‘They say things are slowing in Australia but there are still lots of opportunities’
Lawyer Vicki Buckley has recently moved to Perth with her family (and her hairdresser)
Vicki Buckley with her kids Hannah (5) and Jack (2). Photograph: Philip Gostelow
Vicki Buckley (left) with Irish husband and wife solicitor colleagues Leo Barry and Lindsay Ahern, at Jackadder Lake in suburb of Woodlands in Perth. Photograph: Philip Gostelow
New figures published this week show the number of people moving back from Australia has jumped dramatically in the past year, while the numbers moving out has fallen. Vicki Buckley moved to Perth with her family last year, and told Ciara Kenny why she’s delighted she did.
I moved to Perth with my husband Damian, our two kids Hannah and Jack, and my mum last year. The sad part of the story is that my dad passed away three years ago, and that put everything into perspective for us. He was only sick for six months. You have to grab the moment; I know that sounds like something from the television but it is true. If dad hadn’t been sick and passed away I’m not sure we would have travelled.
Mum had been here twice to visit family friends. She came six weeks after we arrived, and now looks after our kids. My husband works in Sydney a good bit with his job, so that makes having Mum here even better. We are really lucky to have her.
Hannah is five, and Jack is two and a half. To Jack, this is how life has always been, in the sunshine wearing shorts and no shoes. Hannah does remember things from home, but with FaceTime it is hard for her to forget. She is in Kindergarten and has adapted so fast.
I was practicing as a barrister for eight years - mostly in Cork - before we left. I was very lucky to get sponsorship here in Perth, so I went straight into a job working with another Irish woman, Lindsay Ahern, from Limerick. Immediately I had friends and connections through her.
It is difficult to convert your Irish qualifications. It is considered a common law jurisdiction, but procedure is extremely different. It is even different between states. My qualifications were assessed and I had to do a number of exams and do some legal practice board requirements. It is the same for all foreigners coming in. It was expensive too, as an international student. I am fully up and running now, and causing chaos in the courts of Western Australia.
I am currently working for a commercial firm as a solicitor, specialising in commercial law. It is very different to what I did back home. I went from being an independent self-employed barrister, to having the security of working with a firm. I think I am the only Irish person practicing law in WA who is also a member of the Irish Bar. But there are lots of Irish solicitors. There is a lovely community of Irish lawyers over here, including Marty Kavanagh, the Irish Honorary Consul in WA.
Because there are two Irish lawyers in our office now we have started to push ourselves out there. For Irish people setting up businesses here, having an Irish lawyer to represent them, who understands both the Irish and Australian systems, is a huge bonus. We have started answering questions on social media too; on the Irish Families in Perth Facebook page, for example, there will be at least one legal question every week which we will give advice on. I am also part of the Irish Networking Business Forum, a support network for Irish people who want to set up their own business here.
Cork being Cork, the girl who used to do my hair back home has moved to Australia, and she does my hair here in Perth. I have not only brought my mother, I have brought my hairdresser as well!
We live beside a park with a beautiful lake. Childhood is a little bit old-fashioned in Australia, like going back 10 or 15 years back home. They trot off into school in their flip flops and little hat, and there’s no new commercial influence. I wanted Hannah to go to Catholic school here, but you have to have their name down from birth pretty much to get in. We were extremely lucky; I had to play the “poor Irish emigrant” card with the registrar.
Hannah still has her wonderful east Cork accent, but Jack has a strong Australian twang already. It is surreal when he comes out with a big Australian phrase.
I know they are saying things are slowing down economically here in Australia, but I still think there are a lot of opportunities. By nature, Irish people want to go and work hard and get on with whatever they set their minds to.
It has probably been easier for me to settle here because I have to. I have to have schools and a sensible house and a sensible car for the kids. But I am lucky that I have a good job, right around the corner from the school, and our house.
It is very hard to say what our plan is, whether we will stay or move home eventually. For the moment we are having such a good time. Something new is coming up for us every week. You hear a lot about Irish people looking towards home now. They say you can be totally fine, until one day you wake up and you’ve had enough, and nothing can stop you from going back.
- In conversation with Ciara Kenny