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Migrants to solve population decline

Monday, 28th May, 2018

Michael Williams, Director of Regional Development for RDA Far West. Michael Williams, Director of Regional Development for RDA Far West.

By Emily Roberts

A handful of rural towns across Australia have found a solution to population decline and workforce shortages by attracting migrants to work and live.
The development of migration projects in regional areas has caused the Regional Australia Institute to encourage the rest of the country to get on board.
RAI CEO Jack Archer said regional migration projects scattered across Australia are paying huge dividends for the towns involved, with some small towns increasing their population by up to 15 percent.
“In many cases, these migration strategies have been locally-led, but carried out in isolation,” Mr Archer said.
“Now we need to connect the dots and help other rural towns capitalise on the opportunities migrant settlement programs can deliver.”
During last week at Parliament House in Canberra, the RAI hosted the More Migrants for Small Towns event to showcase the success of towns including Nhill, Pyramid Hill, Mingoola, Biloela, Dalwallinu, Hamilton, Rupanyup, and Nobby.
The RAI’s policy paper addresses the resources required for regional assessments, support for new arrivals, employment tools, as well as a ‘local toolkit’ to help communities successfully welcome new migrants into their towns.
The RAI says that if regional Australia could welcome an additional 2,000-3,000 migrants per year, this would put a stop to population decline - in most rural areas.
Broken Hill wasn’t considered for the initiative and also doesn’t have a skills shortage but actually has an unemployment rate of nine per cent.
But Michael Williams, Director of Regional Development for RDA Far West, said there are areas in Broken Hill where migrants could be used to fill gaps.
“There are still a lot of employers that complain they can’t get the staff they need,” he said.
“There are areas of skill shortage, but that’s not across the board.
“There are areas that could be specifically targeted.”
Mr Williams said the idea to attract migrants to the city ran along the same lines as their Far West Proud initiative.
“We just have to look at the target market.
“The whole campaign of Far West Proud is to get people to reconsider their options and move to Broken Hill.”
Mr Williams said if the population was to increase by 10,000 people it would have a flow-on effect.
“People often say you can’t build the population until you have jobs to go for.
“But if 10,000 people came in tomorrow, it would create jobs.
“Businesses everywhere would have to put more people on to deal with the influx.
“There would be a need for infrastructure. Bringing people here creates jobs as well.”
Mr Williams said it wasn’t just about jobs but the lifestyle that could be offered.
“Lifestyle, safety and security are just as important as job availability.
“We also need to be more supportive to the people that are already here.
“You often hear about people in health and education that love working in the region.
“But their partner might be home with the kids or doesn’t have a job and are pushing to move again.
“We need to help those people and encourage them to stay.”
Mr Williams said the 25 in 25 initiative being run by Sampson’s owner Peter Nash worked in well with Far West Proud.
“I love Peter’s tagline, it’s something we can tie in with Far West Proud.”
First National’s principal Zeta Bennett said the announcement of the migrant initiative meant developing a group in the city that could work together to attract people to town.
“We’re obviously looking at ways to stimulate Broken Hill and offering a lifestyle comes with that.
“It’s important to factor in what comes first, the jobs or having people move here.
“That’s why we need a combined approach from everyone in the community.
“That’s where 25 in 25 has been positive.
“It’s about stopping all the negativity and putting a positive spin on encouraging people to visit or relocate.
“It’s really a two-pronged approach.”
Ms Bennett said the announcement of stores closing isn’t positive but it can mean good things for other businesses.
“Big W is not a good story, it is really sad and I wish it wasn’t happening.
“But this means it’s time for businesses to diversify or try and offer a different range of things.
“There are lots of opportunities for everyone.”
Ms Bennett said it was important to discuss it as a community.
“It’s not about blaming people and being negative but getting up and doing something.
“Imagine what we could do if we all work together.
“Broken Hill was founded on migrants, it’s part of our nationality and background.
“It’s a natural extension of our town.
“I think when people come from a challenging background, they want to make a difference and that is a value that holds appeal.”

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