Migrants moving to the bush should be a classic case of need-meets-opportunity: the bush needs more people, and migrants need work and community.
The reality is more complicated, as reality always is.
Some migrant groups are an ideal fit within certain rural communities, and certain businesses. But more often, the fit has to be created through hard work and patience. Sometimes, there may not be a fit, despite all efforts.
The Regional Australia Institute’s excellent guides, Understanding Regional Settlement in Australia and Steps to Settlement Success: A Toolkit lay out in the clearest terms the circumstances in which migrants can become valued members of a rural community, and the hurdles that lie in the way.
It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must be for a first-generation migrant in a strange country, operating in different language under different rules and customs. Just getting by would be hard enough; the resistance that migrants can receive from some sectors of Australian society must make the adjustment doubly hard.
The current waves of humanitarian migrants coming in from the Middle East and Asia carry profound cultural differences, but many also have backgrounds that make them natural residents of the regions: they are people from the land, or with close connections to it.
“Many migrants moving to rural Australia in particular also have great ambitions of farming,” notes the RAI’s Understanding Regional Settlement in Australia. “It is a large part of why big cities are not their ultimate settlement location; farming is a permanent activity they will continue to practice as long as they have the opportunity.”
Few migrants have the same understanding of farming as Australian farmers. For instance, lack of technological expertise is cited by the RAI researchers as one of the obstacles to bringing more migrants into local farming jobs.
However, do not underestimate the determination of migrants to build a new life for themselves, especially if their old life lies in ashes behind them.
As the RAI guides make clear, it takes a whole community to make a foundation for a new community of migrants. And if an existing community can successfully transplant a new migrant community in its midst, the rewards are immense: new business possibilities, new energy, new relationships, new food in places revitalised by new locals.
Not every migrant group will work with every community. But when the right preparations are made with the right understanding, and the right people are reaching to each other across cultural gaps, migrants can be a great source of renewed prosperity for struggling communities.
By Robbie Sefton
Robbie Sefton has a dual investment in rural Australia as a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains and as managing director of national marketing communications company Seftons.
This article was published in The Land newspaper on 17th July 2019. Link to the article can be found here – https://www.theland.com.au/story/6277163/bush-not-always-easy-for-migrants/