Rather than cutting Australia’s migration intake, think tank The Regional Australian Institute is calling for the Government to redistribute skilled migration to regional areas and smaller cities in need of a population boost – and it appears the Government is taking note.
The Regional Australian Institute presented a policy paper this month, outlining a program for a rural migration strategy to assist country areas facing a shortage of workers and population decline issues, such as the sustainability of rural-based schools. The Regional Australian Institute believes rural skilled migration can provide a win-win situation for migrants and struggling rural towns. The Institute highlighted the example of the Victorian town Pyramid Hill, which has a population of 550 people, including 100 Filipinos. Their arrival has seen new homes built in the area, growing school populations and the opening of a new local business.
Here’s what the Regional Australian Institute recommended in their report:
- An additional 2000 to 3000 migrants per year to country towns to help address population decline issues and labour shortages
- New strategies led by the Government (rather than rural communities) to identify labour shortages in rural areas and to establish these areas as ‘priority settlement areas’
- Strategies to ensure rural communities are supported with accommodation infrastructure and community based initiatives to manage cultural integration
- More incentives to encourage migrants to live in rural areas, including reduced set-up costs and increased opportunities for family migration
The report has received endorsed support from the Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader, Michael McCormack and the Coalition. Mr McCormack stated, “Migrants bring a willingness to work. They also bring a dedication to their employer. They often start small businesses and they really contribute mightily, not just to regional capitals such as Wagga Wagga, but indeed to the smaller towns around it, and that’s what I know this report is all about,” Mr McCormack said.
He added, “[The report] makes sure that we connect those migrants, those hardworking people, to jobs, not just in the regional capitals but indeed in smaller towns, because we need to make sure that they continue to grow. I’m not talking about the regional capitals, I’m talking about those little periphery towns on the outer edges. When they’re strong, so too are the regional capitals, so too is our nation.”
The Government confirmed it would consider establishing incentives for migrants to live in regional towns, however no decisions have been made. Migrant support group, Welcome to Australia is concerned that the Government will impose visa changes that will bind migrants to rural areas for a set period of time and restrict their freedom of movement. The group has recommended an incentive-based system rather than a punitive one. Incentives such as enabling easier access to family reunion visas could be one option, as recommended by the Regional Australian Institute.
Meanwhile, the Australian Migrant Resource Centre and other migrant support groups are supportive of the initiative to provide more regional skilled migration visas, provided that the Government funds support systems, such as cheaper housing and the fostering of culturally inclusive communities as incentives for migrants to live regionally.
Business and community leaders are also calling for visa changes to allow more skilled migrants to reside in Australia’s smaller cities to boost opportunities for growth and ease population pressure on Melbourne and Sydney. Committee for Adelaide Chief Executive, Jodie Van Deventer believes visa conditions are needed to incentivise migrants to live in cities such as Adelaide, Hobart or Darwin as part of a population decentralisation strategy.
Interstaff will keep you updated on skilled visa changes and further details as they emerge. Read more about recent skilled visa changes here or to find out if you are eligible for a skilled visa, contact our Registered Migration Agents on +61 8 9221 3388 (or National Free Call 1800 449 858) or [email protected] for a free assessment.