How communities can create their own growth
The concept for the Regional Repopulation Project originally came from local community member, Stuart McAlpine, who had become disheartened with the declining population in his hometown. Realising that there were also a number of skill shortages, the project was as much about repopulation as it was about the health of the local economy.
After making contact with the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre and the Office of Multicultural Interests, Stuart presented a concept plan to the Shire of Dalwallinu at a council meeting.
Council saw the validity and community passion imbedded in the concept and provided support by way of administration. A few months later the Regional Repopulation Advisory Committee was formed.
The original plan looked to welcome a number of Karen refugee families into the area but this evolved to focus on workers with 475 visas.
The Shire of Dalwallinu applied for funding for the project in 2011 and 2012 but was unsuccessful in its applications. Rather than giving up, the Council continued supporting the project financially.
To date the Shire has funded English classes, the appointment of a Community Liaison and Support Officer, the allocation of Economic Development and Marketing Officer administration hours, a Contract Project Officer and Community events.
Their investment has reaped many benefits for the area. By May 2015, 198 new residents had moved to the Shire of Dalwallinu – this is more than a 15 per cent increase in population. New residents are a combination of international migrants and people who have moved from elsewhere is Australia.
The Regional Repopulation Project was a big learning curve for the Shire of Dalwallinu. Some of the big learnings were the importance of employment, education and training and accommodation for retaining a population.
Consequently, residents that match local employment needs should be targeted when trying to grow the local population.
In addition, programs that make new residents welcome and to enable them to be part of the community need to be developed. This is really important for retaining new community members and ensuring they have a positive experience.
These lessons are important for all regional areas looking to attract new residents to their region.
What does your community do to attract new residents to the region? Share your stories about regional communities successfully encouraging residents to #makethemove to regional Australia.