The signing of the landmark Townsville Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) will strategically position the region to access skilled overseas workers through the use of tailored visa concessions.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said the Australia Government was committed to the success of the Townsville North Queensland region.
“Economic modelling provided to establish a DAMA, highlighted the strength and diversity within the region’s economy – no individual sector contributes more than a 15% share of economic output,” Minister Hawke said.
“This poses significant challenges in filling critical skill shortages across such a vast range of occupations.
“The DAMA answers this challenge, by opening the door to attract and settle skilled overseas workers into the region.”
The Townsville DAMA covers 195 occupations across a broad range of sectors including areas of focus for future growth such as manufacturing, health care and social assistance, transport, postal and warehousing, professional, scientific and technical services.
The Townsville region has an annual economic output of approximately $33.813 billion with the two largest sectors, public administration and safety, and health care and social assistance, each accounting for $5 billion or just under 15% of this economic output.
Federal Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson said with the Townsville DAMA now in place, the diverse range of industries covered would be able to grow even more, making Townsville a key regional destination.
“Since unemployment has been so low recently, many businesses have raised with me the challenges of finding staff, whether it’s in hospitality, manufacturing or in other trades.” Mr Thompson said.
“What’s important in all this is that no local will be overlooked for a job – employers will have to show that they’ve tried to hire a local, but haven’t been able to, to be able to access the DAMA.”
Townsville Enterprise, a peak economic development and destination marketing organisation, is the Designated Area Representative. Townsville Enterprise will administer the process of accessing the Townsville DAMA which will open to businesses operating in any of the 9 Local Government Areas covered by the agreement - City of Townsville, Hinchinbrook Shire, Charters Towers Regional Council, Burdekin Shire, City of Mount Isa, Shire of Cloncurry, Shire of McKinlay, Shire of Richmond and Shire of Flinders. Local businesses can apply individually to access the DAMA from 1 July 2022.
Townsville Enterprise CEO Claudia Brumme-Smith thanked the Government for being an effective and proactive partner throughout the DAMA submission process.
“I have to thank Minister Hawke, and the Member for Herbert Phil Thompson for the collaborative way that they worked with us to get this DAMA secured in a timely manner,” Ms Brumme-Smith said.
“We have heard loud and clear from the business community in North Queensland that one of the biggest challenges they face is workforce availability.”
“Our region is enjoying the best business confidence since before the GFC and businesses are screaming out for employees, but we are simply running out of bodies to take the jobs that are being created.”
“Right now there are 3000 unfilled vacancies in North Queensland, so if we can help fill some of those with the DAMA, then that is a win for the business community.”
Burdekin Regional Shire Mayor and Chair of the North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils said that it was not just business, but entire communities who would be rejuvenated by the agreement.
“The DAMA does more than just bring more extra workers to take the pressure of business owners in our region,” Cr McLaughlin said.
“The structure of the DAMA agreement means that when workers come here they can look at bringing their immediate families, and they will have avenues to permanent residency provided they stay in our region.”
“Their kids will go to schools, they’ll join community and sporting clubs, and participate in the social fabric of the region.”
“More families mean more funding for schools and hospitals. This means we are going to be growing our communities at the same time as we are growing our economies, and that is the best outcome for North Queensland.”
The Ville – Resort and Casino CEO Michael Jones said that the agreement exactly what the region needed.
"This is great news not only for The Ville Resort-Casino, but for the wider Townsville business community,” said Mr Jones.
“A combination of Townsville’s falling unemployment rate and international borders being shut has made it difficult to recruit workers and staff shortages has been a reoccurring issue we’ve faced during the pandemic”.
“We will always support locals and are proud to employ more than 700 North Queensland residents however it’s welcome news that we can now use international workers to fill roles when we can’t find suitable staff in Townsville or domestically. This announcement could not come at a better time for businesses.”
The Townsville DAMA is the latest of several DAMAs recently entered into across northern Australia, further highlighting the Government’s commitment to regional Australia.
“Following the recent decisions to approve changes to the Far North Queensland and Northern Territory DAMAs, and the implementation of new DAMAs for the Pilbara and East Kimberley, northern Australia has never been a more attractive place for overseas workers to settle.”