Regional Development Australia Orana region and the Australian Government have reached agreement on the Orana Region Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA), which was approved by Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, David Coleman, in April 2019.
The Orana region DAMA is a five year labour agreement between the Federal Government and Regional Development Australia Orana. The Orana region DAMA has been negotiated to provide employers a specific tool to sponsor skilled overseas workers in specified industries in our region that are currently experiencing critical skill and labour shortages.
RDA Orana strongly advocates that employment should be offered to Australians first. However where there is a skills shortage, we believe skilled migrants are critical to supplement the local workforce.
The Orana Region is significant in NSW as it covers approximately 25% of its land mass. The Region includes 12 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and stretches from Mudgee in the centre of NSW up to the Queensland border past Bourke and Lightning Ridge and west to Cobar. The Orana Region is home to almost 123,000 people and has a strong economy, contributing over $8 billion to the State and Nation’s GDP annually (REMPLAN 2018).
The major industry segments in the area are mining, agriculture and health related – both directly involved with the industry or as support or add on, for example processing or manufacturing related to agriculture or manufacture of equipment related to mining.
In our recent Bracing for Change Report, employers across 10 of the 12 LGAs in the Orana region identified the ability to attract and retain staff as one of their critical issues.
Most have raised issues surrounding the needs of the ageing population across the region and the ability of the current population and workforce to meet those growing needs. The Orana region currently has approximately $7.9 billion in confirmed projects either commenced or due to commence in the next few years including the likes of – Inland Rail, major hospital redevelopments in a number of LGAs and renewable energy projects.
Data analysis also shows that there are less people in the region available to work than in the past. There has been a growing reduction of those in the workforce over the past 10 years, as shown in Census data. September 2018 Small Areas Labour Market LGA Tables show that even in the midst of severe long term drought, all but one of the major population centres in the Orana region are experiencing the lowest unemployment rates for the past 5 years, and well below the current state and national averages (NSW 4.8%, Aust 5.4%, Bogan 2.7%, Cobar 1.4%, Dubbo 2.3%, Midwestern 5.6%, Narromine 2.6%)
FAQs for Businesses
The below FAQs may help to address these and other immediate questions for local business owners and operators.
What does the DAMA mean for local businesses, and does it present any opportunities?
Please note: As the Orana region DAMA has only recently been approved, RDA Orana is still working closely with the Department of Home Affairs to confirm the administration requirements of the Agreement. These include application forms, fees, processing times, assessment criteria and ongoing reporting requirements.
Why do we need a DAMA for the Orana region?
RDA Orana has six main priorities:
United Region: Influence all levels of Government as a respected, apolitical and reliable advocate for the Orana Region
Inland Powerhouse: With a $7.9 B project pipeline RDA Orana will support the development of business opportunities, corporate relocations, and job growth.
Investment Support: Work with regional Stakeholders to deliver a shared Economic Development Agenda focused on enabling infrastructure, increasing population and investment attraction whilst providing economic information, credible research and insight.
Export Development: Connect regional businesses, councils and industry sectors with international trade partners, financial markets and potential investors.
Workforce Development: The businesses in the region have access to workforce required to support growth.
Sustainable RDA Orana: A financially sustainable, well governed organisation, with a team of high performers delivering economic development initiatives that enhance regional growth.
With that backdrop in mind, in 2017/18 the organisation undertook a survey of 190 businesses and organisations across the region to understand key issues affecting business growth.
It is the region’s challenge to work with industry, education providers, communities and the State and Australian Governments to actively build the skills needed for future jobs by growing and re-skilling talent, encouraging business opportunities and attracting the best and brightest talent available. However, the data from our survey and subsequent research show that the Orana region is already faced with challenges in recruiting and retaining staff to remote and rural communities and in the lack of training close to home in many areas of study.
What became clear during the survey is that there is a looming critical labour supply shortage. While mining is the key sector across the region, representing 18.3% of output, its success is impacting on the workforce in regional centres such as Cobar and Mudgee. The mines themselves also report difficulty in attracting and retaining staff, particularly where they are based in smaller centre. A significant portion of the skilled labour positions advertised within the region consist of mining specific or competing heavy construction roles.
Our research also identified $7.9 billion in major projects being developed across the region right now. This significant level of activity clearly shows confidence in the viability of regional and rural NSW.
But while the development dollars are coming in, the region risks being unable to fulfil the investment potential of this and other projects without a suitable labour force and without housing and other support structures.
As well as highlighting the areas of shortage, the skills audit and interviews highlighted the needs of employers. One of the key messages was a cry for help in recruitment acknowledging that things in the bush are different to how they work in the city.
Our research also showed that we have low unemployment rates across all our LGAs, low population growth, and an ageing workforce. Dubbo, Cobar and Mudgee have experienced enough growth to show an overall population increase across the region, other local government areas are experiencing negative population growth.
The broad based skills shortage lists are designed to, as is appropriate, protect Australian jobs. However these lists are inadequate to deal with inland regional NSW where population decline and an unwillingness of coastal workers to relocate inland is driving skills shortages that are specific to the Orana Region.
These shortages are holding business opportunities back and the RDA Orana is concerned opportunities for growth will be lost.
What occupations are included in the Orana region DAMA?
The Orana region DAMA has secured a large number of positions across a variety of industries; Agriculture, Education, Hospitality, Manufacturing, Trades, Professions, Plant Operators, Health & Social Welfare. Positions range from level 4 & 5 positions that are not currently included in Regional Skilled Migration visas to level 1, 2 & 3 positions that are on current skills lists. The list of specific positions eligible for the Orana region DAMA will be available and will be subject to yearly review.
What does the DAMA application process involve?
The DAMA application process is still being developed, however it will be rigorous, with requirements similar to that currently required for a subclass 187 visa as the employer needs to demonstrate that the job cannot be filled by an Australian. This includes evidence that the job was advertised (via website, print media or radio) in Australia for at least 4 weeks unsuccessfully over the last four months. It also requires the skilled migrant to undertake a skills assessment, demonstrating their competence and qualifications, as well as an English language test.
Is my business eligible to sponsor an overseas worker through the Orana region DAMA?
Businesses can access the Orana region DAMA if they are actively operating in the Orana region and:
are viable and have been operating for at least 12 months
have no history of not meeting its obligations to employees
are looking to employ overseas workers to fill full-time positions with duties that align with one of the occupations on the Orana region DAMA list
can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally with Australian citizens or permanent residents
can provide terms and conditions of employment to overseas workers that are in accordance with those offered to Australian workers employed in the region.
Do workers who migrate through the DAMA have to reside in the Orana region?
Yes. Over the medium to long term, the Orana region DAMA aims to help permanently grow the communities of the Orana region; by facilitating a long term working experience that may lead to the development of permanent roots in our region. All workers immigrating to Australia under the DAMA are required to live and work in the region.
What are the costs associated with a DAMA application?
All DAMA applications will incur a processing fee. This fee is yet to be determined however it will be reflective of other visa options.
How many applications for the Orana region DAMA will be endorsed in the first year?
Around 500 approved nominations for Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) or Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visas will be endorsed in the first year. The number of occupations and nominations in following years is to be renegotiated with the Federal Minister, following an annual review.
When will applications for the DAMA open, and who will assess them?
Applications for the DAMA will open around July 2019. As the Designated Area Representative holder of the Orana region DAMA, RDA Orana will be accepting and assessing applications in partnership with the Office of Home Affairs.
As a skilled worker, can I apply to migrate to the Orana region?
No. The Orana region DAMA is an employer-sponsored visa program and individual workers cannot apply for a visa independently. If you are interested in making a permanent home in the Orana region we would welcome your application for a 489 visa, or may be able to point you in the right direction with employers who may be recruiting in your field of expertise.
Who can I contact for more information?
Please fill out the registration form at the bottom of this page and we will keep you up to date with information as it becomes available.