Maurice Scanlon: We spent nine years in England before we came to Australia. In 1979-80 we had a lot of riots going on in London at the time. We were either going to go to Canada or Australia. So it was almost a toss of a coin. We came to Australia.
Claire Lynch: I actually came out to Australia on my own and when I first arrived I was like “what am I doing, a 22 year old girl. What’s ahead of me?” When I think back, four years ago when being back in Ireland, it just seems like a lifetime ago.
Val Noone: Well I’m one of those one or two million Victorians who are descended from Irish people who came 150 years ago. Migration is a mixed bag. It gives you a chance to come and make a new start, but also can cut you loose from the roots of all of the things that you hold dear. And I think that’s happened to the Irish in Australia.
Maurice Scanlon: We landed in Perth and we had a three month old child with us. I didn’t know anybody that could speak my language and that’s what I missed the most, being able to speak Gaeilge. My Irish language.
Claire Lynch: I left Ireland thinking, two, three months I’ll be back. I think my family thought I’d be back in two or three weeks. In the health industry there, what I am in, there’s no jobs at the moment. They’re not recruiting and I’m just really expanding in my work out here. I’m doing my doctorate. I’m studying. I don’t think I would have got that opportunity at home with the recession and the way Ireland is.
Maurice Scanlon: One of my proudest moments would definitely be the formation of the Irish Language association of Australia. Promoting, teaching, nurturing, enjoying, loving the Irish language and all the cultural ties that go along with it.
Val Noone: Most of the Irish who came here in the 1800s spoke two languages, Irish and English and I thought one way to find out about my ancestors and my background was to study the Irish language and for the last 16 years I’ve enjoyed going pretty well every Tuesday night to a class. I’ve got to the intermediate level.
Maurice Scanlon: My children have a good understanding of the Irish language. Both of them, they know of my love of my culture. They know that I’m a singer. I sing a lot of songs in my native Irish language. I’m very proud of them because they’re very proud of their Irishness and also very proud of their Australianess.
Claire Lynch: I think I consider myself Irish Australian now. I got the citizenship two weeks ago and it was a very proud moment for me. I walked out of – after doing the test and got this kind of shiver through my body and I went “wow”. I actually have made it, I never would have dreamt five years ago that I would be an Irish Australian.
Maurice Scanlon: The Irish and the Australians are very much alike. We all like to get up in the morning and do a day’s work. We like to have a song. Culturally and emotionally, I think that we are very much alike.
Claire Lynch: I’ve got all the girls talking about the craic at work and we do have the same kind of friendly atmosphere and very welcoming in both cultures.
Maurice Scanlon: When you have a festival like the Irish Immigration Festival it brings the Australians and the Irish together in one place.
Claire Lynch: On the day of the festival it was just lovely to see all generations come together. There was little toddlers running round. There was the elderly community as well, and there were people selling Aran jumpers, there was all the different soda breads which all my work colleagues fell in love with. What is really unique is the Irish dancing to the Irish culture and for my work colleagues, who are Australian, to see that, they were just amazed at what the girls could do when they were doing the dancing.
Maurice Scanlon: I’m happy to be able to honour this country, which I do. But I also honour "fód mo shinsear", the place of my ancestors.
Val Noone: I think it’s relevant to Australia to understand where we come from. I think the more we understand ourselves and our heritage, the better we can understand others.
Maurice Scanlon: It’s were you are now that matters to me. If I die tomorrow morning, I will happily be buried in this land.
Claire Lynch: I have my Irish roots. I don’t think I’ll ever lose the accent or ever be mistaken for an Australian with the Irish accent. I’ll always, even if I went home to Ireland in the morning, Australia would be part of my life.
Maurice Scanlon: There’s an old saying that says "Ní near go cur le chéile", which means “togetherness is strength” and we have that.