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    WIMMERA HOME: From left, Jain Jacob and his wife Moble Baby with their children David, 13, Kezia, nine, and Evana, six. The Horsham family, originally from India, has been in Australia for two years, after spending the previous 15 years in Qatar. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Migrants key for regional revival – WDA


Wimmera development leader Chris Sounness has urged communities to position themselves to promote the region as a destination for migrants keen to escape the confines of metropolitan living. 

Mr Sounness said he believed the growth of migrant communities was going to be essential in how well the Wimmera and southern Mallee emerged from socio-economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Research is revealing there are going to be many people from overseas or from Melbourne or other capital cities keen to get out to Australian regional areas,” he said.

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Mr Sounness said the region could ill-afford to underestimate the potential of migration to western Victoria in any recovery from the pandemic.

“We’re presented with a unique set of circumstances and it would be foolish to ignore any development opportunities and-or potential this might present,” he said.

“A movement of people into our region is going to be critical for growth and we basically need to be ready, willing and able to open the doors to welcome newcomers.” 

Mr Sounness said a broad understanding of the advantages that came with migrants was important.

“We’re urging everyone across the Wimmera and southern Mallee to consider how they might be able to meet the needs of new people in everything from general interests and business opportunities to where they might be able to live – and how we can engage new ideas, cultures and motivations,” he said.

“The time is right to prepare and be willing advocates, not only for our municipal leaders – but also our business and industry groups, community organisations, our sporting clubs.

“For example, if you are running a cricket club, do you have policies in place that would welcome someone who might be shy and struggles with English but has a passion for cricket and simply needs encouragement?

“From a business side of things, are you in a position to create and expand on circumstances that are welcoming to someone who might be unfamiliar to the region but keen to be a passionate contributor and involve their families?

“We need to respond to questions such as: How do we engage people and make them feel welcome in the region? How willing are we to understand differences and similarities, backgrounds and experiences? How understanding are we that we need to consider that everyone is different with different motivations to making the move here?

“All of these things are important in drawing up a blueprint to get more people to not only grow our region but to also barrack for this part of the world. 

“We need to get the message across that this is a great place to work, live and somewhere people can call home.”

Mr Sounness said the key message was that as communities, people of the region had to be highly invested in the idea to help make it happen.

“We have employment opportunities and want more people to enjoy the space we have,” he said.

“This is much more than simply having more people – it’s about having people with different ideas, different cultures, different incentives. 

“With that comes renewed vibrancy and opportunities for business and growth.”

Mr Sounness said there were countless examples across regional Australia of where an influx of migrants had helped stimulate economies and communities.

“We only have to consider the Karen community’s positive influence on Nhill to see how this works,” he said.


Murray Emerson: Things will change – migrants to generate socio-economic growth

The entire July 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!