Source: The World Today
Reporter: Tim Brunero
Story reported on: Friday July 14 2017
Click here to hear the radio interview.
Jenny Stirling, Narocoorte Migrant Resource Centre
Hafeezullf Haidari, Narocoorte Restaurant Owner and Hazara community member
Kim Houghton, Regional Australia Institute
Our view of the people of the bush as a mix of rusted on Anglo-Saxon farmers and Aboriginal people may be wrong.
According to the latest Census, data migrants are driving population growth in many small towns, their influx saving dying regional communities.
One-hundred-and-fifty-one regional local government areas across the country increased or stabilised their population thanks to overseas-born settlers.
It’s a long way from Afghanistan to the town of Naracoorte, 300 kilometres southeast of Adelaide.
But over 30 families from the Hazara community call it home after a concerted effort from locals to attract people to the area.
And the new arrivals are delighted to be there.
“I like this Naracoorte town because this good area.”
Hafeezullf Haidari runs a restaurant in the town and is active in the local rotary club.
“Thousands people coming per month to my restaurant. I am member of rotary club in community.”
“They love it here. They love the community.”
Jenny Stirling from the Naracoorte Migrant Resource Centre says many Hazaras are heavily involved with the local Coonaawarra wine industry.
“The Hazara community have been very useful to the local community in terms of economic development because as the vineyards have spread, so has the need for labour to prune the vines.”
“There is about 150 places that are kind of surviving and some of them are even growing slowly on the backend, increasing international residence rather than the domestic ones.”
Kim Houghton from Regional Australia Institute says while that’s good news for those communities, it’s a different story for the 246 regional local government areas, where the population has decreased.
He says that many population increases were due to deliberate local campaigns to attract migrants.
“The little town of Mill in Victoria has got a large population of people from Myanmar which is courted because they needed labour to help work the poultry processing facility there. Dalwallinu in WA has had an active program for 6 or 7 years now to try and bring international migrants in so it’s got a fairly large population of people from the Philippines for instance.”
Most migrants settling in regional Australia come from the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
But look around the nation’s vast expanse and you’ll find pockets of migrants from China, India and the Philippines.
In 2004, the Federal Government launched a campaign to increase migrant settlement in regional areas with recent arrivals encouraged to move from major cities to the bush.
But the biggest beneficiaries have been the local communities that have been the most proactive in seeking out new blood for their towns.
As Kim Houghton points out, it’s often driven by local abattoirs and poultry plants desperate for workers.
“There is also a handful of places around the country where the communities themselves have been very keen to maintain the level of population they have in order to keep the school open for instance, keep the school classes sizes up and there is a handful of places that have been quite deliberate in approaching certain migrant communities in order to build a population base.”
And that’s certainly the case with Naracoorte says Jenny Stirling.
In her local community, the Hazara contribution has been cultural as well as economic.
“The Naracoorte High School is very welcoming and the high school students who come from a Hazara background tell me that they feel very safe there, and that’s one of the things that people tell me constantly from this background that they feel safe in Naracoorte.”
There are challenges and Jenny Stirling acknowledges that new arrivals do need support services to ease the adjustment to a new life. But she argues that the results speak for themselves.
“They really appreciate this opportunity that they have. They have so much energy to do well here and they really celebrate Australia’s freedom, so it’s a joyous thing to see how people flourish.”
Jenny Stirling from the Naracoorte Migrant Resource Centre southeast of Adelaide ending Tim Brunero’s report.