AN Irish family who arrived in Horsham on Wednesday are among the latest skilled migrants seeking a better life in the Wimmera.
About 3000 people are leaving Ireland each month, the highest number on record since the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s and 1850s.
Pauline Mann-Stringer, an Irish counsellor recognised as a qualified social worker in Australia, will take up a position with Wimmera Uniting Care next week.
English husband Mark Stringer is still looking for work in the Wimmera engineering industry while children Carl Stringer, 16, and Shauna Stringer, 14, will start school at St Brigid's College in Horsham next week.
Ms Mann-Stringer said it was impossible to find full-time work in Ireland.
"I had been working part-time for three years and my work hours would vary," she said.
"Some weeks I would work 25 hours and other weeks it would be 10 or 15 hours.
"Job prospects really weren't great and education progression for the children was difficult."
Ms Mann-Stringer said competition for tertiary education places was 'absolutely phenomenal' and college fees were expensive.
"Fees are about 20,000 Euros, or 25,000 Australian dollars a year," she said.
"I'm hoping that in Australia, the children will have better access to tertiary education, sports facilities and be involved in the community."
Ms Mann-Stringer said her first impressions of Horsham were positive.
"I've been super impressed," she said.
"We got a kettle for $8 from K-mart and we ate out on our first night at Horsham RSL.
"The meal was gorgeous and it was quite cheap. To go out in Ireland and have a similar meal would cost you about $40 each."
Ms Mann-Stringer said the family was settling into Horsham with the help of Wimmera Development Association migrant project worker Janet Heard.
Ms Heard said State Government funding for the Regional Skilled Migration Program finished in July, but a revised program was funded for another year.
The association is working to have the new program funded for another three years. Minister for Employment Richard Dalla-Riva signed off on the program for one year this month.
"Under the Regional Certifying Body Program, we will be providing regional certification for businesses wishing to employ a skilled migrant," Ms Heard said.
"We will also continue to provide assistance to employers and businesses seeking to fill critical skilled shortages that cannot be filled locally."
Ms Mann-Stringer said anyone with an Irish or European background wanting to set up a social network could email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.