Ciara Kenny

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

Australia is home for now, but I want my kids to grow up in Ireland

Ciaran Turbitt will begin his married life in Australia where there is sunshine and plenty of work, but when the time comes to raise kids, he would rather be back in Ireland.

Thu, Dec 22, 2011, 09:20


Ciaran Turbitt will begin his married life in Australia where there is sunshine and plenty of work, but when the time comes to raise kids, he would rather be back in Ireland.

I proposed to my girlfriend last month on Bronte Beach. I was turning 30 and her parents were about to arrive out from Ireland so it felt to me like everything was lining up for me to ask her hand in marriage. Either that or it crossed my mind that she’d surely waited long enough after  7 years, and the usual lines “Sure I have no money” and “What’s the rush in settling down??” were getting a bit old.

So after getting down on one knee after what was quite an elaborate set up involving numerous roses, hand drawn maps, iPod playlists, and a champagne picnic, we finally got engaged on what was a picture perfect day near our new home in Sydney. Our conversation over the following half hour involved when we would have the wedding, where it would be, and our plans for life after that. I had usually only ever thought as far ahead as the next weekend so it was all a bit mad to be discussing our plans so far into the future.

I have worked mainly in the IT sector and my fiancé (still getting used to saying that!) is a qualified nurse. We both lived and worked in Belfast before we left Ireland in 2009 and were not forced to leave because of the global financial crisis. When I told my work colleagues that I wished to leave in order to do a bit of travelling, the line “You jammy sod!” was used just as often as “Are you mad??” No amount of watching news stories showing traders heads banging off keyboards in stock exchanges was going to stop me.

My girlfriend and I spent a couple of months in the USA before landing in Australia. We lived near Bondi Beach for the summer, trying to make enough money to survive each week working in part time jobs. I was not bothered about living on the breadline as for me at that stage it was still a bit of a holiday, and as long as I was making enough money for rent and beer I was happy.

Once autumn hit we moved to the outback to complete a bit of farming (in order to qualify for a second working holiday visa) and take in a bit of rural Australia. We saved up a bit of money doing that, simply because you couldn’t really spend anything when living in a shack in the middle of nowhere. We finished up after 4 months, bought a car and travelled the east coast of Australia to sign off our year, which was for me the highlight of the trip.

We returned home September 2010 as my brother was getting married that winter. I was happy in the knowledge that I had the option to return to Australia and was also lucky to get employment pretty quickly that would keep me going until the New Year. I have to say I am a real sucker for Christmas and I really enjoy this time of year, the 2 month build up, the cold crisp days, the Coca-Cola advert, the fire burning in the front room, hot whiskeys and mulled wine, running round like a mad man on Christmas Eve, and meeting all my friends and family for the annual catch up.

Over Christmas the thought of returning to Australia was not one of excitement but more one of anxiety. I knew I would miss my family more this occasion as I had known what it felt like to be separated from them for a long period. It was a horrible feeling leaving my parents upset when I left home the last time and I was about to do it to them again. However we knew that our careers and bank balances would also get a fantastic boost if we were able to set up in Australia for a few years, so one dark and wet February evening we booked our tickets for Sydney once more.

This time we had a different agenda. I was going to ensure I found myself employment in the IT sector rather than attempt my hand at some of the crazy jobs I’d done the previous year, highlights being working on a chicken farm and insulating roof spaces in 40C heat! I was able to find employment fairly quickly through contacts I’d made, and my fiancé was straight back into nursing. If one thing sums up trying to find a job in Sydney, the term “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” pretty much covers it. Sponsorship arrived just a few months later and now we’re signed up to long term leases, Foxtel subscriptions and utility bills aplenty.

I’m really enjoying my work and have been lucky in that I’ve been able to make plenty of friends as the Eastern Suburbs must surely contain the fastest growing Irish community in the world at the minute. The social scene is also fantastic, and we are never stuck for things to do.

I find it sad to read about people not being able to go home. Two couples close to us left Australia for good last month and others are planning to do the same next year. Australia is a fantastic place which is offering people wonderful opportunities but ultimately for some the lure of home can conquer all those fears regarding employment and saying goodbye to wonderful weather and beaches. I think a few years down the line I will be the same.

For me, nothing will compensate for the friend’s weddings I’ve missed, the birth of my niece, the Championship days out in Croke Park with Dad, RTE punditry, proper pork sausages, those super long summer days, and coming in the door to the folks on a Friday evening. I want my kids to grow up running around with their cousins and next door neighbours. I want Mum to be able to do the free babysitting and spoil them like my grandmother did me. I want them to have an Irish upbringing in our wonderful country like I did, as I loved every minute of it.