It is a pleasure to join you today to launch this exciting report showcasing the great results achieved by Luv-a-Duck, AMES, the Karen people and the community of Nhill.
It was delighted to accept Catherine’s invitation as your report deals with two things of the things that I care about the most.
That is – helping people into work and seeing regional Australia thrive and prosper.
As the Assistant Minister for Employment – I am always looking out for new ways to connect job seekers and employers.
And as some of you may know – I grew up in regional Australia and my electorate is in regional New South Wales.
Along with my National Party colleagues from the Nhill region - Andrew Broad, the Member for Mallee and Emma Kealy, the state member for Lowan, I care passionately about regional Australia.
I know both Andrew and Emma have been keen supporters of Luv-a-Duck, AMES and the Karen community in their region.
So I am truly excited to launch this report from AMES and Deloitte Access Economics which brings these issues together.
Importance of the ‘Small Towns Big Returns’ Report
This report is a must-read for all of us who recognise how important small towns and regional communities are to Australia’s prosperity and way of life.
As we all know, some parts of regional Australia are thriving and others are doing it tough.
When a community is struggling to maintain its population it can have a big knock-on effect on the local economy and services, such as schools and hospitals.
It can become a vicious cycle as first the jobs start to go, then the people start to go and the hope of those who remains behind also starts to go.
In these circumstances, it can be very hard for people to see a future for themselves and their children in a regional area.
Thanks to the good people at Luv-a-Duck, AMES and Deloitte Access Economics, we now have an excellent blueprint for other regional communities who are seeking ways to remain viable and to thrive.
As we have heard, this report tells the story of the Karen people in Nhill and how a community came together to chart a new path towards prosperity.
It is impressive to hear that the jobs which have fuelled the expansion of Luv-a-Duck are in turn creating jobs elsewhere in the Nhill region.
With the advantage of this report, we now know there’s been more than $40 million added to local Gross Regional Product.
I also understand that since the report was prepared, there have been further positive outcomes, including an increase to 97 new jobs and an increase in the Karen population to 178.
These are exceptional results.
Many people deserve congratulations for this success.
I would particularly like to acknowledge John Millington and his team who opened their arms to the Karen people.
Luv-a-Duck cared not just about the future of their business but about the future of their community.
And I would also like to acknowledge the Karen job seekers who seized the opportunity offered by Luv-a-Duck and decided to ‘have a go’.
I am mightily impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the Karen people in Nhill to make things work.
And of course AMES – who acted as the broker to connect Luv-a-Duck with job seekers and provided that ‘personal touch’ to make sure people settled well into their new jobs and their new community.
Regional employment initiatives
As I get around the country - regional employers – like Luv-a-Duck - are telling me how hard it can be to find the right staff to help them grow their business.
That’s why the Government has a range of initiatives designed to keep regional economies strong so that people are attracted to moving and staying in regional Australia.
Initiatives such as our Stronger Regions Fund, the Roads to Recovery programme, the Bridges Renewal programme and our Mobile Black Spots policy are all designed to make it easier to live and do business in regional Australia.
And our new employment services model – jobactive – also has a number of features to help regional employers and job seekers including:
new wage subsidies of between $6,500 and $10,000 to help employers to hire job seekers
new relocation assistance of up to $6,000 to help people relocate from metropolitan areas to regional Australia to take up a job – with additional support of up to $3,000 available for families, and
a new regional loading in recognition of the extra costs our jobactive providers face in delivering services in regional Australia
And of course we also offer Harvest Labour Services and the Seasonal Worker Program to support growers in the agriculture sector.
Ladies and gentlemen – as some of you may know the Government recently conducted a tender to select organisations to deliver our new jobactive services.
It was a very competitive tender process with over 184 organisations submitting over 1400 bids to deliver services in one or more of our employment regions.
I would like to congratulate AMES on their success in winning contracts to deliver employment services into the future.
I am certain that the dedication, innovation and collaboration shown by AMES through their work woth John Millington and his team - and the Karen community – will continue to be a feature of their work.
Catherine – please accept my congratulations for your work in Nhill and for your success in the recent tender.
I very much look forward to continuing to work with you and your team to help job seekers move into employment.
The story of the Karen people and Luv-a-Duck in Nhill is an excellent example of the sort of can-do attitude that is typical of regional Australia and of Australia’s migrant community.
All regional communities need to know the benefits that can flow from having an open‑minded employer, a welcoming community and strongly motivated job seekers.
I will be using this excellent report to advocate for other regions and towns to consider the benefits of migrant regional settlement.
Thank you to both AMES and Deloitte Access Economics for your efforts.
It’s been a pleasure to be with you today and I am delighted to help launch the “Small Towns Big Returns” report, knowing it provides a valuable case study for all regional communities seeking to grow.