Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

‘I’ve never encountered anti-Irish sentiment in Australia’

Stereotypes abound, but if anything, being Irish is a bonus Down Under, writes Philip Lynch

Philip Lynch: 'Our apparent fondness for a good time and our ability to dispose of significant quantities of alcohol is one such stereotype that’s never far from the surface. Ironically, these are similar characteristics that are attributed to many Australians.'

Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 15:49

   

Philip Lynch

Outrage about a lingering or otherwise widespread anti-Irish sentiment in Australia comes as something of a surprise to this Irish emigrant. Frankly, with all that’s going on in the Middle East and in Iraq right now, I think the reaction about the recent leprechaun cartoon in The West Australian newspaper is all a bit of a beat-up.

For sure, stereotypes of the Irish and other nationalities abound here, as they no doubt do all over the globe. Our apparent fondness for a good time and our ability to dispose of significant quantities of alcohol is one such stereotype that’s never far from the surface. Ironically, these are similar characteristics that are attributed to many Australians.

If anything, my Irishness has stood me in good stead Down Under. My nationality has ever hampered my attempt to carve out a new life for myself. Otherwise I don’t think I would’ve stayed. Why would I? So many of the Australians I’ve encountered over my journey are unashamedly proud of their convict heritage and they are quick to claim their Irish ancestry, however tenuous the link.

Of course Australia is no utopia. It is a country where the gap between rich and poor is relentlessly widening – as is the case in most industrialised economies – but this country’s “fair go” and “mateship” ethos is still well and truly alive. And most people (Irish included) who have a go, invariably are rewarded.

That’s not to say Australia does not have its fair share of socially disadvantaged people. Of course it does. Its treatment of asylum seekers who have arrived by boat over the past decade or so has earned it the ire of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. And the woeful social detriments of indigenous people of this land are a scandal which has defied several well-meaning interventions by successive governments.

The Irish are just another ethnic minority group in this country of 23 million people. We are not extended any favourable status. As far as many Australians are concerned, Irish people here are simply raising their families, paying off mortgages and striving to enjoy a reasonable standard of living – not that dissimilar I’d imagine to many people living in Ireland today.

As a long term Irish expat in Australia I have yet to encounter xenophobia, covert or otherwise. I’d advise any would-be backpacker or job seeker to definitely include Australia on their travel itinerancy and to judge for themselves. I honestly don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

This post was written in reaction to a cartoon depicting Irish nurses and leprechauns, printed in The West Australian on Monday, which the Irish People Living in Australia group have called “offensive” and “racist”. The newspaper’s editor today responded saying it was “irreverent and a bit of fun”. Read the full story here.

Philip Lynch lives in Tasmania and is a regular contributor to Generation Emigration. Read more of his articles here.


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