Heading north, staying north? The increasing importance of international migrants to northern and remote Australia

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The end of the more than decade-long ‘mining boom’ in the post-2011 period has exposed Australia’s economy for its lack of diversity and a low political capacity or commitment to ‘nest-egg’ financial (for example, royalties or resource rents) and resource-based assets, in order to shield the economy from negative impacts after the inevitable end of the boom. The relationship between the resource economy and population change in northern and remote Australia is, nevertheless, neither predicable nor consistent. In this paper, I utilise a number of data sources and two case examples to provide the demographic context within which international migration is growing in significance for economic development in the north. The focus is on skilled migration as this has been a fast growing stream and is most important to attracting and retaining migrants to the north. I situate the study within a recent national policy for economic development in northern Australia - the “White Paper for Developing Northern Australia” (titled Our North, Our Future: Australian Government, 2015), which states that low population growth in the region is the key impediment to economic growth. It proposes increasing the size of several northern cities to more than one million residents and the northern Australia region to around six million, up from the present population of just over one million (Taylor et al., 2015a). The case examples include a place-based intervention emphasising migrant attraction and retention can be highly effective for small remote communities under targeted approaches, and a broader evaluation of the effectiveness of skilled migration schemes in place to assist in attracting migrants to northern and remote areas.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDarwin, Australia
PublisherCharles Darwin University
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameNorthern Institute Working Paper Series
PublisherNorthern Institute


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