Regional Opportunities Australia (ROA) supports the Australian Government’s regional migration initiatives, including additional visas and the expanded definition of regional Australia, which came into effect on 16 November following unprecedented growth in the number of regional visas granted this year.
ROA, a not-for-profit assisting migrants and refugees to find jobs and relocate to regional communities, says more needs to be done to ensure it will sustain population growth in the short and longer term, with regional Australia accounting for approximately one third of the country’s economic output and total workforce. Approximately 78% of migrants and refuges settle in NSW and VIC under the belief that is where jobs are available.
ROA CEO Mahir Momand says that without the help of meaningful insights to guide the continuous improvement of policy and resettlement practices, a greater regional intake of migrants may lead to sub-optimal settlement outcomes.
“The Government’s recent initiatives for increasing the number of regional migration visas and expanding the definition of ‘regional Australia’ to include cities like Perth and the Gold Coast are definitely the right steps towards sourcing more labour. However, we think a broader community approach is needed to make this growth sustainable. It is important that we are looking after today’s labour force while ensuring regional population growth for tomorrow,” he said.
There have been a variety of measures designed to attract skilled migrants to regional and rural areas, said Mahir Momand, but wondered how sustainable they were if the Government keeps coming up with new incentives.
“It is time to delve deeper into these communities and find out what exactly it takes to keep populations growing and businesses thriving in these small towns and cities,” he said.
Mahir Momand said that to ensure ROA meets its objectives of sustainable employment and regional economic growth, the recently launched not-for-profit was actively engaging with the Federal Government and The Joint Standing Committee of Migration to establish a robust measurement framework to monitor ROA’s progress and provide useful insights.
“Our role continues post-settlement to ensure the transition to regional life for migrants and refugees is a success. We will be monitoring their progress at regular intervals – 1 year, 3 years and 5 years – and working alongside their employers, host community and local support services to educate ourselves on what is required for long-term success. The data we are starting to collect now will ideally inform future initiatives and promote the potential for lasting community outcomes.”
ROA opened its doors earlier this year and is currently active in rural towns across NSW, VIC and the ACT, having onboarded 300 applicants who are being assisted to become job ready and move to regional areas. A total of 10 families, or 35 people including spouses and children, have already be re-settled into new jobs and communities by ROA.
The organisation provides bespoke end-to-end assistance to migrants and refugees including resume preparation and interview training; guidance on qualification recognition; the identification of jobs and small business opportunities; cultural trips; support with relocation, and; connecting migrants and refugees with regional mentors and local support services.