Stop the lights
Joanne Murphy from Cork. PHOTOGRAPHS: JAMES HORAN
Aisling Keane from Tuam, Co Galway, at the Sydney Opera House. PHOTOGRAPH: JAMES HORAN
Working in Alexandria, Sydney, Australia, Blánaid Clerkin from Co Meath and Alison Leydon from Co Roscommon. PHOTOGRAPH: JAMES HORAN
Leann Power from Co Kildare. PHOTOGRAPH: JAMES HORAN
The traffic control system on construction sites in Sydney, Australia, is dominated by young women from Ireland, writes PADRAIG COLLINS
Traffic control on construction sites was traditionally a job given to building workers who were approaching retirement age. But in Sydney, chances are the stop/go sign is being wielded by someone who is young, female and Irish.
Australian Retro, one of the companies providing traffic control services, has almost 100 traffic controllers, 85 per cent of whom are Irish women.
Newmarket, Co Cork
“I did an arts degree and then a Master’s in town planning in Edinburgh. I’ve been in Sydney four years and have worked as a traffic controller for three years.
“My favourite part is that you get to meet so many people and you are working somewhere different every day. My least favourite part is that some people have no patience.
“It’s good to get the whole health and safety aspect of being on a building site. A lot of traffic control girls go on to become health and safety officers.
“I miss Ireland terribly. I’d go back in the morning if I could. The last time I was back was 18 months ago, but I’m going home at the end of the year to get married. I was hoping that I’d be able to stay at home, but by the looks of things, I won’t.”
Coill Dubh, Co Kildare
“I had a shop at home before coming to Australia. My lease was up and it was a case of staying for another while or coming over and seeing somewhere a bit different for a while.
“I got into traffic control through friends that have done it. I found it hard to get a job anywhere else to be honest, so I just decided to do this and I’ve done it for nearly two years now. I enjoy the work, being with the girls and meeting different girls on sites. Some drivers don’t like the fact that a girl is stopping them on the road. I’ve had a few run-ins with people, but sure you just pass them off.
“I definitely miss home. I’ve been back once. Mind you, when I did go home, I liked to come back out to Sydney. It’s a great lifestyle here and I love it.”
Oldcastle, Co Meath
“I was studying hotel management at GMIT in Galway before coming over. Then my boyfriend got a job offer in Sydney and I decided to go with him for a year and try it out. That was four-and-a-half years ago.