Minister Coleman has recently announced a number of new migration agreements designed to assist a range of industries in filling critical labour market shortages in regional areas. These agreements are called Designated Area Migration Agreements or DAMA.
DAMA are Labour Agreements negotiated between the Commonwealth Government and a relevant regional body, which could be a State or Territory Government or Regional Development Authority or local council. DAMA are employer-driven programs which come under the Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa – Labour Agreement stream (Subclass 482); individuals are therefore not able to access a DAMA directly.
Each agreement is valid for a 5 year period and specifies a particular geographic region, a list of skilled / semi-skilled occupations (not limited to occupations on the Short Term or Medium to Long Term Lists, or even to occupations in ANZSCO), number of places on an annual basis, any concessions (Work Experience, English Language, Salary), and whether a pathway exists to permanent residence.
The Northern Territory Government was the first to successfully negotiate a DAMA (for the whole territory), and this was updated in January 2019. Known as Northern Territory DAMA II, it comprises 117 occupations and 500 places per year, with a pathway to permanent residence after 3 years.
More recently, a further five DAMA have been announced:
– Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement DAMA (March 2019): 60 occupations and 300 places per year;
– Regional South Australia DAMA (March 2019): 114 occupations and 750 places per year;
– Kalgoorlie – Boulder DAMA (March 2019): 73 occupations and 500 places per year;
– Great Southern Coast (Warrnambool) (April 2019);
– Orana (northern NSW) (April 2019).
Discussions with other regions, including far north Queensland and in Victoria, Greater Shepparton, Mildura, North Grampians, are under way.
In terms of process, employers request endorsement by the relevant regional signatory to access the DAMA over a 5 year period (ie to become a sponsor), and then on an annual basis, request endorsement to sponsor a certain number of overseas workers in certain occupations, supported by a business case (including labour market testing and market rates information). Once endorsed, TSS nomination and visa applications are processed by the Department of Home Affairs.
The Government has promoted DAMA as highly tailored agreements that will support regional industries, attract skilled workers and boost the population of regional areas, thereby creating jobs and economic growth. The Opposition, however, has already expressed concern about the potential for DAMA to undermine wages of overseas and local workers.
We can expect that the outcome of the next Federal election will determine whether we see more or less of DAMA in the future!
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