Reviews and enquiries into the development of Northern Australia have identified the small resident population as a key issue limiting future economic and social development: ‘The small size of the population of Northern Australia, and its wide dispersal outside the handful of major centres … is perhaps the key impediment to be overcome [in development planning]’ (Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, 2014, p. 109). Ambitious plans for economic expansion are limited by labour shortages due to difficulties in recruiting skilled workers and high staff turnover. These factors not only increase recruitment, relocation and training costs, but also negatively impact business performance, productivity, profitability and growth. Companies may be unable to pursue market opportunities or have to cancel or delay strategic investments because of labour constraints. In key service areas such as health and education, high staff turnover has negative impacts on service delivery and client outcomes. Small populations and high turnover restrict the development of thriving communities and services that attract and retain workers and families.