Under a special visa agreement, foreign workers will fill unwanted Australian farming jobs in a pocket of regional Victoria. The state's south-west is the first region outside the Northern Territory to receive the five-year Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) to ease a workforce shortage, particularly in food processing, agriculture and hospitality. Six local governments, led by Warrnambool City Council, lobbied the Federal Government for the deal.
Federal Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, David Coleman, said the Great South Coast region had been "calling out" for workers for some time.
Federal Member for Wannon, Dan Tehan, said workers would be provided with four years of work, relevant training and community support services and possible permanent residency. Tehan said in many cases, businesses had advertised job opportunities Australia wide but had not been able to fill them: "Those businesses were restricted in their growth and it was hurting the whole community. It seems Australians don't want to do [the jobs]. Our population growth hasn't been as strong as other areas … we've got to make sure we've got the workers to continue to grow."
Local workers still a priority
The DAMA deal has been initially limited to a "moderate" 300 positions, most likely in the dairy and meat processing sectors. Tehan said employers were required to offer fours years of secure training, employment and engagement and support services would be made available in the community. He said the number of positions could change depending on demand.
Meanwhile, Southern Grampians Shire Council Mayor, Mary-Anne Brown, said the south-west had a lot to offer overseas workers: "I don't think there's a need for compulsion to make people come here but we're looking at strategies to try to fill some of those workforce shortages.”
Abc.net.au reported that the NT signed a DAMA in 2015 and is expected to have a new agreement in place by the end of this week. Other areas interested in a similar deal include the Pilbara and the Kalgoorlie-Boulder regions in WA, Cairns in Far North Queensland, and the Orana region in central NSW.