Crying out for rural workers

Crying out for rural workers


Business
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The way former PM Tony Abbott carried on about stopping the boats, it'd be easy to think Australia wasn't interested in refugees.

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OPPORTUNITY or burden? The way former Prime Minister Tony Abbott carried on about stopping the boats, it would be easy to think Australia wasn't interested in any refugees.

Perhaps this is one area he should have looked into a bit more, before succumbing to the polls.

Rural communities and agricultural representative bodies are now emerging from the woodwork saying "we'll take them please".

Syrians that is, with skills, and preferably agricultural skills.

As Deputy Premier Troy Grant told The Land"It's absolutely apparent there's a skills shortage across regional NSW".

He said rural businesses were frustrated with locals who were being choosey and preferring to stay on welfare than take on local employement.

So, Syria could have some of what rural Australia is seeking - willing workers with skills.

The support among rural communities not only highlights the issues around labour shortages, but also that opportunities do exist in regional Australia.

At this stage, NSW might only receive about 4000 of the extra 12,000 refugees, the bulk of which will arrive later this year and throughout 2016.

However, the state is pushing for more and this represents an opportunity for rural towns, which can show they have a workforce need.

Professor Peter Shergold, appointed by Premier Mike Baird to handle the re-settlement, has already indicated some of these refugees could have the potential to benefit rural communities.

Syria after all did have a rural-based economy (along with oil), with a high proportion of the population having either been employed in, or having close connections to agriculture.

Syrian farmers grow a lot of the same crops, such as cotton, barley, wheat, lentils, chickpeas and citrus.

Like Australians, Syrian farmers have also in the past decade been hard hit by drought, water resource mismanagement and government policies which focus on urban based services over agriculture.

This is therefore an opportunity to give a few rural communities a boost.

Training, healthcare (including mental health and cultural support) and education all obviously need to be factored in.

However, if it is managed well - in a way that rural Australia could ultimately benefit - we can replicate the successful settling of Europeans during the 1950s and '60s.

The story Crying out for rural workers first appeared on Farm Online.

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