Having recently soaked up the warmth in Darwin for a few days last month, it wasn’t just the sunshine that gladdened my heart.
I went there with my family to participate in the Kindness Shake festival set up by international students who wanted to demonstrate their contribution to Australian society while celebrating the diverse and inclusive culture that is Darwin and the NT.
With a population of approx. 150,000, Darwin is on a drive to increase its population They’re offering incentives to Australians elsewhere in the country to move there. WA has a similar goal, but the NT campaign is different because it specifically encourages international students to study there and apply for permanent residence post studies, through employer sponsorship or points tested skilled migration.
It makes sense. International students are young, skilled and motivated for success. They make for a vibrant community and bring in creativity and a spirit of entrepreneurship that also inspires locals to do bigger and better. As Australia ages, we need young people’s working contributions and taxes to support us.
Despite its small size, Darwin and the NT has a long history of immigration, from its Gold Rush to pearling industry that attracted many from China, Japan, Philippines and more.
Yet there is a noted difference in Darwin when it comes to tolerance. Darwin just gets on with it because it has to!
Where the rest of Australia still reels from the political weapon that is immigration, the NT has long accepted that in order to thrive economically, it needs migrants. It means that the racism that persists in much of Australia, just doesn’t raise its head there in the same way. The fear of having your job taken by someone from overseas does not exist as it is obvious that without migrants there won’t be enough people to do the jobs and business won’t survive. The insecurity still seemingly felt by many, and perpetuated by both sides of the political fence, with regards to seeing different people of colour in the workplace doesn’t bother most people in the NT. “You can do the job, great. Let’s all work and live together for the common good”. Of course, it’s a different way of life there given the climate and the territory, but it’s a shining example to the rest of Australia.
Despite over 2 years of a pandemic and skills shortages galore, Australians are still not waking up to the fact that this country cannot do without immigration. You just need to put two and two together. Border closure = fewer migrants, many actually leaving as they can’t bear to be apart from families any longer, and the rest just not being allowed in. Since what must be a ‘soft’ border opening in February of this year the waiting time for a Temporary Skills Shortage visa based on employer sponsorship is at least 6 months where at one time it was 48 hours. International students are still having their visas refused in droves because of an outdated requirement to show that they will return to their own country.
Come on Australia. We can do so much better. Let’s get over ourselves and move on. Racism is so last century. Get with the program and join the rest of the world.