Kimberley youth crime sparks visa security fears in regional towns

A health staff member who says she is driven from her town by juvenile delinquency has warned of a security ‘ticking time bomb’ awaiting international arrivals heading to the Kimberleys on work visas.

Applications for a new work visa, known as Designated Area Migration Agreements, began to arrive from businesses from the east of the Kimberley desperate for staff.

The agreements allow employers to access full-time staff from anywhere in the world on more flexible terms than other visas.

A health worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she recently decided to leave a town in the eastern Kimberley after children threw rocks at her, as well as to her husband as they returned home.

She said her colleagues were heard screaming for help in a separate incident two days later after a child attacked them with a knife.

A health worker says she was attacked with stones by children. (Provided)

The health worker said she was concerned for the safety of people heading to the East Kimberley on the migration scheme.

She said they might not be aware of the crimes that have affected the area.

“All they want is to come to Australia and when they come here they are going to be terrified,” she said.

“I would tell them to run the opposite direction, just run.”

East Kimberley Chamber of Commerce and Industry President, Amanda McLean
Amanda McLean says visa workers can contact the community and the chamber of commerce for help. (ABC Kimberley: Stephanie Sinclair )

But East Kimberley Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Amanda McLean said her organization would provide sufficient support for new hires.

She said the East Kimberley was a good option to live in.

“Despite the challenges we are having right now with youth crime, our living conditions are often better than in many other areas where their crime is much worse,” she said.

But the healthcare worker did not share Ms McLean’s sentiment.

She said she only lived minutes from her workplace but was terrified of walking home.

“If I leave [the town]the others will leave, and no one will stay,” she said.

“No one would work here and what would happen to [the patients]?”

She said “no one” would take care of them.

Kalyn Fletcher on her family seed farm in Kununurra, Western Australia.
Hoochery distillery manager Kalyn Fletcher wants workers to start arriving in the region under the new visa regime.(Rural ABC: Tom Edwards)

Hoochery distillery manager Kalyn Fletcher said her Kununurra business was one of many businesses in the region that were optimistic about hiring international workers to make up for staff shortages.

Ms Fletcher hoped workers would give East Kimberley a chance.

“People can be the victim of a crime anywhere… I was a victim of a crime on the metro in Rome, I was attacked and all my things were stolen. Is it that this prevented me from going to Rome?” she says.

She said convincing some of the foreign workers to stay would still be a challenge.

“Even if there hasn’t been any crime in Halls Creek, bringing someone in from London and thinking they’re going to find Halls Creek attractive is a really tough scenario,” she said.

“Like it’s remote, even for Aussies.”

a small town surrounded by red earth and the green soccer oval in the foreground
Ms Fletcher says remote locations such as Halls Creek are unlikely to attract all migration visa workers. (Supplied/ Edward Tonkin)

The health worker said she hoped foreign workers would be well informed before coming to Australia.

“They need to understand how Halls Creek and the Kimberley works, before they recruit people,” she said.

But in the end, she said the problem had to be solved.

“Our government needs to do something fast before something bad happens,” she said.

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