Millions of reasons for skilled workers to go regional

Jessica and John Lim with their sons, Jayden and Toby. Photo: Kate Healy
Jessica and John Lim with their sons, Jayden and Toby. Photo: Kate Healy

Ballarat couple Jessica and John Lim are the type of young, skilled professionals that governments at all levels are hoping to attract to regional areas as the nation’s population hits a milestone and continues to swell.

Australia’s population officially ticked over to 25 million on Tuesday night and is expected to reach 26 million in three years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics records 67 per cent of the nation’s people living in capital cities, compared with the beginning of the century when only 36 per cent lived in cities and 67 per cent in rural areas.

Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge has reportedly supported further action to encourage further migration and population growth in regional areas.

The moves include changes to Australia's migration program empowering local governments with business sponsorship powers to help recruit more regional workers in regional skill areas of need, such as nurses and tradespeople.

The Lims met while studying at Melbourne University and now run a successful dental practice in Ballarat.

Ms Lim was born in Korea and moved with her family to Melbourne when she was two. Mr Lim was also born in Korea, and moved to Australia with his family.

Ms Lim was working for a corporate dental office in Melbourne and Mr Lim in Castlemaine, but the couple really wanted to run their own practice in regional Victoria.

They had found the city already saturated with dentists and wanted to broaden their skill set, so in 2009, they made the move to Ballarat.

Ms Lim said there are so many advantages to being in the country.

““There is so much work and opportunity in Ballarat, but it also still has a community feel,” Ms Lim said.

“When we first came to Ballarat, we looked at a property in Mount Helen to live. It was 10 minutes away and people couldn’t understand how we could want to live so far away, but 10 minutes to work in Melbourne is unheard of.”

Ms Lim said she has found the business community supportive and they are hoping to collaborate a lot more with other health professionals.

“If you want to start and run a business and you have a passion for what you are doing and you try your best, the community will support you.”

She said at first they travelled back to Melbourne a lot, but now they rarely visit.

“Ballarat has so much to do now, culturally and places to walk and there’s lots of great brunch places to eat,” Ms Lim said.

They also wanted a childhood for their sons where they could grow up “climbing trees and riding bikes.”

Ms Lim said her parents also have a house in Ballarat and now spend a lot of time locally with the family.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, 87 per cent of the 112,000 skilled migrants who arrived in Australia last year settled in Sydney or Melbourne, while rural and regional areas still struggle to find skilled workers.