‘WE LEFT WITH A BACK­PACK AND CAME HOME WITH KIDS’

Re­turn­ing home after years spent abroad can be a mo­men­tous de­ci­sion, but while there are many joys to mak­ing the move, there are just as many chal­lenges. Here em­i­grants tells their sto­ries of com­ing home

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW -

As “re­ces­sion” em­i­grants re­turn to live in Ire­land in in­creas­ing num­bers, one of the most com­mon themes in the sto­ries and opin­ions they share through the Ir­ish Times Abroad fo­rum is how mov­ing back hasn’t felt like com­ing “home”.

A re­cent re­port from Cross­care Mi­grant Project found that while find­ing work and a place to live are the big­gest prac­ti­cal is­sues faced by re­turn­ing Ir­ish, the emo­tional read­just­ment is of­ten a big­ger hur­dle to over­come. One in five sur­vey re­spon­dents said rein­te­grat­ing into Ir­ish so­ci­ety was a big­ger chal­lenge than they had ex­pected.

Ir­ish Times Abroad in­vited a group of re­turned em­i­grants to join us for a dis­cus­sion about the ex­pe­ri­ence of mov­ing home, the highs, the lows, the well-re­ported chal­lenges they ex­pected – like the cost of car in­sur­ance, and dif­fi­culty find­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion – and oth­ers that took them by sur­prise.

The con­ver­sa­tion was led by three pan­el­lists, all re­turned from Aus­tralia in the past two years. In the au­di­ence, more than half had spent time liv­ing in Aus­tralia, and most had moved back in re­cent months.

is a car­pen­ter from Co Ty­rone who set up his own con­struc­tion busi­ness in Dublin, after work­ing in Ger­many, the US, Eng­land and France. “Frus­tra­tion with the in­dus­try” dur­ing the down­turn prompted him to move to Bris­bane in 2012. He re­turned to Dublin with his wife and three sons in 2015.

went trav­el­ling with her boyfriend in 2007 and ended up stay­ing in Syd­ney, after be­ing told by fam­ily in Ire­land that the re­ces­sion had hit and there were no jobs. She trained to be a lawyer, got mar­ried and had her first child, be­fore mov­ing to Lon­don, where baby num­ber two was born. The fam­ily re­turned to Dublin last Septem­ber.

Philip Loughran Orla Grif­fin

moved to Thai­land to teach English for a year in 2009, be­fore fly­ing to Aus­tralia. After work­ing a few tem­po­rary jobs, she ended up in Bris­bane which be­came home for six and a half years. She moved back to Ire­land last sum­mer and now works with Caranua, an or­gan­i­sa­tion sup­port­ing sur­vivors of in­sti­tu­tional abuse.

Or­lagh McHugh

es­pe­cially with kids. Aus­tralia is a great coun­try. But home is home.

We left with a back­pack and came home with two kids. My fam­ily were very sur­prised we came back. We looked very set­tled to them. Even now I still re­fer to Aus­tralia as home. It was never our plan to stay for­ever, though it al­most was for­ever. Syd­ney just be­came our life. I had my son there and then my hus­band got a job of­fer to go to Lon­don. That came at the same time that we were think­ing, the grand­par­ents are miss­ing the first-born grand­child on both sides.

Lon­don was a limbo. We didn’t have the backup of our Aus­tralian sup­port net­work, or our Ir­ish net­work. It was still seven hours door to door, which isn’t an easy jour­ney with two kids. As all our de­ci­sions are usu­ally made, over a bot­tle of wine, we said let’s go home. We had no jobs, we took the plunge. For your kids, you just want to see them grow up learn­ing Ir­ish - even though my Ir­ish is ter­ri­ble - and know their cousins and see their aunts and un­cles and grand­par­ents. I had got­ten sick of join­ing the fam­ily for Sun­day din­ner via Facetime.

The last po­si­tion I was in was with the Ir­ish Aus­tralian Sup­port As­so­ci­a­tion of Queens­land. I worked with a moth­ers group, and the girls who mar­ried Aus­tralians felt a bit stuck, long­ing for their par­ents’ sup­port. Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters were vis­it­ing for St Pa­trick’s Day and asked if I planned to come back.

I asked their ad­vice: should I be the first one home, or should I fol­low the crowd? They said, be the first - you’ll be com­pet­ing for jobs, com­pet­ing for houses. Six months later I was home. I didn’t want to grow old in Aus­tralia, so it was a case of get­ting out be­fore you get caught and have too many ties.

We had the best Gaelic foot­ball team in Bris­bane at one stage, and sud­denly five or six girls were all lost in the one year and the same for the lads’ team. It ac­cel­er­ated very quickly.

Orla: Or­lagh:

In Aus­tralia, you could use your Ir­ish charm. But when you come home, you are only one of five mil­lion Ir­ish peo­ple here. You have to take a step back, to get back up the lad­der again, get a bit of Ir­ish ex­pe­ri­ence and an Ir­ish ref­er­ence. I have def­i­nitely taken a pay de­crease.

There isn’t much point in com­ing back be­cause you’re homesick if you can’t get a job. There is an up­beat at­ti­tude in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try in Ire­land now. There’s an abun­dance of work. I con­tacted ar­chi­tects and engi­neers in my in­dus­try to let them know I was com­ing back. You need to be as en­thu­si­as­tic in your own coun­try as you were when you left.

I have done a com­plete ca­reer change. I trained as a lawyer in Aus­tralia, but wasn’t qual­i­fied when I got back to Ire­land. I didn’t want to have to study law again for years so I trained as a baby sleep coach. I set my­self up and it is go­ing quite well. You have to be brave.

Or­lagh: Philip: Orla:

weren’t wait­ing for us to move back from Aus­tralia. The mem­o­ries you have with your friends are from eight or nine years ago. But it is fun mak­ing new mem­o­ries.

There have been ups and downs. I am not used to hav­ing my par­ents tell me what to do. I have my own kids and I’m a grown-up now! My sis­ter was 12 when I left and she’s an adult now. She won­ders why I use my key go­ing into my par­ents’ house, be­cause I see it as home and she sees me as a vis­i­tor.

I think I have more of an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Ire­land. It is a beau­ti­ful coun­try that peo­ple travel from all over the world to visit. My at­ti­tude has changed to­wards the things I like to do and see in Ire­land.

You have to learn how to do things by look­ing at Face­book and talk­ing to other peo­ple, who let you know the tricks ... peo­ple were ask­ing straight away if I had the kids’ names down for na­tional school

Orla: Philip:

ket. I had been com­mut­ing up and down to Dublin from north Meath, just over an hour, into work. I got lucky and a friend of a friend had avail­abil­ity in a house. I had heard ab­so­lute hor­ror sto­ries from friends and peo­ple I worked with about go­ing to view rooms in Dublin and be­ing one of 15 or 20 peo­ple turn­ing up. But I got lucky. It was the only prop­erty I viewed. I hear it is bad.

Think of the amount of prepa­ra­tion you put into mov­ing away in the first in­stance. Your net­work of friends and fam­ily can help, but you still need to do your re­search. Set up in­ter­views on­line, get your CV out there so you come back to Ire­land and hit the ground run­ning. There’s a short­age of hous­ing so have a plan about where you are go­ing to stay.

You have to learn how to do things by look­ing at Face­book and talk­ing to other peo­ple, who let you know the tricks. I added my mother as a named driver on my in­sur­ance pol­icy, which brought the price down.

Peo­ple were ask­ing straight away if I had the kids’ names down for na­tional schools. Get­ting them ECCE ( free preschool) places was im­pos­si­ble. I have to drive my son 30 min­utes to playschool now. Had I known, I should have re­searched and had his name down.

It is im­por­tant to have the right doc­u­ments ready. If you are leav­ing Aus­tralia, proof you have sold your car or ter­mi­nated your rental agree­ment will be im­por­tant to bring home to show that Ire­land now is your pri­mary place of res­i­dence. That will make life a lot eas­ier set­ting up again here, es­pe­cially if you need to claim Job­seek­ers Al­lowance.

Com­ing home at first felt like the end of the ad­ven­ture, but you need to make sure that you keep ac­tive and do­ing the things that you talked about miss­ing about Ire­land when you were in Aus­tralia. Don’t sit at home mop­ing about Syd­ney.

Philip: Orla: Or­lagh: Orla:

Read more of the dis­cus­sion, or watch a video of the event, on irish­times.com/abroad

com­mon pit­falls?

Pan­el­lists and speak­ers, from left: Orla Grif­fin, James Par­nell, Or­lagh McHugh, Philip Loughran, Sarah Maria Grif­fin; left: Orla Grif­fin with her son Daniel (3): “I had got­ten sick of join­ing the fam­ily for Sun­day din­ner via Facetime.” PHO­TO­GRAPH: DAVE MEE­HAN

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