“POPULATE or perish” were the now immortal words of post-war immigration minister Arthur Calwell.
But his words still ring true in the 21st Century for many rural and regional towns
For years we’ve been crying out for more people, and facing the often imminent threat of the loss of health and community services and school closures, and much more.
This has been for a combination of reasons, and not the same everywhere.
But the one real solution is to get new people into the region, particularly those with much-needed skills.
Which is why the approach proposed by the Regional Australia Institute makes sense for places all around our wide brown land.
It’s been done before.
Off the back of the Calwell years and the exodus from Europe after World War II, a lot of people set sail for Australia and rarely ever looked back.
A new wave of migration into our regional towns could do the same and set in place an economic and social revival.
Examples from the RAI study talk about increasing populations by up to 15 per cent.
Even half of that would be a massive fillip for many of our small and medium towns around the nation.
Bringing younger immigrants to our regions would also help to stem rapidly ageing population in so many areas, which is becoming a greater problem by the year for governments at all levels.
The experiences from other parts of Australia has varied from health workers to those skilled in abattoirs and other agricultural processing, and more.
These needs are something that many of our communities are aware of, but don’t know how to address.
The first step may be for those at the top of the tree to take on board the report and get behind making it happen.
The support from Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is certainly promising, and hopefully it flows through to his Coalition colleagues who are best placed to make this become a reality.
It won’t be a one-size-fits-all model that works, and part of the government’s response needs to be allowing the flexibility for this to be a place-based model.
Some areas will need housing, others may need training, or land freed up to build.
Whatever the needs, it must be someone’s job to address these barriers and make it happen.