Boosting skills in the Bush: NT’s migration strategy revamped

By Our Reporter
Representational Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

The Albanese Government, in conjunction with the NT Government, has announced a pivotal extension to the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA). This initiative stands as a beacon of hope for over 280 employers in the Territory, grappling with severe skill shortages.

Under the renewed plan, the agreement extends for another year, paving the way for up to 625 temporary skilled visas. This surge in workforce will not only fulfil the immediate needs of the Territory but also introduce a spectrum of long-term benefits. Workers can expect enhanced wages and broadened avenues for permanent residency—a clear signal that the government is not just filling gaps but nurturing a sustainable workforce ecosystem.

This recalibration of the workforce landscape is particularly significant for care workers, nurses, dental assistants, cooks, and chefs. These professions are pivotal to the NT community, and their inclusion under the DAMA will fortify the social fabric of the Territory. The decision also addresses the critical predicament facing Territory employers: the challenge of hiring and retaining staff in roles that have seen scant interest from the local workforce.

The agreement’s expansion is not just about quantity but also quality and diversity. The inclusion of occupations like primary and secondary school teachers and software engineers is a strategic move. It reflects a keen understanding of the NT’s evolving needs and the importance of a workforce that is as dynamic as it is skilled. This expansion, coupled with relaxed eligibility restrictions, showcases a government that is attentive to the ground realities of workforce demands.

Further, the Albanese and Fyles Governments have underscored their commitment to the well-being of migrant workers. Ensuring safe working conditions and proper pay is a cornerstone of this agreement, signalling a humane approach to labour migration. The elimination of the former Liberal Government’s non-monetary compensation policy further solidifies this stance. Workers can now enjoy a more substantial financial remuneration, with minimum wages under the DAMA extension set to rise from approximately $48,000 to $55,000.

As 2024 approaches, both governments are poised to engage in tripartite discussions with business and unions. This collaboration is essential for crafting the third NT DAMA, which will commence in 2025. The spirit of cooperation and a shared vision for the Territory’s prosperity underscore these discussions.

Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Madeleine King, highlighted the dual nature of the NT—its vast opportunities tempered by unique challenges. This agreement is a testament to the government’s proactive stance in bolstering the NT’s economic and social structure.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, criticised the previous government’s handling of immigration. The current government’s approach is a stark contrast, aiming to rectify past missteps and construct a migration system that benefits all Territorians.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles emphasised the NT’s burgeoning opportunities and the necessity of a skilled working population to maintain competitive momentum. Minister for Jobs and Training, Joel Bowden, echoed these sentiments, envisaging the Territory as an attractive destination for skilled overseas workers.

The extension of the DAMA is a strategic move by the Albanese Government, in partnership with the NT Government, to address skill shortages and strengthen the Territory’s economy. This approach not only meets immediate needs but also lays a foundation for sustainable growth, making the Northern Territory an even more vibrant and diverse community.

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