In August 2018, around 250 representatives of government, local councils, service providers and advocacy groups met in Toowoomba, Qld for the innaugural Regions of Welcome Conference, hosted by SCoA member MDA Ltd and a range of partners.
This exciting conference capitalised on the recent focus on regional settlement, bringing together a range of presenters to discuss not just why regional settlement presents a great option for migrants in Australia, but how best we can achieve long-term outcomes that benefit both migrants and the communities they settle in.
With underlying themes of respect and inclusion, the conference highlighted the great benefits that regional settlement can achieve, so long as appropriate efforts are made to ensure both attraction and retention supports long-term settlement in regional and rural communities.
The conference included a range of interesting presentations and topics, including presentations by the Regional Australia Institute, Welcoming Cities, Department of Social Services, Rural Australians for Refugees, Refugee Council of Australia, and many more. SCoA was proud to sponsor the conference and used the opportunity to learn from members and other interested parties about the issues that might impact the success of regional settlement. SCoA CEO Nick Tebbey presented on the role of the National Settlement Services Outcomes Standards in supporting regional settlement and chaired a session on Employment Outcomes which highlighted some of the great regional initiatives supporting economic integration.
Key messages from the conference included:
- the need for local leadership and whole-of-community buy-in to make regional settlement work;
- the need for targeted settlement support to assist migrants building their lives in regional or rural locations (which may fall outside of existing settlement support programs);
- the welcoming nature of many regional and rural communities (dispelling common myths about the attitudes of regional Australians towards migration);
- the great wealth of experience that exists thanks to a number of trail blazing migrants, communities and service providers who have already successfully supported regional initiatives;
- the role of employers and local business;
- the importance of ensuring English language acquisition is supported, no matter how remote a migrant may be; and
- many others.
Highlights of the conference included a presentation of the dramatic work “The Village“, presentations and performances by local recent arrivals and new and emerging communities, and a conference dinner that included a healthy mix of entertainment, fine food, networking and reflection.
We look forward to continuing the discussions commenced at the conference and working with key stakeholders to capitalise on recent successes and develop a more consistent approach to making regional settlement work.
SCoA congratulates all involved on a brilliant conference and in particular, the city of Toowoomba for the warm welcome it provides (not just to conference attendees but to the thousands of migrants, including those from a refugee background, who have made their home there in recent years).