TRAVEL GUIDE: Australia
The number of Irish people looking to start a new life in Australia is soaring. New figures from the Australian Department of Immigration reveal that the number of Irish flocking to Oz rocketed by 22pc last year — despite a decline in worldwide applications.
Even the horrific floods which have caused devastation in Victoria and Queensland don’t seem have to hit the enthusiasm of the Irish — from north and south — for a new life down under.
The recession which has crippled the Irish economy is the obvious reason for the growing exodus.
But are things still “bonzer” in the land of plenty? Are there down sides to life in Oz?
Last year I reported on the increasing number of ‘Wizards of Oz’ from Northern Ireland who had moved to Australia for a new life in the sun.
Oonagh Holland, 30, from Co Tyrone left her job as a PA in the television industry. But after more than a year in Brisbane, Oonagh returned home just before Christmas, narrowly missing the terrible floods.
She had found a well paid, permanent job as a PA for a construction firm but work wasn’t the issue for Oonagh.
“To be honest, I absolutely loved the sunshine and no-one can underestimate the lifestyle people have out there — it’s fantastic and there really are still plenty of jobs.
“I think for me the big factor was that I just couldn’t get home to see my family regularly.
“I think people underestimate the fact that it really is on the other side of the world and costs a lot of money to fly back and forth regularly.
“Personally, I decided to move home again after a year because I am so close to my family.
“I realised I couldn't live far away from them, but I would still advise other people to head out there as the job market really is still booming and there are so many more opportunities.”
Until now it has always been graduates and young people that have been packing up and heading out to Australia. But TV property shows highlighting life in Australia coupled with our economic gloom, have meant that many families have decided to make the big move.
Oonagh explained: “Children growing up in Australia have such a good quality of life, they can play outdoors all year round and experience life in a way that they never would here.
“There are jobs in every profession available, not just the ones that are advertised on the most wanted lists in papers here.
“And the fact that the wages are usually much higher means many families who are struggling here may be right to think about moving there.
“I lived in Brisbane and it rained for two months just before I left and I narrowly missed the floods.
“Everyone that I have been talking to over there since I came back at Christmas have said that most people are back at work now.”
As Oonagh was heading back to Northern Ireland, 26-year-old Decki Drumm from Enniskillen was going in the other direction.
Decki was one of the lucky graduates who walked straight into a job in Northern Ireland following university.
The Fermanagh man set off for Australia planning to stay for a couple of months but already he loves the lifestyle out there so much that he wants to stay permanently.
“I decided to come out because I always wanted to travel around Australia when I finished uni’,” said Sydney-based Decki.
“But I got a job the day after I graduated and two years flew by in the blink of an eye.
“So I decided I had better do it now before it got too late.
“To be honest I am liking it too much out here to head back.
“It is pretty expensive to live out here in Sydney, the average rent is $150 (£94) a week. But the wages more than match the living expenses.
“People doing general labour are earning up to $1,000 (£628) a week and skilled tradesmen are getting double that.
“There are really big opportunities for young people out here, especially for people who have a professional qualification, trade or work in health care and so on.”
Decki added: “I am going to start applying for work in my qualification (building surveyor), and by looking at recruitment agency sites and registering with them out here, there seems to be plenty of work!
“I arrived on December 8, and after only being out for a few months I am already planning on staying out here, and maybe long term if the situation doesn't improve back home!”
The Fermanagh man raves about the better quality of life in Australia with its “sun, sea, money and unreal ladies”.
Nicola Connolly, also from Co Fermanagh — a trained teacher and with two years experience under her belt — headed out last May and has had no regrets.
The 25-year-old says it doesn’t matter whether you are skilled or unskilled, there are still plenty of jobs available.
“I came out to Oz intending to teach but I opted to break away from the teaching and signed up to a recruitment agency who got me a job almost straight away working for a health insurance company.
“I am doing data entry work which is very simple and the hours are great.
“I am being paid $660 (£414) a week which is actually just a little over the equivalent of what I would get for a week of teaching work in England.
“Australia hasn’t and won't be affected by the recession because they are so self sufficient.
“The lifestyle is great, lots of beaches and people seem to very much work to live as opposed to live to work which seems to be the case back home.”
So it seems Australia is still the place to be to earn a quick dollar and live the lifestyle that most of us can only dream about. Home or away? For an increasing number of Irish people the answer is definitely away.