2009 USSC Research Grant Winner, Dr Paul Collits, visited the USSC to present his research on The US Heartland States - Economy, Demography, Culture, Governance.

Much of the analysis of "small town America" focuses on values, politics and the culture wars. Yet the important story about the Great Plains States is the region's survival in the face of obstacles - obstacles also faced by many Australian rural regions. These include population decline in many counties, youth out-migration, the impact of globalisation, the future role of agriculture, and the sources of future economic development.

US heartland regions also have particular histories, governance structures and cultures that frame the way they respond to the challenges they face, including an entrepreneurial culture and communities built on social cohesion.

There are lessons here for Australian rural communities, and the potential for two-way learning across the two countries.

Dr Collits is a Research Fellow in Global Studies, Social Science and Planning at RMIT, Melbourne.