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Australia’s Immigration Solution: Small-Town Living

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“This school wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” said Kelvin Matthews, 36, the bowler, as he watched the children interact.

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Towns of a few hundred people are fading like puddles in the sun.
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Filipinos now make up nearly a quarter of Pyramid Hill’s growing population. New homes are going up here for the first time in a generation — and both the newcomers and lifelong residents say they have found the answer to rising concerns about immigrants straining resources in Australian cities.

It’s called small-town living.

“People in the country mix, and need to mix,” said Tom Smith, a pig farmer who inadvertently started the town’s revival in 2008 when he sponsored visas for four workers from the Philippines. “It’s just different out here; it’s the only way to survive.”

Rural collapse is a familiar tale, seen across the American Midwest and in many areas of Europe, where small communities have been squeezed by globalization. It’s no different in Australia: an urbanizing country, as physically large as the United States, where towns of a few hundred people are fading like puddles in the sun.

[Read Part One about rural Australia’s mental health epidemic. Comment here or in our Australia Facebook group.]

But the success of Pyramid Hill — and many other small Australian towns — suggests that there are opportunities being missed and lessons to be learned. At a time when politicians in Australia, and around the world, are calling for restrictions on immigration, small towns in Australia are asking for more immigrants.

“There’s a real network of people who know how to make this work, who make it work in their community and can share it with others,” said Jack Archer, the chief executive of the Regional Australia Institute, a government research organization. “This is something we should really be thinking about scaling up.”

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