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Great Southern local governments consider Designated Area Migration Agreement to address skills shortage

Stuart McGuckinAlbany Advertiser
Regional Development Australia Great Southern WA manager Simon Lyas.
Camera IconRegional Development Australia Great Southern WA manager Simon Lyas. Credit: Laurie Benson

The Great Southern could become a destination for more overseas workers with the region’s local governments considering whether to join forces to apply for a Designated Area Migration Agreement.

At the Great Southern Country Zone June meeting the Shire of Kojonup placed a request for the region’s 11 local government areas to apply for a Designated Area Migration Agreement.

DAMAs are a formal agreement between the Federal Government and a region designed to provide access to more overseas workers than standard skilled migration.

It would allow for a more flexible list of skills and concessions for the Great Southern when it comes to attracting international workers to the region.

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I think it’s a win-win for everybody. Employers win, skilled migrants win and the region is able to operate with better productivity: Simon Lyas

Regional Development Australia Great Southern’s Simon Lyas said his organisation had previously been looking at the viability of an agreement for the region but had not pushed forward because of COVID-19 restrictions.

He said recent discussions between RDA, the Department of Home Affairs and the Great Southern Development Commission had reinvigorated the idea.

“We all thought this would solve a few workforce issues because of the skilled shortages within Australian workers currently,” he said.

“We can’t see the situation getting all that much better for the foreseeable future — most commentators in the public arena are saying this will be the case for the next five years.”

Mr Lyas said the RDA was prepared to apply to become the designated area representative and manage the application process.

There are 12 active agreements in place across Australia, four of which are in WA.

The proposed funding model would see each of the councils contribute — relative to their populations — to cover the costs associated with developing a business case, believed to be between $80,000 and $100,000.

If the application is successful RDA Great Southern has indicated it will cover the ongoing cost of a part-time designated area representative needed to administer the agreement over its five-year period.

The local governments have been asked to report back to the zone by August 17.

If all the local governments show support for the proposal Mr Lyas said work would begin almost immediately to survey what the region needed through extensive consultation.

“We’d hope to achieve it in six to eight months if we can get all the information we need — the business case needs to show substantial evidence of the skill gaps across the region and from that we identify the occupations we apply for in the system,” he said.

Shire of Kent, Shire of Woodanilling and Shire of Denmark councillors voted on whether to support the concept at their meetings last week.

Councillors at the shires of Katanning, Kojonup, Broomhill-Tambellup and Jerranmungup were due to discuss the matter at ordinary meetings this week.

The shires of Plantagenet, Gnowangerup, and Cranbrook as well as the City of Albany are yet to vote on the proposal.

Mr Lyas said a wide range of jobs could be included on each region’s list and employers aiming to bring in workers would need to provide evidence they have been unable to fill positions locally.

“Part of the circumstances to be eligible as a sponsor employer is that they have to prove to the Department of Home Affairs that they did try to fill the position with Australian workers,” he said.

“It isn’t just a tick and flick — the application is fairly robust and every employer has to substantiate that they made a legitimate effort to fill the position.

“So I think it’s a win-win for everybody. Employers win, skilled migrants win and the region is able to operate with better productivity because they won’t have a lack of a workforce.”

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