Regions mine talent from overseas
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.”
British-born Aimee Rogers has become a Kalgoorlie home-owner, an Australian citizen and cheerleader for the region