Direct settlement of migrants in regional areas 'a worthy goal'

Published:12 December 2018

Report launch participants included Dr Delwar Akbar, Dr Ataus Samad, Minister for Multicultural Affairs Stirling Hinchliffe, Professor Julian Teicher and Professor Quamrul Alam (a member of the launch audience).

Australia should strive for more direct settlement of migrants in regional areas which have skill shortages, rather than relying on re-settlement from capital city communities, which has not succeeded.

Achieving this will require a rethink of government policy settings, pre-matching of migrant skills with job opportunities, building of infrastructure, support networks and community capacity, and promotion of regional communities.

These are among recommendations from a new study on ‘Achieving secure and stable migrant employment in the agriculture, manufacturing and food processing industries of regional Queensland’.

This pilot report from the Centre for Tourism and Regional Opportunities (CTRO) in the School of Business and Law at CQUniversity was launched this week by Minister for Multicultural Affairs Stirling Hinchliffe at CQUni’s Brisbane Campus.

CQUni Professor Julian Teicher says many of the current skill shortages in regional industries are being met by temporary overseas migrants, including backpackers, working holidaymakers and seasonal Pacific Islander workers.

Over-reliance on temporary migrants comes with a whole series of costs due to high labour turnover, strict visa conditions, higher wages and other procedural aspects.

“If obstacles can be overcome, including the seasonality of work, there are significant social and economic benefits in attracting permanent migrants to regional industries,” Professor Teicher says.

“Many respondents indicated a crucial need for both unskilled and skilled employees as regional Australian agribusiness embraces ‘agri-tech’.”

Professor Teicher says that barriers to employing migrants in regional areas include language proficiency, skills recognition and matching, a lack of knowledge about available jobs and a lack of communication between employers and migrants.

Migrants are also unwilling to work in regional or rural areas due to perceived social isolation, that is, a lack of people from the same cultural background.

“Future research should address the role that leadership plays in close-knit migrant communities in terms of building bridges with employers in regional Australia and to facilitate integration within regional communities.”

Professor Teicher’s co-authors on the CTRO report were Professor Susan Kinnear and Dr Delwar Akbar from CQUniversity and Dr Ataus Samad (UniWesternSyd).