In a first for the region, the five-year Far North Queensland Designated Area Migration Agreement (FNQ DAMA), approved by the government in April, can now be immediately accessed by businesses facing local skills shortages through the Cairns Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber is now accepting requests for endorsement from businesses under the agreement.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said the FNQ DAMA provides a tailored solution to businesses in the region to fill skills gaps that can’t be filled by local workers.
“The Morrison Government is committed to supporting the skills needs of regional Australia, where we know there are around 60,000 jobs that can’t be filled by Australian workers,” Mr Coleman said.
“We’ll continue to work with regions around the country to ensure they can grow their local economy, with the help of the immigration system.”
Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said the DAMA will assist a range of industries including tourism, ospitality, agriculture, shipping and health and help to drive economic growth.
“This initiative will help fill the employment void across many sectors,” Mr Entsch said.
“The FNQ DAMA recognises that our businesses need people to help grow our local economy.
“It is about backing our small businesses and ensuring they have access to workers so they can continue to thrive in a competitive world.”
Businesses may choose to apply through a registered migration agent, with the application process available hrough the Chamber website, which also hosts a list of the occupations available
“We are huge supporters of jobs for Australians and particularly locals first, but there are many businesses having difficulties in hiring and retaining skilled workers, and we encourage those businesses looking to fill the jobs they can’t currently fill to start putting their cases together now,” Chamber president Nick Loukas said.
“We have been given a cap of 200 applications for the first year, which we are anticipating will be easily reached.”
The Chamber, which has been working closely with the Department of Home Affairs, has employed a person experienced in migration to help implement the scheme.
Their role is also to support local businesses and their agents to clearly understand expectations and ensure a level playing field for those wanting to access the 200 places available in the first year.
“The Government, in partnership with the Chamber, will look very closely that this scheme is being used correctly on behalf of the employers and migration agents,” Mr Loukas said. “We will only continue to get support if it meets the robust integrity measures the government has in the agreement.”
Migrant workers cannot be paid less than an Australian would be paid for the same job, including under the terms of a DAMA.
Three new occupations were approved for inclusion, most notably in the agricultural sector, a huge industry in the region.
For select occupations under the FNQ DAMA, successful visa applicants may also be nominated for permanent resident visas after three years working in the region.
Formal information sessions for businesses and migration agents will be held in the second half of October.
The FNQ DAMA covers the Cassowary Coast, the Tablelands, Mareeba, Cairns and the Douglas Shire.
More information is available on the Chamber’s website.