Stories From the Ground

Data has it’s place.  It’s crucial to have evidence to prove policy is useful.  But on it’s own, data often leaves out the view from the ground.  It doesn’t show the opinion and support of locals who experience the policy.  In short, it misses the personal touch.   Local stories from the community that gains from the policy tell an extra layer.   So far, programs using refugees to revitalise rural towns have been trialled in Nhill, Yass, Tamworth and Rupanyup.  Here’s how locals feel about them, now that they’re 5 years down the track.

“The more people we have in our community the more viable the businesses are, the schools are, sporting teams teams are”

David Matthews

Farm Trade Australia

“Nhill could not get people to work in Luv-a-Duck [a ready-to-cook meat supplier], to expand their employment opportunities. The kindergarten was nearly shut down and the school was not full”

In 2009, Nhill was suffering the same fate of many small rural towns and facing a decline in its working age population and the challenge of keeping services going.   John and Margaret, the owner’s of Luv-a-Duck, had hit a wall.  They were a team, and the business was ready to expand beyond providing whole birds to restaurants, and into supplying ready to cook meat to supermarkets and butchers. Sourcing labour, though, was a problem. The working population of Nhill was tiny. Nobody, it seemed, was prepared to move to Nhill for work.  Like many rural businesses, they wanted to expand their operations but were struggling to find staff.

 

“The Karen needed us. But we needed them, too.”

– John and Margaret Millington, Managing Director & Secretary of Luv-a-Duck, one of Nhill’s largest businesses
By working in partnership with AMES, a resettlement and employment services provider, Luv-a-Duck was able to secure the staff it needed from the Karen community to grow its business.  Six years on and 84 new jobs have been created in Nhill. Fifty-four Karen refugees, now become new-Australians, are employed directly by Luv-a-duck, and seven are employed in businesses that supply Luv-a-Duck.  Twenty are employed by grower farms, and another twenty are working for unrelated businesses.  The increased population has gone a huge way to filling empty jobs among a number of community businesses and services.   Andrew Broad, MP, Minister for Mallee has even spoken to parliament about how refugees have brought new life to the town in his electorate.

“There has been a recent report that it has also contributed $41 million to the economic activity of a town of about 3,000 people,” he said.

“It is extraordinary. The school is now full and the kindergarten is now full.”

Across the country, in Yass, and Nhill, in Rupanyup and Wogga Wogga, even in cities as large as Tamworth, refugees & new migrants have been giving life to rural towns.  In Yass alone, settled refugees have created millions of dollars of value, and have had huge support from locals, with rural Australians nationwide getting involved with ‘Rural Australians for Refugees‘.   In 2018, our rural towns have it harder than ever, and they need a solution.  The trials have been done, and the results are undeniable, but still, these solutions haven’t been rolled out on a national scale. 

Times are tough, and broken strategies lead to bad futures.  So isn’t it about time we started doing what works?  

“When a skilled migrant comes to a regional area, they can find a job, they go on to make a significant social  and – importantly – economic contribution to the area

Michael McCormack,

Deputy Prime Minister & Leader of the National Party