Migration and community experts to provide insights into cohesion at local level

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International migration experts and Australian local government leaders will meet in Melbourne on Wednesday, to share and discuss best practice approaches for addressing key challenges and opportunities at a local level.

The second national Welcoming Cities Symposium on 1 March will feature keynote speakers Jill Helke, International Organization for Migration, and Catherine Proffitt, Immigration New Zealand. Some 200 stakeholders essential to the transition of migrants in local communities will attend.

Over the next 35 years, migration will drive economic, and skills growth in Australia. Migrants will contribute $1.6 trillion dollars to Australia’s GDP, and 10 per cent more to the economy than existing residents. Their social and cultural contributions are more difficult to measure, but equally significant.

Speaking ahead of the symposium, Ms Helke said that communities that are prepared and equipped to overcome challenges in order to genuinely welcome new arrivals would benefit both economically and socially in the long term.

“Stories highlighting the immense potential contributions of migrants — and the proven benefits for receiving local communities — must be emphasised to balance and ultimately drown out negative perceptions about immigration,” Ms Helke said.

Despite strong public support for immigration in Australia, with latest Scanlon Foundation research showing a substantial majority (59%) consider our current immigration intake to be ‘about right’ or ‘too low,’ the real opportunity to maximise participation and productivity is at the local level. .

Ms Helke said local governments and community leaders had great power to influence the national conversation about migration and the transition of new migrants into local communities.

“While overall discourse on migration tends to be set at the top, it is local leadership and community activists who can often play the largest role in promoting positive perceptions toward migration and migrants,” Ms Helke said.

“That positive change at a local level can often inspire a shift in migration policy and practice at the national level.”

As part of the symposium, Welcoming Cities will launch the first public draft of the Australian Standard for Welcoming Cities – the first accreditation framework in cultural diversity and inclusion practices for Australian local councils.

Welcoming Cities National Manager, Aleem Ali, said the Standard – developed with Deloitte Australia – will enable local councils to benchmark their current policies and programs to maximise inclusion and engagement, identify areas for improvement, and assess progress over time.

“The Standard will help foster national collaboration and increase communities’ abilities to live and breathe the Australian values of diversity, generosity and a commitment to giving people a fair go – particularly when welcoming new migrants,” Ali said.

“These values are central to social, economic and civic success.”

Ali said that as some Australian towns and regional centres face significant population and economic decline, migration and settlement present opportunities to increase local population, revitalise local businesses and services, and attract increased funding and investment.

“While many communities are already undertaking effective and innovative programs to create welcoming communities, others are unprepared and may find themselves allocating resources that are less effective in the long term,” Ali said.

“Welcoming Cities is about empowering communities, led by local governments, to work together with local businesses to develop solutions to community challenges.

“It’s about understanding the benefits that come when all members of the community are engaged and feel a sense of belonging, and working through issues together in order to make that a reality,” Ali said.

Other guest speakers at the Welcoming Cities Symposium include Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of the City of Calgary, and Australian writer and researcher Peter Mares.



EVENT DETAILS – Welcoming Cities Symposium

When: 9:00 am – 3:15 pm, Wednesday 1 March 2017
Where: The Pavilion, Arts Centre Melbourne – 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004
Special guest speakers include:

  • Jill Helke, International Organization for Migration
  • Naheed Nenshi, Mayor, City of Calgary
  • Catherine Proffitt, Immigration New Zealand
  • Jenny Wang, Chinese New Settlers Services Trust
  • Kris Pavilidis, City of Whittlesea
  • Peter Mares, Writer and researcher
  • Huss Mustafa OAM, Commonwealth Bank of Australia
  • George Osborne, Hume City Council
  • Sarah Janali, City of Stirling
  • Samantha Ratnam, Moreland City Council.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Alice Suter
03 9682 0259 / 0413 824 627

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