Regional skilled visa changes considered: Wimmera councils welcome initiative

WIMMERA councils have backed a federal government idea to change regional skilled visas to bind people to rural areas for a period of time.

The government said this week it was considering the changes to help rural and regional areas meet labour demands.

The changes would mean visa holders would be required to stay in rural or regional areas for a certain time after securing permanent residency in Australia.

The country has multiple visa options for people wanting to work in regional or rural areas, but people are not bound to stay in those areas once they have a permanent visa.

Acting Ararat Rural City mayor Gwenda Allgood said it was a great idea that her council would support.

“We've got an absolutely welcoming community in Ararat, with different nationalities coming into our region,” she said.

“Every nationality who comes in teaches you a different experience.

“Ararat would more than welcome anyone who wants to come in, and I'm sure the other municipalities would feel the same.”

Cr Allgood said there were plenty of employment options for migrants in the rural city. 

“There's a lot of technology at the moment in our shire. If you look at AME Systems and Gason, for example, they are doing some great things,” she said.

Cr Allgood backed the potential of the government’s idea to help build rural populations and meet labour shortages.

“It’s a great initiative and we would welcome it with open arms,” she said.

West Wimmera Shire mayor Jodie Pretlove said visa changes could be a win for shires like hers.

“It could absolutely work,” she said.

“Exactly how in detail I’m not too sure. There's always a demand in our area for farm hands and things like that, and there’s seasonal work around especially in farming. But they are not always going to have the skills for those positions, so there's a training that needs to come with it sometimes.

“We certainly need more people in our communities, that's for sure.”

Yarriambiack Shire mayor Graeme Massey said there was no doubt such an initiative would help rural and regional councils like those in the Wimmera.

“Anything that can give us access to a source of skilled employees is beneficial,” he said.

“Finding people in north-west Victoria in general can be really hard. In some cases you might get the worker, but then you have to convince their families to come too.

“If there was an immigration policy that could bring people to regions like ours, we'd well and truly welcome that.”

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