New country offers hope and peace for migrants

By Ashlea Witoslawski

The federal Coalition proposes to ban new migrants from living in Melbourne and Sydney for five years to ease congestion. Would this help regional areas like Shepparton? Or should new migrants be free to choose where they live? Ashlea Witoslawski talked to local stakeholders.

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell encourages the arrival of migrants with skills and work readiness to enter our region.

Mr Birrell said he had been involved in recent discussions with the Federal Government regarding the specifics of newly proposed regional visa requirements.

‘‘Our economy is calling out for skilled people,’’ Mr Birrell said.

Support network

Mr Birrell emphasised the importance of knowing the difference between attracting skilled migrants and supporting those seeking refuge.

‘‘It’s a balanced approach,’’ he said.

‘‘We have a community that has managed to support people as a compassionate society. We can create some support structures around those people.’’

Referencing the Rail Futures Institute State of Cities report, Mr Birrell said Shepparton had the potential to support of a population of 100000 to 150000.

He said our urban water allocation was sufficient for population growth and we had a growing manufacturing base that offered huge potential to new arrivals.

Community input encouraged

Arriving in Shepparton as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, community leader Rashidi Sumaili welcomes new arrivals to the city, but believes community consultation is key before placement.

‘‘The government needs to work with local people,’’ he said.

‘‘There must be a plan.’’

Mr Sumaili said there were a number of African refugees who had thrived in the regional cities by setting up their own small businesses.

He said other African migrants were often their first market and this created economic benefit for the local community.

‘‘Shepparton is seen as a better place to live by the African community.’’

Mr Sumaili believes the infrastructure is already in place to take on more migrants, but encourages the creation of a local committee to be better prepared.

‘‘We welcome the idea of the Federal Government but we need to start by organising a committee so people can start to plan,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to look at what was built before and what we can improve.’’

Mr Sumaili said assessing migrants’ level of education and ensuring their skills matched the regional climate was important.

He believed migrants could be placed anywhere as long as there was support in place for them.

‘‘We’re here already so we need to work with the government to create more policies and strategies for people to integrate. They need to involve us in the process.’’

Plan aims to ease congestion

Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Minister Alan Tudge recently announced the Federal Government’s plans to correct population imbalance by expanding the mix of geographical visa conditions and incentives imposed on new arrivals.

Among discussions, the importance of developing better roads and transport connections including fast rail and developing greater infrastructure to accommodate growing populations was considered.

Although the government’s proposal relates to skilled visas, Mr Tudge said there was an ongoing discussion about moving more of the humanitarian refugee intake to rural areas as well.

Acknowledging that migration polices are a matter for the Federal Government, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said people should be able to choose where they lived.

New country offers hope and peace 

Daniel Baguma.

Arriving in Shepparton in May this year as a refugee, Daniel Baguma is enjoying the opportunities available in his new home country.

The 24-year-old was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and spent the past seven years in Uganda before seeking refuge in Australia.

Although he has only been here for a few months, Mr Baguma has secured a job at a chicken farm in Benalla and enjoys volunteering as a pastor for the Shepparton Church of Christ evening service.

‘‘This is the best place because I get to live here with my family and friends,’’ Mr Baguma said.

Although Mr Baguma was brought to Shepparton by the government for settlement, he believes the region provides a great base for all migrants.

Some of the major positives include job networks, the chance to learn English and the sense of peace and security.

‘‘I appreciate the opportunity and the Australian people,’’ Mr Baguma said.

‘‘They are friendly and make us feel at home.’’

Mr Baguma is looking forward to a future in Shepparton, hoping to bring his parents over from the Congo and start a TAFE course in January.

‘‘I hope one day Congo can be good too and that our families, friends and brothers can be safe and live with peace and freedom.’’