Thursday, May 11, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Migration, A Pathway To Region Building

This week the federal government handed down its review into the role of permanent migration in nation building. After only a relatively brief review which commenced late last year, the government has identified some areas for policy change, and like most shifts associated with a change in government this appears to be flavoured with some obvious, much needed reforms to support the current economy as well as appeasement of interests from within the new government.

Migration has long been recognised as a critical contributor to regional development, and our region is no exception. Over the past hundred years or more, migrant workers from a range of heritage have moved here establishing families and businesses that are the backbone of key industries like Agriculture. Evidently, many well-known local families and prominent community names have originated from migrant decent. Migration has brought with it various benefits such as cultural diversity, social and economic growth, skills, entrepreneurship and workforce expansion.

With the right settings and support, migration has a critical role to play in realising the future, enormous untapped potential in our region and in our key industries. A purpose-built migration system that enables migrant workers to supplement the domestic workforce will allow us to access that potential. People across the globe are willing and eager to visit or live in Australia to work on farms. We need to have policy settings that allows them to do so, and ensure Australia is a competitive and desirable location for migrants.

Moving forward, our migration system must allow willing workers, skilled and unskilled to be able to come into our country to support our regional employers and businesses in an accessible and equitable way. Touching on the reports of widespread exploitation of low-skilled workers in the governments review, I can’t speak for every industry and region but from what I’ve seen in my time in Agriculture these reports are overblown and industrially motivated. This system should offer necessary protections and a way to obtain permanent residence in our country but also be flexible toward temporary needs of businesses in industries such as agriculture, considerate of cost and who bears that cost in supporting the migration process.

In July this year, BGGA will be hosting a forum in Bowen to advance the dialogue in ‘regional capacity building through migration’ bringing stakeholders together to learn about the current system, discuss challenges and further opportunities that migration can bring. I hope you’ll agree this is an important discussion to pursue for the future growth of our industry and of our region.

Contributed with thanks to Ry Collins, President of Bowen Gumlu Growers Association.

Workers at the Brisbane Markets. Photo supplied

Migration has a critical role to play in revitalising the future. Photo supplied

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