Down Under diaries

Almost 80,000 Irish people have moved to Australia since 2008. Has it lived up to their expectations? And will they come back?

Sat, Nov 9, 2013, 01:00

Waterloo has a village feel; it’s close to everything, but it has its own character.

I had a job for four years in Shannonside FM as a news journalist. That was my dream job, really. But it came to a point where I knew I couldn’t really progress any more. I had friends here, and they said, “Why don’t you just come out and give it a shot?”

I arrived in June 2012, with no job. I gave myself six weeks. I set myself up on LinkedIn, and I emailed everyone. Somebody knew somebody who worked at Sky News. I met them and they were positive. Then I met the ABC and was offered casual work immediately. Now I work for ABC NewsRadio, the national rolling-news service.

Not being Australian, I definitely have to work harder. They’ll say, “Oh, you remember when such a thing happened,” but I just say, “No”, and someone will fill me in. I don’t have the same contacts I’d had at home, either, so that can be tricky.

I value my old friends from home now more than ever. I am lonely only for the first few days after I return from a trip home. Two of my cousins had babies recently, and seven friends got married this year, but I got to only one wedding.

Saying goodbye to my 94-year-old granny is very hard. The first time I came she said she might not ever see me again, but I’ve been back twice and she’s still great.

I miss frosty mornings and bacon and cabbage. I also miss silly things such as being able to call to a friend’s house. Skype is brilliant, but it’s not the same.

But I love it here: I love the weather, the lifestyle, the way people seem happier. I’m also earning more than twice as much as I’d earn in the same job at home. Sydney is more expensive, but I have money in my account.

You can do really well here, but you have to work hard. And you have to respect the fact that you’re in someone else’s country. My advice is to do your research, have it all planned out and have some savings.

Group HR manager, Microsoft (Clodagh) and principal consultant, Peopleworks Consulting (Jonathan). From Dublin. Now live in Roseville, Sydney, with their three children: nine-year-old Matthew, six-year-old Ailsa and three-year-old Eleanor

Clodagh I was approaching the end of my maternity leave after the birth of my third child, Eleanor, and as part of my return-to-work discussions I had a call to say that a role had come up in the Sydney office if I was interested.
Jonathan It was a hard decision, in that Ireland had not chewed us up and spat us out. Everything was great, the kids were settled, I was running my own business as a human-resources consultant and coach, but the opportunity came up. I tried to look on it this way: was it a good opportunity for Clodagh? Yes, definitely. For me? That was less certain. For the kids? Very probably. So on balance I felt we should go for it.

We arrived in June 2011, and by the second week in September I had an associate role as a career consultant and was beginning to build my business. Clodagh’s brother put me in touch with an ex-colleague of his, who very kindly put me in touch with someone based in Sydney, and that’s how I got started.
Clodagh One of our mantras has been to say yes to everything. If people invite you for a coffee or for lunch, you just do it. For the first month or two we all went through an adjustment phase. But with every month that passed we felt more settled. From the get-go we said, come hell or high water, we would stay for no less than four years.
Jonathan My worst moment was being in serviced accommodation in St Leonards in the first month of winter, when we arrived. It was cold, wet and miserable: uncharacteristically awful. Clodagh was at work, and I remember looking out from the 19th floor of this building, with three kids under seven, and the rain was falling horizontally, and I was thinking, What have I done? I discovered how much of my personal identity was bound up in my work identity. Since then there have been a lot of high points.
Clodagh After two years, we went home in July for the first time as a family. Goodbyes are hard, but we weren’t upset about coming back. We have a strong community of friends here, built up around the school in particular. There is always something on. Integrating into all that has been very seamless. I’ve never been able to say that it’s forever. We’ll make medium-term decisions about education and the home we own in Ireland: practical things and timing will force us to make a decision.
Jonathan For any kind of entrepreneur thinking about coming here, I would say get out here and start meeting people, because you really have to hammer the pavements to find work. But there is work. The second thing I’ve noticed about being self-employed here is that you get paid sooner.
Clodagh I would add: do your research. As much as people in Ireland have been hearing that the paths to the mines are paved with gold, every other country has been hearing the same thing. There’s a lot of competition, but there are jobs. The Australian culture is all about giving a fair go, being civic-minded, and if you exude those values, you’ll be given the benefit of the doubt here.

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