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Gold Coast want to be reclassified as “regional” to attract more migrants


The Gold Coast is constantly influencing the government to get itself reclassified from metropolitan to a regional city under the Australian migration system so that it can attract a greater number of skilled migrants as well as international students. However, some say that the city already has many advantages.


The Gold Coast demands to be classified as a regional area so that it can boost a number of skilled immigrants along with international students. It is a south-east Queensland city and is classified as “metropolitan or metro” under the migration program offered by the federal government. This category also includes Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth.


This implies that Gold Coast will not get benefitted from the new visa policies and incentives that are ready to get launched next month through which the federal government plans to reduce congestion within its metropolitan cities and encourage immigrants to move and settle in regional areas.


Image: Universities in Gold Coast asserted that they will be disadvantaged if incentives accrued from international students won’t be applied to them.


Although Gold Coast has the population which is half of Adelaide, which is identified as a regional area, the tertiary institutions of Gold Coast argue that the definition given is unfair.


The CEO of Study Gold Coast, Alfred Slogrove presented that the city attracts only four percent of the total international students migrating to Australia as compared to Melbourne and Sydney, which on the other hand appeals to approximately 85 percent of total international students.


“We have less population than Adelaide and have a total population that is equivalent to other parts of Australia that are identified as regional on the basis of international student numbers. We are not demanding to be recognized as different, but we just want to be treated the same as others, especially when it comes to a number of international students”.


Image: Alfred Slogrove claimed that the city accommodates only 4 percent of the total international students.


Moreover, from November 2019, all those international students who graduated from any regional University were eligible to work for one extra year across Australia. Also, the government offers 1,000 scholarships equivalent to $15,000 every year to especially to those international students studying in regional areas.


Therefore, along with Study Gold Coast, the community of tertiary education providers which includes Griffith and Bond universities has approached the Immigration Minister David Coleman demanding to change its classification before the implementation of the policy described above.


“We require incentives so that we can attract the best talent on the coast that will help support different types of economy. This also includes inviting family and relatives that would provide revenue to our tourism market. It would also help in the globalization of local businesses”, said Mr. Slogrove.


Boula Benyamin from Canada is pursuing his higher education degree from Bond University. He commented that if given an opportunity to stay longer in Australia after his studies, then that can influence his decision about where to study and stay further.


“Each day you plan if I want to stay here to do work and how’s working in this country would impact me later? It’s such a beautiful place where one would definitely like to stay and therefore it would certainly be a great opportunity”.


Image: Boula Benyamin has moved from Canada to study at Bond University in Gold Coast.


“Life overall is more relaxed here as big cities are always busy and crowded”, asserted Yama from China. Universities in this area are fearful as they are already disadvantaged since education agents generally encourage prospective students to settle somewhere else in the country.


Gold Coast blamed for “gaming” the system


There are various reasons due to which Gold Coast does not comply with the traditional image as perceived for regional Australia. The Gold Coast campaign has encountered various difficulties in deciding boundaries between a regional and a metropolitan city while the government tries to explain its definition for visas.


John Halsey, who is a regional education expert has accused the Gold Coast of “gaming” the system as he argued that the definition provided by the federal government when describing international students is very broad.


“If we would classify Adelaide as a regional area in terms of the given definition, then that would negatively impact the policy”.


Professor Halsey after conducting a review across rural, regional and remote education on the behalf of federal government in 2017, concluded that if the government has plans to implement its objectives of reducing congestion in major cities, but also want the international students to stimulate the economy of struggling areas within the country, then it is required for them to make the boundaries stringent.


“You would not want the definition to become gamed or distorted as that would provide an additional advantage to privileged areas as compared to more authentic and actual regional locations”.


“Blurry line”                                                                         


The population of Gold Coast which is 600,000 is constantly growing from the last few years. Mr. Coleman also claimed that with these figures it would outgrow the average growth of Australia which is 1.6 percent.


He further told that the Gold Coast’s classification as the metropolitan city was done as part of the core skilled migration program, conducted in 1993, the period when the classification of different parts of Australia as regional and non-regional began under the skilled migration.


Image: Immigration Minister David Coleman intends to simplify the definition of the term “regional” across a range of visas.


The statistics, however, presents a blurry line as “Gold Coast is seen as a metro city towards the end of its regional city spectrum. However, it does possess various characteristics similar to that of a regional city rather than a metropolitan capital”.


Further, the definition is not only applicable to the visas of international students but also for two new classes of regional visas through which 23,000 places have been offered to prospective skilled migrant workers. In case an individual lives and works in a regional area for a minimum period of three years then they would become eligible to apply for the permanent residency.


The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has provided four classifications across rural to metro cities, by using measures that include the number of individuals employed under high wage-earning professional jobs, price of accommodation, wages and more. On the basis of these measures, RAI is not at all surprised that the Gold Coast is applicable for reclassification.


“Gold Coast is struggling to attract more qualified professionals, that particularly includes tertiary qualified or skilled trades and technical individuals and therefore which makes a lot of sense”, explained Mr. Houghton.


RAI also believes that there exist enough regional visas already. He claimed that the government should look towards expanding the total number of visas that will become available if the policy becomes effective and agrees to disperse the incoming flow of international students.


The business case presented by Study Gold Coast intensified that it is required for the region to diversify its population as migrants from China and India, who contribute towards an overall majority of immigrants to Australia, are seen to be not able to settle themselves in the Gold Coast.


The document further states that the major reason behind a recent increase in the population of Melbourne and Sydney does not apply to Gold Coast and therefore Gold Coast is paying significantly towards the international education price towards the geographic classification system, and which is inappropriate.


Mr. Slogrove suspected if other smaller areas have enough infrastructure that can support an increase in students’ numbers. He commented that we have just hosted the Commonwealth Games and we have ample infrastructure within the city that is sufficient to support instant growth in the number of international students.


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