Cairns update

Written by: Debbie-Anne Bender | CEO Cairns Chamber of Commerce | January 31, 2019

For many industries and offices, the December/January period presents a noticeable slowdown in activity as employees and customers prepare for the festive season and the retail and hospitality sectors fire up. For the Cairns Chamber of Commerce, we experienced a significant growth in membership, gaining 100 new members since December 1. That’s growth of around 20%, and puts us on track to achieve our membership goal for 2019.

The more members we have, the bigger voice we have, and the stronger our position is to advocate for our members. One such area of advocacy we have recently made progress in, is with the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA). The business case for DAMA will be completed by February, and put forward to the Department of Home Affairs which will then go through the policy process before landing on the Ministers desk. We will update you as we progress through the process.

Attracting skilled workers to Cairns is a priority for the Cairns Chamber of Commerce, since it emerged that the shortage was a constraint on business activity. As a regional centre, we have a smaller labour pool from
which to draw, combined with some quite specific needs. For example, aviation too requires specific training, some of which is not available in Australia and therefore we must look to recruit those skills from abroad. The dive industry, too, has particular need. Dive instructors are required to speak the language of their dive customers. These divers can be hard to access, expensive and in some cases it’s taking 48 months for the diver to go through the VISA process.

Currently, Cairns is experiencing a period of positive economic growth, and looks likely to continue that growth. As an emerging economic powerhouse, we need to attract and retain skilled and semi-skilled workers. If we can’t find those locally, we need to look abroad. 

We know that only 6% of skilled migrants settle in regional areas, and one in 10 of those move on to a capital city within 18 months. A DAMA is a two-tiered agreement between state government and the Cairns Chamber of Commerce, which will streamline the pathway to accessing a skilled and semi-skilled workforce. 

In 2019, the Cairns Chamber would like to welcome our new corporate sponsor Telstra Business Centre on board. This year also marks the year we introduce a Gold-level sponsorship. We have found many of our members want to invest more within the Cairns, and this is an avenue to do so.

Our February Business Luncheon will centre on the topic of managing your small business, and giving you strategies and techniques for running a small to medium business with confidence. The luncheon will feature one of Australia’s most accomplished businesspeople Naomi Simson, founder of Red Balloon and Shark Tank Australia investor. The March Business Luncheon topic will be strategies to boost your revenue. 

These business luncheons are designed to inspire, engage and idea-share our business leaders within the community. Our goal as a Chamber is to advocate for our business community, inform members of government changes and regulations, at the local, state and federal level, connect members to opportunities through the many projects underway in the region, and of course to connect member businesses to help each member business grow.

One of the many advantages of being a Cairns Chamber of Commerce member is accessing member pricing to these events, having first option to buy tickets, and additional exclusive events. To become a member, visit

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