Introducing Shyla Vohra – Migration Director RAI
It’s been a busy and very exciting first few weeks in my new role as Migration Director of Regional Australia Institute (RAI). Three weeks in and I think I may have landed my dream job!
This is a new role at the RAI and has been set up to support Australian regional towns and communities to develop their own locally-led migration strategy. It means I will be travelling all around this incredible country, meeting and talking with a wide variety of people – both Australian born and new arrivals.
I’ve worked internationally for many years, and it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to reconnect with migration issues in Australia. There are so many inspiring stories of Australian towns actively seeking migrants and refugees to join their communities.
Now that I am getting to know RAI’s research, the reasons for these success stories are becoming obvious: there are a multitude of benefits for communities both economically and culturally. Migrants contribute by being employees or business owners, by bringing their skills, by being consumers, by sending their kids to local schools, by becoming active members in the local community and thereby adding to the richness of Australian life.
Australia is crying out for population re-distribution and it’s great to be armed with the evidence to counter myths such as “migrants take Australians’ jobs” or “there are no jobs in the country”.
My first day in my new role was in Adelaide for the RAI’s Regions Rising event, where we released our new toolkit – Steps for Settlement Success. The toolkit is a unique piece of work, specifically directed at Australian rural and regional communities who are looking to attract and retain migrants for population growth and community renewal.
Next, I had a wonderful few days in the RAI office in Canberra, meeting my new colleagues and seeing the beginnings of RAI’s exciting new initiative, the Regional Hub —more on that soon!
Back to my home in Melbourne for the next Regions Rising event, this time on the related topic of Regional Population Growth – Are We Ready?
I’ve reconnected with many contacts in the Australian migration and refugee sector, speaking at length about the RAI’s regional migration initiative, and have made many new connections, also among regional communities.
This week, I am heading to Stawell, Rupanyup and Horsham, places in Victoria that have launched their own migration initiatives and that have been successful in welcoming migrants to their towns. I’ve been overwhelmed by the warm welcome they are extending to me, even just over email! I can’t wait to hear their views on their experiences and lessons learned.
Coming up, I’ll be heading further afield on a roadshow around Australia where I will work directly with regions and towns, using our Migration Toolkit as the basis for a series of workshops to develop or strengthen migration strategies and implementation plans. This roadshow is funded under the Commonwealth Building Better Regions Fund, and while some locations are already fixed, we are very interested to hear from other towns and communities around Australia who have started to consider a migration plan and would like RAI’s assistance to further develop it.
We are also working on a way to ensure that communities involved in regional migration initiatives are connected with each other, with community champions or experts, service providers, as well as the RAI. We are looking to create an online platform where people can ask questions, obtain advice or just share experiences. We’ll let you know when that is up and running, and hope that you will join us!
We’re also doing some work on retention strategies, to make sure that migrants are successfully integrated into communities and want to stay.
If your local town or council is interested in any of this work and would like to be part of it or find out more, please get in touch! You can contact the RAI by calling (02) 62 603733 or my mobile on 0416 013 057. Alternatively, please drop me a line [email protected]