St Patricks Day stirs fond memories for Irish expats in Oz

Published:  17 Mar at 6 PM
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Tempestuous times since the 2008 financial meltdown have seen thousands of professionals leave their home countries and head for far-off lands of opportunity.

Redundancies and the related uncertainty hit especially hard in Ireland, with lifestyle solutions for young professionals and their families as far away as the other side of the planet offering a new chance to make something of thier talents. Many headed for Australia, and are now successfully creating a new life.

For Irish expats, a new life doesn’t mean giving up on much-loved traditions and festivals, with the all-time favourite of St Patrick’s Day celebrated with traditional Irish enthusiasm all across the land of Oz. Outback Queensland with its bone-dry, barren wastes must seem as far from the Emerald Isle as it’s possible to get, and is home to two determined Irishwomen who’ve successfully embraced its possibilities in spite of missing their home country.

Across the state, in small towns and villages where the expat Irish have gathered, the entire community joins in the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Locals in the small town of Birdsville in south-west Queensland do their best to make sure they all enjoy the festival along with their Irish friends. School bands hit the streets and a parade includes all local businesses and social clubs. Of course, the local hotel makes sure it has a good supply of Guinness and a good few shamrocks scattered around the bar.

Expats such as Olivia O’Neill admit to missing the old country, even although she and her family have lived in OZ for several years. Olivia tell the old legends and tales to her son Patrick to make sure his Irish heritage stays with him for a lifetime, and the traditional wearing of the green is mandatory on the saint’s day.

Made redundant as a result of the 2008 recession, Janine Luck headed for Australia some five years ago and set up her yoga studio in the town of Mount Isa. She loves the difference and diversity of her new home and is now an Australian citizen, but she confesses to still missing Ireland. She’s regretfully having to work on this year’s St Patrick’s Day, but hopes to be able to get down to the local Irish Club to enjoy Irish music and a traditional meal.
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