Good Practice

9 April 2019
State politics: migrant workers essential for region
Picture: The Naracoorte Herald
As published in The Naracoorte Herald
Written by Amy Maynard.

Photo: Diversity: Sarah McWaters from Teys Australia, Sandy Talbot from the NLBTA, Hafeezullah Haidari of Pearl Continental Australia, Member for MacKillop Nick McBride, MRC Coordinator Jenny Stirling, and Mayor Erika Vickery at a 2018 Refugee Week celebration.

At a meeting of the State Government’s Economic and Finance Committee at Penola on March 26, Member for MacKillop Nick McBride and representatives from Teys Australia spoke about how a migrant workforce had to be retained in the Limestone Coast for our billion-dollar primary industry sector.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing in the Limestone Coast contributed almost half of the state’s primary industries gross value ($3.4 billion out of $7.6 billion), Mr McBride explained. And even though the region’s unemployment levels were lower than the state average – 2.6 per cent compared to 5.35 per cent – there are three key reasons why migrant workers are needed.

Firstly, the Limestone Coast has an ageing population. Mr McBride had consulted census data and found that the average age of an Australian is 38, with South Australians being slightly higher at 40.

But in the Limestone Coast, the median age is 44. Well above the national average.

An older workforce is combined with the ‘brain drain’, or younger people moving into metropolitan areas out of South Australia.

And once people live in cities, or if they’ve lived their whole life in cities, it can be hard to persuade them to come out to live in regional areas.

Therefore, the attraction and retention of migrant workers is needed to fill a labour shortage in the region’s viticulture, cattle, and sheep industries.

In the electorate of MacKillop, there has been an incredible growth of residents who are from an Afghani or Filipino background. These two communities are concentrated in both Naracoorte and Bordertown, with Naracoorte having 223 Afghani residents and 134 Filipino residents.

There are similar numbers in Bordertown, with 83 Afghani residents and 93 Filipino residents. Within these communities, younger generations are attending kindergartens, schools and TAFE.

Two of the region’s major employers of migrant workers are JBS in Bordertown (70 per cent of their workforce) and Teys Australia in Naracoorte (50 per cent).

Mr McBride concluded his speech to the Economic and Finance Committee by pointing out that the housing shortage was impeding the future growth of these communities, and migrants working in the region generally.

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