Small Australian city could hold clues to attracting more people to rural areas

by Ray Clancy on February 26, 2016

in Australia Immigration

A small city in South Australia has been chosen as the location for a new study to create a better understanding of how new migrants can be successfully settled in rural areas.

Most people arriving in Australia to live and work tend to want to live in the big cities where there is plenty to do and lots of likeminded people. But rural areas are often in need of a population boost and job opportunities can be numerous.

Murray Bridge has a population of just 17,000 but it is the fourth most populous urban area in the State of South Australia. Its successes at housing, educating and employing migrants means it has been chosen for a study by the University of Adelaide to see if a blueprint can be created for other rural cities to follow.


Helen Feist, acting director of the University of Adelaide’s Population and Migration Research Centre, will create a blueprint based on a study of Murray Bridge which should be ready by the end of the year.

She said Murray Bridge had significantly changed recently with the settlement of new migrants resulting in positive outcomes for the region. “These new settlement patterns have been, on the whole, good for rural and regional Australia with a growth in local businesses, creation of jobs, increased demand for housing, more kids in local schools and more dynamic communities,” explained Feist.

She aims to find out more about long term settlement from the migrant populations in the city and find out if they hope to settle in Murray Bridge permanently, if they are connecting with community groups, and if they feel like they are at home and they belong.

“Feelings of belonging go beyond a job and a house and education for yourself and your children. These things are vital first steps but in order to feel more integrated in a community, to feel that you belong and want to stay, we need to understand what creates good opportunities for social and civic engagement,” said Feist.

“We know that stable populations of working age adults and their families create good opportunities for business and community growth in rural and regional areas, and thus being able to attract and retain new migrants to these regions creates a win-win situation for both the new migrants and the rural and regional communities,” she added.

The study will look at employment, housing, education outcomes, and try to get a better understanding of Murray Bridge life for migrants and what improvements can be made.

“A positive attitude to migration from local businesses, community groups and local government goes a long way to creating a dynamic and thriving community life for all residents,” said Feist.

“This blueprint will not only provide a way forward for Murray Bridge to engage new migrants in social and civic life, but also provide evidence and recommendations for other rural and regional towns in Australia, where new migrants are changing the community landscape, enabling this to become a positive, not only for local economies but also for local communities,” she added.

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