Paroo Shire mayor Lindsay Godfrey wants more migrant and refugee families moving to the bush, to help stop population declines in rural communities.
Paroo Shire mayor Lindsay Godfrey wants more migrant and refugee families moving to the bush, to help stop population declines in rural communities. Lachie Millard

Bush mayor wants refugees to break population drought

PAROO Shire mayor Lindsay Godfrey is on a mission to re-populate his region by opening up his towns to migrant and refugee families.

The population across Cunnamulla, Eulo, Yowah, and Wyandra has been on the decline throughout the past decade as the Paroo Shires continues to suffer through the drought.

Cr Godfrey said he knows the Paroo needs people to survive, and has been in talks with migrant support groups to find families who could be a good fit for the bush towns.

"Our population has gone down by about 35 per cent in the last 10 years, so we're all looking for ways to try to get our populations going back the right way," he said.

"Once the drought is over, there will be a requirement for more skilled workers and good workers who can carry the industries forward, and we (Paroo Shire) would be very interested in looking at people with agricultural backgrounds who are prepared to come out in to the bush."

Last week, Cr Godfrey took his case to the Regional Development Australia migration roundtable in Toowoomba, and discussed the practicalities of resettling more people in the Paroo, and other towns across outback Queensland.

"Not all the migrants can live in Sydney, and Melbourne and Brisbane, and I think that's been one of the policy failures that have gone on here: large numbers of migrants and refugees have come in to Australia, but haven't come out into the rural sector to any great extent," Cr Godfrey said.

"But for the country to get some sort of benefit, we need people with skills and we have to get these people where they are most needed."

Cr Godfrey believes the region has nothing to lose and everything to gain by settling migrants and refugees, and wants to put families first.

"We need families," Cr Godfrey said.

"Kids are a good entry in to the community, because if you've got kids, suddenly your circle grows, and our schools need more kids.

"They go part and parcel with schools and services, because without them you start to lose teachers and health services, so the best - and probably most sustainable - way to turn our shire around is really through families."

Paroo Shire has already seen its share of migration success stories, but the mayor is also well aware that moving from a foreign country to the bush is going to be a big step for a lot of migrant families.

To tackle the problem, he has proposed linking up with larger and better-serviced cities,and having them serve as a stopover before migrants arrive in Cunnamulla.

"There are people out here already from all different nationalities, and some of our South African residents have adapted very well to this sort of world," Cr Godfrey said.

"I think cities like Toowoomba are well placed to manage issues surrounding migration, and would be a good stepping stone where services can work with people to get them more prepared for coming out to the bush."