Migrant and Refugee Retention in Regional Australia at the Intersection of Structure and Agency
Abstract: This article examines the question of migrant and refugee retention in small and medium-sized towns referred to as ‘regional towns’ in Australia as a problem at the intersection of structure and agency in migration and settlement processes. Regional settlement pathways typically occur in the context of business interests in a reliable labour supply, government efforts of migration management and, importantly, migrants’ and refugees’ socially embedded life courses that are shaped by aspirations, opportunities and constraints. Rather than reducing the question of retention to one of migrant and refugee choice, this article explores the question whether people with migration backgrounds remain in regional locations through the conceptual lens of structuration and situated learning. Based on an analysis of key policies that have shaped regional migration and settlement in Australia and an analysis of qualitative interviews with migrants in different visa categories in regional Victoria, conducted over the last ten years, the article will explore three key factors influencing retention: migration policies, employment experiences in the context of settlement and migrants and refugees’ situated knowledge emerging from these experiences over time. In conclusion, I will argue that unpacking the policy quandary of migrant and refugee retention sociologically can contribute to advancing both an understanding of mobility and immobility as integral to migration processes and the development of sustainable regional migration policies.