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Wimmera migration project target

David Matthews.

David Matthews.


By DEAN LAWSON
The Wimmera is among primary target areas for a national migration project designed to stimulate regional population growth and development.
Wimmera Community Bank leaders are at the forefront of a pilot Rural Migration Initiative, which took its first step forward at a meeting in Canberra last week.
The project is based on region-led migration plans across Australia. At its core is a belief that attracting migrants through structured systems represents the best way to guarantee the long-term survival of rural and regional communities.
Rupanyup-Minyip Bendigo Community Bank Board, responsible for establishing the first community bank in Australia, is a primary driver of a Wimmera project. It has joined forces with Edenhope and Charlton community bank boards to develop a framework to investigate regional needs, opportunities, advantages and barriers involved in attracting skilled migrants to the region.
Rupanyup-Minyip board spokesman David Matthews, of Rupanyup, said the time was right to direct community-bank success into addressing a need to stimulate population growth.
“For a long time we have observed this two-speed social structure where major cities are growing rapidly while rural communities are struggling with population stagnation or decline,” he said.
“In the community banking world we talk about human and social capital. Phase one is providing financial capital and creating the availability of financial services.
“But then what do we do? We enhance community prospects at different levels, towards long-term sustainability.
“In the community bank world we use a cash surplus to provide money for the community, but we have started looking at the core issue of needing to stimulate population growth.
“Of course, a natural way for that to happen would be for everyone to have five kids.
“Or, do we organise ourselves as a region to attract skilled, sponsored and secondary migrants?”
Jobs myth
Mr Matthews said it was a myth that there were few or no jobs in the region and migrants were often unaware of opportunities beyond metropolitan or large provincial centres.
“We recognised in our region long ago that we can’t just wait for things to happen,” he said.
“We might be remote in Victoria but we need to get off our butts and make it happen.
“If we can develop a successful community bank model that now has 322 branches nationally, we can certainly develop a model in the Wimmera in terms of attracting skilled migrants to turn around stagnation in population.
“We want people to come work, live and play with us.”
Mr Matthews said he expected regional research into a community prospectus, identifying everything from migrant job availability to housing and support services, to occur in the next six to 12 months.
He said Regional Australia Institute would help co-ordinate activities and organisations such as Wimmera Development Association, local government and various authorities and not-for-profit groups would be crucial in helping collate information.
“We will be appointing people to drive projects at a local level and we will eventually have a document we can take to governments, backing up a need for skilled and targeted migration in the region,” Mr Matthews said.
The Rural Migration Initiative’s initial group, as well as the Bendigo Bank Community Bank network, also includes representatives from South Australia’s Limestone Coast, Victoria’s Great South Coast and western NSW’s Orana region.
Last week’s meeting in Canberra included representatives from community banking, regional communities, government, settlement services, philanthropic organisations and migration agencies.

EDITORIAL: Migrant exploration makes sense

The entire August 8, 2018 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Aug 8 2018

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