Settlement Services International (SSI) welcomes the opportunity to have a broader conversation about population policy in Australia, as provided by recent political commentary and media coverage.
SSI supports a population conversation that brings balance, fact and data on Australia’s migration program to ensure our successful multicultural social fabric and community cohesion are not undermined. SSI acknowledges the strong multi-party support for Australia’s non-discriminatory migration program and investment towards the successful settlement and integration of newcomers.
Migration has clear economic and social benefits for Australia. The Productivity Commission Inquiry Report Migrant Intake into Australia (2016) found that with net migration at the historic average rate, GDP per person is projected to increase by some 7% relative to zero net overseas migration by 2060.
SSI encourages stronger government stewardship and longer-term coordination of the skilled migration program, as flagged by the Productivity Commission. Currently the skilled migration intake — which accounts for about 60% of the annual migrant intake, and 90% is reported to settle in Sydney and Melbourne — is driven primarily by individual businesses and shorter-term needs for skilled staff.
SSI welcomes dialogue on the benefits of newcomers settling in regional cities and towns; noting that central to healthy community development is the investment in both capital and social infrastructure.
As a provider of settlement services in regional NSW, SSI sees first-hand the benefits to local economies and community social cohesion when regional settlement is driven by local communities welcoming newcomers.
Findings emerging from a three-year study of settlement of recently arrived refugees in NSW, Victoria and Queensland (conducted by Collins and Reid) confirm that a warm welcome makes all the difference, with 68% of Queensland respondents in the study reporting that it was “very easy” or “easy” to make friends in Australia.
SSI acknowledges the need to ensure industry and employment opportunities are in place, and recognises the opportunity to match the skills of new migrants with the skill shortages in rural and regional Australia.
In developing a population planning framework, SSI would welcome the involvement of community and settlement service providers, to inform the creation of a population policy.
SSI is committed to being part of ongoing conversations to enable the establishment of settlement support services and settlement strategies for migrants in target locations, and to link new migrant families with employment, opportunities and community.