‘Melbourne never felt like home. We love being back in rural Ireland’
Patricia Noonan and her family returned to Cork after five years in Australia
Patricia Noonan with her husband Philip, and sons Shay (7) and PJ (11)
Patricia Noonan and her husband Philip never intended to stay in Australia forever. After he lost his job in 2012, they moved with their two boys to Melbourne. They had good jobs, a great lifestyle, but moving home was always at the forefront of their minds.
An electrician by trade, “the writing was on the wall” for Philip after the recession hit, Patricia says. Although they were both still working, they applied for permanent residency in Australia in 2011, “just in case”.
Shortly after Philip was made redundant the following January, he left for Melbourne, where his brother was already living. Six months later Patricia and their two sons, then aged five and one, followed.
“Leaving was a gut-wrenching experience for the whole family,” she recalls. “There was no hope of him getting anything else (workwise) in Ireland. He said he would crack up if he stayed, so we decided to go.”
Philip got a job straight away, and a few months after Patricia arrived, she secured a position in HR management. The boys went to a Catholic school and settled well.
“The intent was always to come home,” she says. “There was nothing about our lives here (in Cork) that we didn’t like. We love being back in rural Ireland. Melbourne never felt like home. I always felt like the outsiders. People were lovely, but we missed family. I found it very difficult.
“The wages were absolutely fantastic compared to Ireland, but Philip had to work six days a week. He would be gone at 5.30 in the morning and back at 5.30pm. People think isn’t it great in Australia, but there are sacrifices.”
Patricia read the news from Ireland every day on her phone, and listened to podcasts of Irish radio shows, keeping up to date with developments in the Irish economy.
“We were there five years. You can’t rent in Australia forever and the price of property was going up and up. That was crunch time for us. Our eldest son is 11 this year and high school in Australia was looking like about $10,000 per year. We said if things picked up here, we would move back. There were a lot of positive messages in the last year or so.”
In August, the family arrived home in Ireland, and moved back into the “dream home” they had finished building near Michelstown in Co Cork shortly before having to emigrate. Although they found it difficult to apply for jobs in advance of moving home - “they want to meet you in person”, Patricia says - Philip was working within three weeks of arrival.
The boys have settled well, Patricia says, and have felt very welcome at their new school in Newtownshandrum.
“I ask them if they would move back to Australia and they say no way. They love it here. It is all about being together. PJ remembers not having his dad for six months, and only seeing him on Skype. That had a lasting impact.”
The family try to view their Australian experience positively.
“From a professional perspective, I think our experience will really stand to us,” Patricia says. “Financially it was a great way of getting ahead. We would never have accumulated that kind of income here.”
As a member of the Irish Expats Returning to Ireland Facebook group, which has more than 10,000 members, she has read a lot of negative comments about the difficulties other returning emigrants have experienced with high car insurance quotes, high rents, and other bureaucratic barriers after moving home. But they have encountered very few difficulties, she says.
“We left for Australia with two children. We weren’t going over in our 20s; we were at a stage of our lives where we were a bit more sensible and did a lot of research to make the move over and back home again as smooth as possible for the family. We got a good car and comprehensive insurance, which has been recognised here, so our quote was only €900. If we had only driven rego (Australian government registration which includes tax and basic third-party insurance) we would have had no no-claims bonus. We got Bupa health insurance in Australia which is recognised by Laya here.”