New report calls for change in approach to regional migrant settlement

Western Sydney University’s School of Business and School of Social Sciences, in collaboration with Charles Darwin University, have launched a new framework aimed at improving the settlement of migrants and refugees in regional Australia post-COVID.

The report, which explored migrant and refugee settlement, regional economic development, and regional community development, puts forward recommendations to better support sustainable settlement.

Launched by the University’s Chancellor, Professor Peter Shergold AC, who is also NSW Coordinator-General of Settlement, the study draws on a review of literature and interviews with key policy experts and stakeholders conducted between 2021 and 2022.

Lead author Dr Ataus Samad, from Western Sydney University’s School of Business, who is also a researcher at the University’s Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative (HADRI), said: “With the reopening of Australia’s international border that will allow the arrival of migrants, it is time to rethink a model for a sustainable settlement of migrants including refugees in regional Australia, with enhanced coordination across all levels of the government and stakeholders.”

In proposing a new conceptual framework inclusive of a shift in thinking, the report highlights that alongside the obvious economic and skills benefits, there are many social contributions that migrants and refugees make to our communities that should not be underestimated.

“We need to change the existing view of migrant settlement in regional Australia by focusing on the ‘triple nexus’ of empowering regional communities, fostering economic development, and supporting meaningful migrant settlement, which will benefit regional communities as well as ensure a meaningful life for migrants,” explained Dr Samad.

With migration at historically low rates due to the pandemic and employers unable to rely on international students and groups such as working holidaymakers to meet gaps in the labour market in regional and rural areas, the need for a comprehensive and sustainable approach to regional settlement has never been greater.

Furthermore, the current global geopolitical situation coupled with the effect of natural disasters caused by global warming is increasing the displacement of people and creating greater human movement across the globe.

Dr Samad said a new approach to settling migrants could help address labour shortages and increasing displacement.

“A renewed approach could contribute to the economic growth of regional Australia by narrowing the existing skill shortage gap while ensuring appropriate utilisation of the work experience of migrants in relevant sectors and greater integration within the communities,” said Dr Samad.

“To support migrant settlement in the regional areas in a meaningful way, our findings suggest that both local community-centred settlement and regional economic development-driven settlement need to be coupled with a change in the views towards migrants and refugees, positioning them as partners for a longer-term sustainable settlement.”

This report was co-authored by Dr Melissa Phillips, lecturer and theme leader for migration and diaspora at the HADRI at Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences; Dr Devaki Monani, lecturer at the College of Health and Human Sciences at Charles Darwin University; and Dr Arnita Zahid from Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences.

It was launched at an event on 1 July at the University’s Parramatta City campus with special guests including, the Hon Dr Geoff Lee MP, Minister for Corrections; representatives from Multicultural NSW; senior academics from Western Sydney University; and representatives from across the not-for-profit sector.

For more information, download the ‘Rethinking Socio-Economic Models for Migrant Settlement in Regional Australia Post COVID-19’ report here (opens in a new window).


1 July 2022

Media Unit

Photo credit: Sally Tsoutas