New funding has been announced to attract skilled migrants to regional areas, with employers and those looking to work and live in Australia to be given priority processing on visa applications.
Department of Home Affairs officials will also be deployed to regional communities to work directly with employers and communities experiencing critical skills shortages.
Federal Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister David Coleman said these initiatives would support regional employers to get the skilled workers they need to grow and develop their businesses.
‘‘Our skilled visa programs are about supporting Australian businesses and creating opportunities for more Australians,’’ he said.
‘‘There are a number of regions outside Sydney, Melbourne and south-east Queensland who are calling out for skilled migrants.
‘‘These regional initiatives will help these communities and local business attract migrants where they are needed most.’’
Where Australian workers are not available, visa settings can be tailored to suit the needs of specific regions through tools such as Designated Area Migration Agreements.
Mr Coleman said the Federal Government was significantly expanding the DAMA program, with officials from the Department of Home Affairs already in discussions with a range of regions that are experiencing labour shortages to see whether a DAMA could be put in place to supplement the local workforce.
‘‘Training and skilling Australians is one of our top priorities, but there is a need for additional workers to supplement the workforce, particularly in regional areas,’’ he said.
‘‘There are economic gaps in regional areas which immigration can help to fill, and that is exactly what we are doing through these new or expanded measures.’’
Regional Cities Victoria has welcomed the $19.4million announcement, saying with the right planning, a regional migration program had the potential to transform regional cities and alleviate the population pressures in capital cities.
However, RCV cautioned that any migration program would need to be carefully managed and supported by investment in infrastructure, such as reliable rail, improved road networks and expansion of healthcare and education services to match increased demand.
RCV would also like to see programs to help new families settle into their new communities.