Bike theft and sky high rents in Dublin sent designer to rural Australia
‘Even in Sydney, I found I had more money left after all the bills were paid’
Designer Shane Gavin’s career has taken off since moving from Dublin to Australia. Photographs: Andrew Northover
Shane Gavin is a graphic designer. He left Ireland to work in design in Sydney, and after six months there, he now lives in Traralgon, in rural Victoria, two hours from Melbourne. He works with a studio called The View From Here.
Why did you leave Ireland, and when?
I moved to Sydney in October 2014. After graduating in 2012, I moved from Waterford to Dublin and started working as a junior graphic designer for Red Dog. By 2014, I was working for a studio called Zinc, but had been feeling like I was no longer progressing in my career.
Dublin had lost its appeal by then too. I had my bike stolen twice, and most of my wages were going into paying rent for a crappy outdated apartment. I applied for the Working Holiday Visa and it was granted pretty much immediately, so I left my job in Dublin, and moved to Sydney.
Did you leave family behind?
The rest of my family – my parents and two sisters – are back in Ireland. I’m born and raised in Waterford. My sister did come out to live in Melbourne for a year, and it was nice to be able to catch up.
What attracted you to Sydney?
A friend of mine, Jane, had been living there for the past few years with her now fiancé, and she encouraged me to come out. Two girls who had graduated from my degree course were also living there and doing well. I was attracted to the lifestyle, the sunnier weather, and living in a big city – Sydney has a larger population than Ireland.
Did it take you long to get settled?
I was pretty lucky in that sense. When I first moved over, Jane and her partner let me stay with them and helped me get set up, until I was able to find a place of my own and a job. It also meant I was able to meet some of their friends. They had a pretty good network of people, and it meant I got introduced into the group and had people to hang out with.
How did you go about finding a job and were you able to secure one in your field in a reasonable time?
I designed a little booklet about myself which showed off my design skills and also showed off my personality a little bit. It worked pretty well; I got a few interviews out of that, and ended up working for a small studio called Equilibrium in Kings Cross. It took me about a month to get sorted with a job and a house.
What visa are you on?
I am currently on a 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa, with the aim of applying for Permanent Residency at the end of this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get that sorted before they make any more changes to the visa system.
Where do you now live now, and how did you end up there?
After six months, I lost my job because of my visa and the restrictions that come with it. You’re only allowed to work for six months in the same company on a Working Holiday Visa, and they couldn’t sponsor me because the company was too small to meet certain sponsorship criteria.
I sent my little booklet CV to studios in Melbourne, and a short while later I was contacted by a studio that I hadn’t mailed it to, who told me they had heard on the grapevine that I was looking for work. They were based in Traralgon, which is about two hours east of Melbourne, in an area called Gippsland. I flew down and worked with them for a week, and was hired. I moved to Traralgon in April 2015, and have been here since.
What do you like about the place?
Traralgon is essentially rural Victoria. It’s completely different to the likes of Melbourne and Sydney, but I’m only about two hours from Melbourne, so when I want to visit the city I can. I’m also close to so much beautiful scenery down this way, national parks, beaches and even snow resorts up in the mountains.
Are there advantages to living there over living in Sydney?
Rent is much cheaper compared with living in the city. I can also walk to work as opposed to having to commute on trams or trains. The main draw for me is the surroundings. The nearest national park is 10 minutes from here, and there are loads of beautiful walking tracks nearby. Everything is a little more chilled out down here.
And are there any particular challenges?
Making friends down here was more difficult than it had been in Sydney. I’m pretty outgoing and I don’t have trouble meeting people, but it’s difficult to become part of the group. It has taken me two years, but now I’ve got a good group of mates down here, which really makes a difference.
How does the cost of living compare to Ireland?
I find the overall cost of living to be less here than back in Ireland. Even when I was in the city, I found I had more money left after all the bills were paid.
What advice would you give to other Irish people planning to travel to Australia to live and work?
I guess it depends on what your reasons are for coming. I wanted to progress my career, while getting to enjoy a different country and culture. However, it is quite tough being so far away from home, family and friends. I had never been homesick before. It can be hard to shake off.
Do you think moving to Australia has been good for your career?
Yes, it has definitely been a positive step for my career. I have got to work on some pretty interesting projects, such as the design magazine we publish called Gippslandia. I’ve also been able to expand my photography and animation skills while in my current studio, which as been a real positive for me.
Is there an Irish community where you live, and are you involved with it?
Not really, unfortunately. But there’s a pretty good Irish community in St Kilda in Melbourne, and I’ve found myself in an Irish bar there called The Fifth Province, to watch the rugby in an atmosphere that feels like home. They serve a decent Sunday roast there, too.
Is there anything you miss about living in Ireland?
I definitely miss a good ham blaa [roll] from home. I’ve tried making blaas over here, but can never quite get them right. I miss my friends and family mostly, and I try to keep in touch as much as possible, but the time zone difference makes it difficult.
Have you made plans for the future?
My main plan is to get Permanent Residency, and potentially citizenship, all things going smoothly. I am thinking about a move back into Melbourne in the near future. I haven’t really considered coming back to Ireland yet, but maybe I will down the line because it’s tough being away from my family. But for now I’m happy.
If you work in an interesting job overseas and would like to share your experiences, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a little information about you and what you do.