DAMA Day: Designated Area Migration Agreements - Two for SA, One for Kalgoorlie-Boulder in WA

The Federal Government’s assault on regional skill shortages continues this week. After announcing permanent migration cuts and two new visas that will encourage migrants to settle in regional areas, they have signed more regions up to five-year Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs), including two with South Australia and one with the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder in the Goldfields region of Western Australia.

A DAMA is an overarching labour agreement negotiated between the Department of Home Affairs and individual States and Territories to assist with critical skill shortages specific to that region and that otherwise cannot be met by the Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage visa program. This involves an approved list of semi-skilled occupations and may include concessions for salary and English language ability. Employers in a DAMA area must apply to the relevant authority to demonstrate they cannot fill vacancies with local workers, among other things, before they can nominate an overseas worker for a 482 visa under the Labour Agreement Stream.

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs confirmed yesterday two DAMAs for South Australia: one under the Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement Agreement for 60 occupations with up to 300 people per year focusing on high-tech growth industries (defence, space, technology and advanced manufacturing), and a larger regional DAMA for 114 occupations with up to 750 people per year to assist agribusiness, forestry, health and social services, tourism, construction and mining.

According to the South Australian government’s website there will be a pathway to a permanent visa for most occupations, which will invariably involve either a Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme visa or a Subclass 187 – Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa. Some occupations will also benefit by receiving concessions for English language ability, salary, and age.

Also confirmed yesterday was a DAMA for Kalgoorlie-Boulder in the Goldfields area of Western Australia. This will involve up to 73 occupations with up to 500 migrants per year to assist in filling the estimated 1500 job vacancies in the region, almost half in the mining industry. The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder admits that it is attempting to reverse population decline, an issue also afflicting South Australia.

Further specifics to these agreements, including occupation lists, are not yet known.

The government’s approach to skill shortages in specific areas through agreements outside the purview of the standard 482/TSS visa program and increasing permanent visa numbers of the demand-driven employer sponsored program is an effective and targeted response to the labour market differences between major urban and regional areas.