Dr Mark Copland has been working with migrants for a number of years.
Dr Mark Copland has been working with migrants for a number of years. Kevin Farmer

Bringing Downs immigration to light

MIGRATION has been a hot topic for a long time, and it has been thrust further into the spotlight with comments from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Earlier in the week, the Warringah MP questioned the rate of immigration, making reference to wages, infrastructure, house prices and gangs in Melbourne.

The comments have drawn a mixed response, and have raised eyebrows in certain circles.

Dr Mark Copland, executive officer for the social justice commission for the Catholic diocese in Toowoomba who will talk in Warwick for the SDRAMN in March, said he welcomed discussion on the topic in the right manner.

"I have no dramas having a proper conversation on the level of intake,” Dr Copland said.

"When that gets linked to negative stuff (crime and housing shortages), people get scapegoated.

"I was at a regional migration roundtable in Canberra, and the only thing turning back tide of population decline in rural areas was migration.

"Two myths about rural Australia are there are no jobs, and others are not welcome.

"Lots of places, including Warwick, Toowomba and little places across the country, have proved this to be wrong.”

Dr Copland said some migrants were attracted to the proposition of moving to regional areas, and the Darling Downs has benefited first hand from the benefits of migration.

"There's a slower pace, they can get to know community members, and there's no ghetto, so people can't say all of one group of people live in one part of town,” he said.

"I'm astounded by the number of people in a short space of time who have bought or built houses. They are people with a lot of resilience and entrepurenuaral skills.

"The issue of house prices and crime are not there. We've had almost 15 years of consistent refugee settlement in Toowoomba. If you talk to police, there's no crime.

"Communities such as the Filipino community have made extraordinary contributions to our society.”

Common misconceptions were something Dr Copland said he would like to change.

"That's the disappointing thing. People immediately think of migrants as refugees,” he said.

"There are between 180,000 and 200,000 permanent migrants a year, and around 18,000 refugees.

"I know there are people living in the western suburbs of Sydney that are keen to move to the country.

"There's great potential for regional Australia to benefit from migration and for them to benefit from moving where house prices are ridiculuous and there are traffic snarls.”



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