Recognising Councils high achievers - This month from Shire of Dalwallinu, WA

Article image - Recognising Councils high achievers - This month from Shire of Dalwallinu, WA Members of the Regional Repopulation Advisory Committee (From Left) Bill Dinnie, Peter Crispin, Stuart McAlpine, Lois Best, Tess Slot, Cr Ian Hyde and Cr Robert Nixon

President of the Shire of Dalwallinu Robert Nixon nominated the Regional Repopulation Advisory Committee for their unique and progressive drive in attracting new residents to the area.

Suffering from a population decline, an idea from a local farmer prompted the Shire to initiate a program that would encourage people on a humanitarian refugee visa to move with their families to the Shire of Dalwallinu.

The proposal interested council, and a plan was officially drafted.

The then minister for local government, Hon. John Castrilli, officially launched the project on October 11 2011.

From the outset, the project was a family orientated endeavor that would not just encourage workers to move to the area, but their families as well, with the hope of a permanent resident increase.

The focus was shifted to 457 visa holders, as residents on humanitarian visas had already settled in metropolitan areas with their families, and were thus, for social and economic reasons, unlikely to move again.

Shortages of skilled labor in the mining, manufacturing and support service industries provided plenty of opportunities for local industries to offer 457 visa employment and sponsorship.  

Housing, language development, and social services are ongoing challenges for the project, with several projects initiated to assist the new residents, one of the most successful being English classes.

457 visa holders are not eligible to access the free Adult Migrant English Program, so the Shire approached a visiting English as a Second Language teacher, with classes starting in 2012.

The Shire later employed the English teacher as the Community Liaison and Support officer charged with assisting the positive integration of new and existing residents.

Further initiatives included Immigration seminars, new resident packs, Community events and a new resident database that assisted the Committee in strategic planning.

Currently, there has been a population increase of 177 new residents in the area, representing an increase of over ten percent.

With many of the residents on 457 visas soon able to apply for permanent residency, more positives are expected in the near future for Dalwallinu and the Regional Repopulation Pilot Project team.

In the future there is also the option to refocus efforts back to attracting humanitarian refugees, through promoting the opportunities for regional food production, cooperatives and niche market farming.