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In May 2004, the Federal Government announced new initiatives to help attract more migrants and refugees to Australia's regional areas.

The Department (DIMIA) will place a Regional Outreach Officer in every state and territory to increase awareness of and access to the Skilled Independent Regional (SIR) visa. The SIR visa opens the door to Australia for a group of skilled migrants who are willing to commit to settling in regional Australia for three years, who would otherwise not be able to gain permanent entry into Australia.

The Government has earmarked about 9,000 SIR visa places in 2004-2005 and is willing to provide more if required. There is also a new visa for self-funded independent retirees to encourage them to settle in regional areas.

Toowoomba City Council has actively assisted prospective residents with settlement, skills matching and employment since 1998. Residents have typically originated from South Africa, the Sudan, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Taiwan and China.

Other general migration issues can be addressed by visiting the Australian Government Department of Immigration's web-site, at: www.immi.gov.au

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