Rural migration woes raised

Rural migration woes raised

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INSIGHT GAINED: Australian Migrant Resource Centre CEO Eugenia Tsoulis, Member for MacKillop Nick McBride and Naracoorte Lucindale Council mayor Erika Vickery.

INSIGHT GAINED: Australian Migrant Resource Centre CEO Eugenia Tsoulis, Member for MacKillop Nick McBride and Naracoorte Lucindale Council mayor Erika Vickery.

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Migrants feel safe in SA's regions, but want better access to tertiary education and healthcare, a new report has found.

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MIGRANTS feel safe in SA's regions, but want better access to tertiary education and healthcare, a new report has found.

The experiences of migrants in country SA have been shared in the Living and working regional SA report launched by the Australian Migrant Resource Centre, helping to shed light on migrants' positive experiences, as well as problems they faced in rural areas.

The report sought input from individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds living in the 'case study' towns of Murray Bridge, Naracoorte and Bordertown.

More than 130 migrants from 12 countries participated, answering questions about employment, healthcare, cost of living and housing.

AMRC chief executive officer Eugenia Tsoulis said the findings would be vital to helping regional communities plan for future growth.

"This is an important document in reminding key stakeholders in government and industry of the ongoing challenges faced by migrants living in regional SA, and I am hopeful that the recommendations from the report will be picked up and acted upon," she said.

In general, migrants believed rural communities to be welcoming and safe, and enjoyed the natural environment, with issues raised including a lack of access to healthcare, public transport and tertiary education, and a lack of affordable housing in Naracoorte and Bordertown.

Naracoorte Lucindale Council mayor Erika Vickery said work was being done to deliver appropriate housing options.

"It is also informative to get further insights into other issues such as a lack of public transport, lack of tertiary education options, long waiting times to see GPs and a need for more female GPs," she said.

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A lack of access to English classes through the Adult Migrant English Program was also raised by migrants as a priority issue needing improvement.

The AMEP program, delivered through tafeSA, provides up to 510 hours of free English language lessons to eligible migrants and humanitarian settlers, but AMEP classes in Murray Bridge are limited, while no classes have been available in Naracoorte or Bordertown for more than four years.

Classes are taught at tafeSA campuses in Adelaide, Berri and Mount Gambier, but AMEP educational officer Peter Begg said the lack of further classes in rural areas was not due to "a lack of trying".

Mr Begg said while migrants had shown interest in the idea of classes in rural areas, when classes had then been set up, low attendance rates led to classes not being economically feasible.

AMEP educational officer Peter Begg.

AMEP educational officer Peter Begg.

"We found that migrants found their jobs to be physically demanding, and after their shifts they were too tired to come to class, or they had transport issues getting there," he said.

Of the 3000 migrants in SA enrolled in the AMEP program, less than 10 per cent live in rural areas.

But with COVID-19 having prompted face-to-face classes to be replaced with online or booklet-driven learning, Mr Begg was hopeful the increased flexibility would be an incentive for more migrants to join in the program.

"We've started to reach out again to the people in Bordertown and Naracoorte, asking if this is something they would be interested in," he said.

Mr Begg said while it had previously been difficult to find suitably qualified AMEP teachers willing to move to rural areas, he was hopeful that online learning would enable rural migrants to participate from afar.

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