Coming to Australia

I feel that there's not much here to stay for. Neasa O’Shea Brady USA, 2011

The people photographed by David Monahan are the most recent participants in a long history of Irish migration around the world. Over the last 250 years, millions of Irish men, women and children have left their homes to find a new life elsewhere.

It has not always been by choice. About 50,000 Australian convicts were of Irish origin, mostly rural people convicted of crimes like theft, arson, assault and perjury. In the 1840s and 1850s, many offences were directly related to the deprivations of Ireland's Great Famine.

Most free migrants preferred North America or Great Britain to the long and expensive voyage to Australia. Nonetheless, between 1840 and 1914 more than 300,000 Irish people came here. Most migrants were Catholic and came from the counties of Clare and Tipperary. Many were young unmarried women, destined for domestic service or factory work.

Until World War I the Irish were the largest non-English community in Australia. Changing patterns of migration, as well as improving economic conditions in Ireland, meant that Irish migration in the 20th century declined in comparison to other nationalities. The Irish heritage, however, is still a strong influence on Australian culture and identity.

The current economic crisis in Ireland is resulting in another generation of Irish emigrants. In the last year more than 7000 Irish citizens have obtained Australian work visas, adding another chapter to the story of the Irish in Australia.

There is nothing here for me now. Micheal Reid, Australia 2012


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