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Open the doors – regional Australia needs more migrants

The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) says increasing overseas migration will be vital to the growth and sustainability of regional Australia following the release of the 2022 Population Statement from the Centre for Population.


RAI CEO, Liz Ritchie, welcomes the government’s focus on immigration and cited a renewed call to establish a national population plan in its recent submission to the Department of Home Affairs’ review of the migration systems.


The submission urged the government to set a regional population target of 11 million by 2032, and to do more to advertise job opportunities in the regions.


“The 2022 Population Statement projects in 2022-23 that less than 17 percent of net overseas migration will flow to regional Australia,” Ms Ritchie said.


“Regional Australia deserves a far greater share of Australia’s biggest driver of population growth.


“At a time when our regional cities and towns are crying out for skills and labour, reaching a record of over 96,000 job vacancies in late 2022, we need to be collectively looking at the systems and processes supporting migrants, so we have more calling regional Australia home.


“Migration will be critical to the growth and sustainability of regional Australia over the next decade,” she said.


According to RAI the 2021 Census data shows that overseas born migrants are not opposed to living outside of metropolitan areas if they have the information and support to do so. Between 2016 and 2021 Census periods, 70 percent of the 254 local government areas that saw an increase in population in both Australian and overseas born residents, were in regional areas.


Census data also shows that migrants are helping to buffer the population decline in some regional communities. Between 2016 and 2021, 103 regional LGAs had their Australian population decline while their overseas population rose.


It is predicted that by 2032-33, without overseas migration, regional Victoria's population would be in decline due to reduced birth rates.


In RAI’s submission to the Department of Home Affairs’ review into migration systems, greater support of migrants to settle in regional Australia was highlighted as key to attracting and maintaining overseas populations in the regions.


“Demand to live in regional Australia is not the issue,” Ms Ritchie said.


“To have more migrants living in regional Australia, we need to provide further awareness about job opportunities, including job support services, and ensure we have communities with enough housing and critical soft and hard infrastructure.


“We need to take a holistic view of the various factors impacting Australia’s migrant population.


“Population planning, jobs, access to housing are all interlinked,” she said.

RAI used 10 years of research to create the Regionalisation 2032 Ambition, a set of 20 targets across five pillars – Population, Jobs & Skills, Liveability, Productivity & Innovation and Sustainability & Resilience.


The Ambition sets a target to double overseas migrants living in regional Australia to 40%.

“They not only keep vibrant communities growing, but they help balance aging populations in some communities.


“Importantly migrants can bring the skills and labour that regional Australia desperately needs, while living the good life in their new country,” Ms Ritchie said.

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