A resettlement model moving migrants to Victoria’s South-West

Carly Jordan is a 2019 state finalist in the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award. She has developed a migrant resettlement model expected to give regional towns a boost.

Carly is the Project Manager of the Great South Coast Economic Migration Project which aims to assist migrants, originally from Africa, to relocate from metropolitan areas to South-West Victoria.

Launched in January 2018, considerable success has already been enjoyed. The project has assisted 11 migrant families to resettle in South-West Victoria. Both the Southern Grampians Shire Council and Glenelg Shire Council are participating in the pilot project.

The families are originally from the Great Lakes region in Africa – predominantly Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda – and have moved from Melbourne or Sydney to South-West Victoria to create a new life. To be eligible, families must have arrived as refugees and lived in an Australian city between five and 10 years.

By the end of 2019, the plan is to resettle up to 20 African migrant families to the Southern Grampians and Glenelg Shire, with a Victorian Government investment of $160,000.  

According to Carly, addressing the overcrowding of cities and the uneven spread of the Australian population is a primary focus of the project. "We’ve moved 11 families to Hamilton and Casterton and with each family having an average of six children, we’ve increased the population of those areas by 60 in 13 months," she says. "Population attraction is a key aim of the pilot in order to address the regional challenges of an ageing workforce, a population in decline and limited cultural diversity. The project has also contributed to thriving primary and secondary schools and ensured public facilities can remain open."

The project team assists families to secure one job per relocating migrant household, filling roles where regional businesses struggle to find local employees such as in agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, aged care and child care. Staff work with each family to ensure they find work that suits their interests and Carly approaches each employer individually to discuss the program and applicants. "We’re working with the community to support economic and social growth rather than for them," she says, adding that the pilot’s success has been due to community support from numerous volunteers.  

It’s an approach that creates sustainability as the families build their own relationships and avoid isolation. Initiatives include a buddy system with local families, English lessons with trained volunteers and a tutoring café for primary school students. Carly has also established a language café attended by about 20 people from nine different cultural backgrounds.  

But for Carly, the most satisfying aspect is seeing the families finally employed in jobs they want to do, seeing their children improving grades at school and seeing the joy they’ve found by returning to rural areas. "The families come from rural towns in Africa and so being back amongst green pastures, they say they finally feel like they are home" she says. "Plus I’ve built some wonderful relationships with the families, often sharing food and leisure time together with my family. Each family has said their lives have completely changed for the better; they have stable jobs, their children are happy, they feel part of a community and say they are here to stay."

Local communities, too, have embraced the new families. "We continue to receive encouraging feedback on the positive impact the families are having to our community," says Carly.  

Such approaches have not only encouraged intercultural friendships, they’ve also significantly improved the English levels of participants. "One of the women has gone on to achieve Australian citizenship in January, successfully passed her learner driver’s test and recently started her first job in Australia," says Carly. "Five years in Australia, then all of this after only one year living in regional Victoria."

Beyond 2019, the aim is to roll out the project to other local government areas who can also benefit from population growth and create vibrant, sustainable communities.

For Carly, being named as a state finalist in the upcoming Rural Women’s Award is the icing on the cake. "It’s a fantastic opportunity to highlight the important role women play in rural communities and it’s a complete honour to have my project recognised at a state level."

Carly is one of three Victorian state finalists in the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.

More details about the awards can be found on the Agriculture Victoria website.