More migrants for small towns, says Regional Australia Institute

A handful of rural towns across Australia have found a solution to population decline and workforce shortages – and now the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) says it’s time the rest of the country gets on board.

RAI CEO Jack Archer says regional migration projects scattered across Australia are paying huge dividends for the towns involved, with some small towns increasing their population by up to 15 per cent.

“In many cases, these migration strategies have been locally-led, but carried out in isolation. Now we need to connect the dots and help other rural towns capitalise on the opportunities migrant settlement programs can deliver,” Mr Archer said.

This week at Parliament House in Canberra, the RAI hosted a More Migrants for Small Towns event to showcase the success of towns including Nhill, Pyramid Hill, Mingoola, Biloela, Dalwallinu, Hamilton, Rupanyup, and Nobby.

“From a position of decline, these towns are now thriving. But collectively, we must take stock of what has worked and what will work in the future for other rural towns,” Mr Archer said.

The RAI unveiled its newest policy paper – The Missing Workers – that highlights an opportunity for a new national policy.

“A new national policy facilitating the establishment of a network of priority rural migration areas could enable many rural communities to meet their local labour market needs and provide support for local growth and community renewal,” Mr Archer said.

The RAI’s policy paper addresses the resources required for regional assessments, support for new arrivals, employment tools, as well as a ‘local toolkit’ to help communities successfully welcome new migrants into their towns.

“We also have identified some changes to government policy that should be considered to help make it easier for rural employers to employ migrant staff,” Mr Archer said.

“We have a national opportunity here to alleviate some of the biggest issues affecting regional Australia.” Mr Archer said.

The RAI says that if Regional Australia could welcome an additional 2,000-3,000 migrants per year, this would put a stop to population decline in most rural areas.

To find out more about some of the towns and regional cities including Orange, Bendigo, Tamworth, Toowoomba and Mount Gambier that have welcomed migrants across Australia, view the RAI's Community Narratives here. A copy of the RAI’s new policy paper is available here.