Regional Migration – Director Update
I’ve covered a lot of ground over the past few weeks, with trips to Queensland and NSW. First stop was Toowoomba, where I had a day speaking with inspiring people who have worked to settle refugees into the city. It was fascinating to hear about some of the successes and challenges.
During the meetings, the RDA kindly provided a magnificent platter of fruit and cheese from nearby Stanthorpe, a community ravaged by bushfire. How great to support a local community by eating local produce! Thanks RDA Toowoomba!
Next stop, a quick hop to St George, a beautiful town set along the Balonne River. The plane was filled with excited kids heading home from boarding school and Melbourne was starting to feel a long way away!
The Balonne Shire Council is interested in developing a migration strategy for the region and during my meeting with the councillors, I was able to speak about the lessons in the RAI toolkit Steps to Settlement Success. I also heard from a group of Fijians who had travelled an hour from nearby Thallon and wanted to tell me about the warm welcome they had received in that small community, particularly from the CWA. Then a tour of a farm that produces onions, garlic and broccoli and which relies on backpackers and Pacific Islanders to harvest and pack the produce.
After learning a great deal about this community, I certainly enjoyed leading a community workshop, talking about elements in a migration strategy and discussing issues and concerns with a variety of people from St George and the “nearby” towns (I also learnt that in Queensland, “just down the road” means 2-3 hours’ drive or more!)
Back home via Roma, where I was able to be a tourist for a couple of hours and visit the saleyards and the “Big Rig” a museum explaining the discovery of natural gas in Australia… very educational and worth a visit!
In Dubbo, where I worked with the RDA to further a migration strategy for the Orana region, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with a group of migrants, mainly skilled migrants from South Asia. They spoke about their experiences and what had led them to the region and what might make them stay. It was also great to have the opportunity to present to a roundtable of stakeholders, including local mayors, employers, and the Member for Dubbo, The Hon. Dugald Saunders.
In between the travel, the RAI has also made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration who are undertaking an inquiry into migration in regional Australia. The Committee Members will be travelling to places around Australia to hold public hearings, the schedule is on their website and you may like to go along if they are nearby and have your say on the issues.
Back to Brisbane for RAI’s Regions Rising QLD event, looking at population, jobs and migration in Queensland, and a quick trip to Hobart where I spoke at the FECCA conference, giving an overview of regional migration and using population and jobs data which shows why migration is needed for so many small towns around Australia.
I’m now getting ready to head off to Perth and Kalgoorlie! I’ll look forward to updating you on those trips next month!
Migration Director, Regional Australia Institute