastructure so communities can stay safe during emergencies, including greater network redundancy and back-up power supply.

Draft recommendation 87. Fund regional libraries to provide better internet access (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Immediately provide funding for regional and rural libraries to improve community access to fast, free internet services, leveraging existing library infrastructure.

Complete the survey below to tell us what you think about these draft recommendations.

Central Highlands has a diverse tourism offering:

  • heritage attractions such as Sovereign Hill living museum
  • Hepburn mineral springs' spa country resorts
  • food and wine experiences, and
  • nature-based tourism opportunities in the Grampians National Park.

Border closures and cancelled major events in response to the coronavirus pandemic have harmed the visitor economy. But as restrictions start to ease, tourism has a role to play in the region’s economic recovery.

What are our draft recommendations?

Draft recommendation 82. Plan for future investment in regional nature-based tourism infrastructure (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

In the next five years, develop a Victorian nature-based tourism strategy to guide industry development and prioritise further investments.

Draft recommendation 83. Develop a Victorian Aboriginal tourism strategy (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Partner with Traditional Owners to develop a Victorian Aboriginal tourism strategy in the next five years to guide future Aboriginal tourism investments, including through Joint Management Plans.

Draft recommendation 84. Boost tourism infrastructure by allowing more national parks to grant long leases (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Attract investment in Victoria’s regional tourism industry by immediately allowing more national parks to grant leases of up to 49 years for infrastructure proposals that meet specific criteria and complement environmental and heritage values.

Complete the survey below to tell us what you think about these draft recommendations.

Patients can travel long distances to access healthcare services in rural and regional areas. This can contribute to poor health outcomes in some regional areas.

Healthcare services are now more readily available over the phone and online. This trend has accelerated over the last year. More people in Central Highlands are accessing health care remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patients now consult with General Practitioners (GPs), specialists and other health providers over the phone and online. Health professionals have used the internet to remotely diagnose and check patients’ health. Delivering more healthcare using technology can give patients more convenient, flexible and quality services.

For those living in rural and remote areas, telehealth could provide greater access to quality care, specialists and allied services and reduce travel. However, some services still need in-person care and contact as telehealth is not appropriate in all situations.

Demand for mental health services is relatively high in Ballarat and Ararat. Our recommendations aim to improve access to mental health services for Central Highlands residents, as well as plan for facilities which respond to the service needs of the region’s Aboriginal communities.

What are our draft recommendations?

Draft recommendation 21. Use innovation to deliver better models of healthcare (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Within five years, help slow the growth in demand for hospital infrastructure by funding a comprehensive statewide health innovation strategy to promote better models of healthcare.

Draft recommendation 72. Co-design an Aboriginal Community-Controlled Infrastructure Plan (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Immediately commence a co-design process to develop a plan to guide investment in Aboriginal community-controlled infrastructure to meet current and future social, economic and cultural needs.

Draft recommendation 75. Deliver infrastructure for a better mental health system (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Immediately establish a dedicated infrastructure fund to support a better mental health system, building on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System.

Complete the survey below to tell us what you think about these draft recommendations.

Local governments deliver many social and community services to regional communities. These include:

  • child and family services
  • aged care
  • health care services, and
  • programs to foster social inclusion and improve wellbeing.

Some regional councils have small budgets due to small ratepayer populations. They also need to fund many services to communities spread over a large geographic area. Other councils in regional cities such as Ballarat, have high population growth. This is accompanied by growing demand for services.

Many council facilities have a single purpose at a specific point in time. Others are ageing and no longer fit for purpose. This limits service quality, and councils face challenges in managing these facilities well. At the same time, community needs are changing and some facilities no longer meet local needs.

Councils are finding ways to provide facilities that can respond to contemporary needs. This includes building multipurpose service facilities, for example an integrated health and wellbeing building.

Another solution is to upgrade outdated facilities or give them a new use which matches current community needs.

Central Highlands Regional Partnership supports shared service delivery models for the region.

Central Highlands stakeholders have identified opportunities for shared services, including:

  • co-located facilities to support young people experiencing disadvantage
  • a centralised early years and community services hub in Bacchus Marsh.

What are our draft recommendations?

Draft recommendation 89. Deliver multipurpose shared social service facilities in the regions (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Immediately undertake collaborative inter-agency planning for regional social services to identify opportunities for multipurpose shared facilities, then deliver them where appropriate in partnership with local governments and community organisations.

Draft recommendation 90. Support regional councils to update, repurpose or retire outdated community infrastructure (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Fund rural and regional councils in the next five years to update, repurpose and retire outdated community infrastructure for better service delivery.

Complete the survey below to tell us what you think about these draft recommendations.

Now more than ever, our state requires more homes for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Central Highlands has the third highest rate of homelessness in regional Victoria. The region also has the second highest rate of rental stress in regional Victoria.

Social housing meets a basic need of low-income Victorians for secure, affordable and appropriate housing. There is an urgent need for affordable rental housing in Central Highlands. This means that some of our most vulnerable community members are on social housing waiting lists and are experiencing financial stress.

What do we recommend?

Draft recommendation 57. Rapidly renew old public housing (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Rapidly renew dilapidated public housing properties, with a priority to renew at least half of all older low-rise apartments and older three-bedroom detached dwellings by 2031.

Draft recommendation 94. Expand social housing in regional centres, in locations with good access (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Focus social housing investments in regional centres, near access to transport and services, to contribute to a target of 4.5 social housing dwellings for every 100 Victorian households by 2031.

Draft recommendation 95. Make social housing suitable for changing local climates (Victoria's Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy 28.9 MB, PDF)

Prioritising northern Victoria, continue to deliver a long-term program of modifying social housing to be climate-resilient by improving the energy efficiency and energy affordability of residences.

Complete the survey below to tell us what you think about these draft recommendations.

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Other recommendations related to Central Highlands in the draft strategy

Read the Central Highlands regional priorities summary for other recommendations related to the region.

Shared community facilities in action

Story from Shepparton: a football club also a leadership training hub

The Shepparton Rumbalara Football Netball Club has a long association with the Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-Operative. The club provides leadership training hub for the local First Nations community, as well as netball training. It provides a range of training, education, health, leadership and social support programs.

Story from Murray: Old hospital turned into a health and wellbeing centre

The Walwa Bush Nursing Centre, in an isolated town on the upper Murray, was created after a community campaign following the closure of its eight-bed hospital. The community fundraised – and with $800k from the Victorian Government – transformed the hospital with a $2.1 million infrastructural upgrade into a shared facility. The facility is a mix of health and community services. It now houses GPs, district nursing, home care, emergency first response, outpatient clinic, pharmacy, gym, a community centre, IT centre, banking services, RUM radio, a community car, meals on wheels, allied health services, case management, and counselling. The centre is run by a community owned not-for-profit and has been successfully operating since 2006.