Re­gions mine ta­lent from over­seas

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - PAIGE TAY­LOR PAUL GARVEY AD­DI­TIONAL RE­PORT­ING: VIC­TO­RIA LAU­RIE

Coun­cils across Aus­tralia are do­ing deals with the Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment to bring po­ten­tially thou­sands of skilled mi­grants to re­gional areas, start­ing in the resur­gent West Aus­tralian gold­fields where the City of Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der es­ti­mates there are 1600 job va­can­cies.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter David Cole­man has en­dorsed ne­go­ti­a­tions for re­gional mi­gra­tion agree­ments that ef­fec­tively by­pass state gov­ern­ments. The deals will be sim­i­lar to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s Des­ig­nated Area Mi­gra­tion Agree­ment, in place since 2015. Un­der that scheme, 60 busi­nesses in and around Dar­win can bring skilled and semi-skilled work­ers in­clud­ing trades­peo­ple, fruit and veg­etable grow­ers and per­sonal car­ers from over­seas if the own­ers can demon­strate they have been un­able to find Aus­tralians to fill those po­si­tions.

Aus­tralia’s im­mi­gra­tion needs are not the same in all areas, and “pol­icy should take that into ac­count”, Mr Cole­man said.

“The gov­ern­ment’s fo­cus is on im­prov­ing the cur­rent sys­tem to bet­ter match im­mi­gra­tion pat­terns to needs in spe­cific lo­ca­tions.

“In par­tic­u­lar, we are look­ing closely at ways of fill­ing em­ploy­ment gaps in re­gional areas.

“There are nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples where re­gions are say­ing they’re fac­ing skilled labour short­ages; we’ve heard from re­gions like Orana in cen­tral north­ern NSW, the Gold­fields in WA and oth­ers around the coun­try that are call­ing for more im­mi­gra­tion.”

He said he had di­rected the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs to “ac­cel­er­ate the process of ne­go­ti­at­ing th­ese agree­ments, in­clud­ing by send­ing of­fi­cers di­rectly to the re­gions”.

Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der chief ex­ec­u­tive John Walker said the min­ing re­gion 600km east of Perth was ready and wait­ing for more peo­ple, and ideally suited to house and em­ploy thou­sands more res­i­dents. “We have so many jobs avail­able to­day, and we don’t want or like FIFO (fly-in, fly­out) work­forces,” he said.

The coun­cil wants to in­crease the city’s pop­u­la­tion of 30,000 to 40,000 within a few years.

“We’re putting to­gether a sub­mis­sion for drillers, truck drivers, min­ing pro­fes­sion­als, hos­pi­tal, child­care and dis­abil­ity work­ers,” Mr Walker said. “We’ve had th­ese short­ages for­ever. We want peo­ple to live in town and we’re the per­fect place for young fam­i­lies — only 6 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is over 65. We wel­come ev­ery­one.”

Bri­tish-born Aimee Rogers, 33, is among over­seas-trained min­ing pro­fes­sion­als who made the Gold­fields home af­ter ar­riv­ing four years ago un­der the for­mer 457 visa scheme abol­ished in March.

Ms Rogers, whose fa­ther is a for­mer tin miner from Corn­wall, is the ge­ol­ogy man­ager at North­ern Star’s Mil­len­nium mine near Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der. She fell in love with the town, has be­come a home-owner in Kal­go­or­lie, an Aus­tralian ci­ti­zen and en­thu­si­as­tic cheer­leader for the re­gion.

“Kal­go­or­lie has given me so many won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties,” she said. “This town is what you make it — there is so much to do, and it’s such a nice life­style.”

COLIN MURTY

Bri­tish-born Aimee Rogers has be­come a Kal­go­or­lie home-owner, an Aus­tralian ci­ti­zen and cheer­leader for the re­gion

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