A new not-for-profit to help migrants and refugees relocate to regional areas to address skills shortage
On 14 August, Regional Opportunities Australia (ROA) was officially launched by Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, Governor of New South Wales, at Government House, Sydney.
ROA, a subsidiary of HOST International Ltd, was established earlier this year in Sydney with a mission to connect people of migrant and refugee backgrounds with employment and small business opportunities in regional Australia.
ROA’s objective is twofold, on one hand it aims to positively transform the lives of migrants and refugees who may be unemployed or underemployed by helping them obtain regional employment, build fulfilling lives and integrate faster so they can make meaningful contributions to Australian society. On the other hand, it aims to renew and advance the regional economy.
ROA CEO, Mahir Momand, explained, “Despite being skilled, a large number of migrants and refugees struggle to find employment in the cities, yet there is a huge demand in regional areas for more local labour. ROA’s job is to connect this demand with the supply of skilled workers, as well as to educate people of refugee and migrant background that there are job opportunities in regional areas to match their skillset, and that there are welcoming regional communities ready to embrace them.”
ROA currently works with communities in NSW, VIC, and the ACT, with plans to expand to additional states and territories during its next phase. Since commencing operations earlier this year, ROA has onboarded nearly 100 applicants (almost 250 persons including spouses and children) who are currently being assisted to become job ready, with 20 of them currently being interviewed by regional employers for potential roles. Their skillsets are diverse, spanning medical doctors, engineers, office workers, truck drivers, and meat inspectors. A total of 5 applicants have already been successfully placed into jobs and have moved with their families to regional areas.
Led by Momand, an Afghan refugee himself, and COO Emmanuel Musoni, a regional settlement expert, ROA is overseen by Patrons, Wendy Machin and Wendy McCarthy AO. When Mahir’s ancestors—the Afghan cameleers—came to Australia, they linked and expanded outback Australia, created regional economic hubs and communities. As a new generation Afghan Australian, Mahir is focused on growing the economic potential of the nation by connecting the labour force of migrants and refugees with the opportunities in regional hubs.
Prior to founding ROA, Mahir was the founding CEO of Thrive Refugee Enterprise.
ROA Chair, David Keegan, said, “ROA’s mission is unique in that it benefits both regional hubs and those individuals in need of work. Supporting the development of regional economies with more skilled labour, and creating employment opportunities for more Australians is an important initiative and one that we hope to bring more attention to.”
ROA’s key point of difference is that it is currently the only specialised end-to-end support service available for migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and Australian citizens who have working rights and want to permanently resettle into regional communities. ROA’s services include bespoke assistance with resume preparation, interview skills, qualification recognition, and cultural training; the identification of jobs and small business opportunities in regional areas, and information on various regional areas; as well as support with relocation and resettlement in the form of regional mentors and other services that are available.
ROA works closely with regional councils and communities to ensure smooth and sustainable transition of migrants and refugees into regional lives. The regional areas where ROA operates offer cheaper housing, lower cost of living and a stronger sense of belonging.
Commenting on the launch, Governor Beazley, said, “The settlement of migrants and refugees into regional areas has great potential to be a ‘win-win’ for local communities and for the individuals and families who come to be part of these communities, reflecting the wonderfully diverse nation that we are. To realise this potential we need engaged and sustainable support services to assist with planning, relationship building and mentoring. I am delighted to officially launch ROA and look forward to the contribution ROA will make to assist migrant and refugee families as they successfully settle in regional areas.”
ROA is supported by HOST International as well as a range of corporate sponsors and organisations. In February, the Government announced funding of $19.4 million over the next four years to support regional areas to attract skilled migrants, with priority processing on visa applications provided to regional employers and skilled migrants wanting to live and work in regional areas.
ROA is a not-for-profit organisation that helps migrants and refugees move from cities to welcoming regional communities and connects them to employment and business opportunities. ROA’s services are free of charge for their applicants and employers.
ROA’s role is to identify regional areas that have employment and business opportunities. It also identifies migrants and refugees who are excited to take up those opportunities and assists them in getting job and business ready, moving to, and calling regional Australia home. Prior to connecting the two, ROA culturally prepares both migrants and refugees, and regional communities to ensure that the transition to life in regional Australia is smooth and sustainable.