Stability and security could draw migrants to outback
CORRUPTION and political unrest were rife in Columbia when Cesar Sabogal and his partner, Luz, decided to make the move to safer shores.
But after years of uncertainty and shifting visa requirements, the couple and their two children were granted Australian citizenship at a ceremony in Roma on Wednesday.
"When we left Columbia in 2008, it was very bad, very, very bad,” Mr Sabogal said.
"The political situation, the corruption, the security fears - we needed to leave.
"I was a trained engineer and it was almost impossible to get a job in my country.”
Families like the Sabogals could be the future for country towns, as western councils fight to find solutions for declining populations.
The Maranoa region saw a four per cent population decrease between 2011 and 2016.
But this was even worse in the Murweh and Balonne shires, who suffered declines of seven and 7.5 per cent respectively.
In the same time frame, the number of foreign residents jumped by 15.5 per cent in Maranoa, with 900 migrants living in the region as of 2016.
Now celebrating five years in Roma, Mr Sabogal said his family loved the country town for what it added to their lifestyles.
"After four years in Brisbane, applying for multiple visas, we were coming to the end of our options - we thought we were going to have to go back to Columbia,” he said.
"Luckily, at that point, a friend of ours told us about an opportunity with Sharpe Engineering in Roma, where we could work and gain sponsorship.
"Really our dreams began from that point.”
Migration was considered as a possible long-term solution to the population crisis at the Southwest Queensland Local Government Association meeting in Charleville a fortnight ago.
Paroo Shire mayor Lindsay Godfrey said the settlement of more migrants that could contribute to their communities should be explored.
"In the Paroo Shire we are down 40 per cent in population in the past 20 years and the trend is still heading downwards,” Cr Godfrey said.
"With this in mind, we are still trying to manage local services and assets with an ever reducing population - you are still required to deliver a certain number of services even though you don't have the economic activity to fund them.
"The resettlement of migrants has been raised at the regional level of council and I know Toowoomba Regional Council has been active in this space.
"The ingredients for success aren't based on race or culture but on the get-up-and-go attitude. I believe many people coming to the country have this attitude.”
Cr Godfrey said incentives were necessary to halt the decline.
"I think you would have to provide zonal tax allowances as an incentive for people to move into regional communities,” he said.
"We are struggling to get professionals to come to remote Australia but, if were to be able to offer tax reductions, it would influence people's decisions.”