28 June 2018
Leaders Look to Migrants for Rural Growth
As published in The Border Watch.
Written by Raquel Mustillo.

A new report highlighting locally led migration strategies to stem population decline and labour shortages has been welcomed by Mount Gambier Mayor Andrew Lee.

The Regional Australia Institute, a think-tank devoted to issues concerning country areas, unveiled a new policy paper highlighting the opportunity for a new national policy around migration.

Regional Australia Institute chief executive Jack Archer said the paper addresses resources required for regional assessments, support for new arrivals, employment tools and changes to government policy for consideration to assist rural employers employ migrant staff.

Mr Archer said an increase of 2000 to 3000 migrants each year would halt population decline in most areas.

Mr Lee supported Mr Archer’s comments, saying the influx of a few hundred migrants to Mount Gambier through a long-running pilot program had halted regional depopulation.

He said under the Federal Government’s Humanitarian Settlement Program, migrants from Burma (now known as Myanmar) started to settle in the region more than a decade ago, with Congolese members migrating a few years later.

Mr Lee said he personally believed an increase of migrant numbers would generate further economic and employment opportunities in Mount Gambier.

“As a migrant myself, I think it is a good thing for our city to attract migrants, whether they are skilled or refugees,” he said.

“I know more than a handful of migrants who own their own business and employ local people to work. “It is definitely a benefit to Mount Gambier and I agree with more people coming to live and work not just in our city, but also in our region. “We need more people to be able to prosper.”

Migrant Resource Centre Mount Gambier manager Anelia Blackie said the city’s 140 migrant families had contributed to creating and sustaining jobs across a number of sectors.

Ms Blackie cited a slew of benefits for regional areas through boosting migrant numbers, including stronger rental markets, an increase in student numbers and economic stimulation.

She said a stronger tripartite government approach to resource distribution was necessary to ensure continued successes of locally-led rural settlement.

“If the government is going to start focusing on the regions instead of the major cities, the investment will have to follow,” she said.

“You have to be able to say we have got enough young people here to bring more courses to university or TAFE because at the moment, we have no argument.”

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