Thank you so much for your interest in my research. As I mentioned this is a PhD project being undertaken at the University of Adelaide. My personal history is the foundation for the project. As an infant emigrant from Northern Ireland who became a circular migrant I know all too well the perils and opportunities of frequent global moves.
I completed a BA Hons in Irish History and Politics at Magee College, University of Ulster and a post graduate Diploma in Management at the University of Leicester before returning to Australia in 2000. I returned to study and completed an M.Phil in History at the University of Adelaide in 2013. That project concerned South Australian support for the Irish Home Rule movement and it gave me a good sense of the historicity of Irish immigration to Australia.
In 2009 I founded Adelaide Irish Connect as I became aware of the increasing numbers of Irish people, particularly young families, arriving in Adelaide without any connections in South Australia. AIC is an online social networking, quasi-migrant advice service which has proven popular and useful to new migrants and longer settled people alike. One of its most popular activities is the Big Irish Breakfast. This social interaction with new arrivals fed my curiosity about the new migrant experience since the migrant world I had experienced had changed so dramatically with the arrival of social media and various other technological advances. Still, my new friends reported the same feelings of isolation, dislocation and homesickness so I embarked on a doctoral program of research to ascertain the differences or sameness of migration to Australia in this age of technological advancement.
The background to this research area lies in a conference paper written for the Irish Studies Association of Australia and New Zealand (ISAANZ) conference held in New Zealand in 2012 which was entitled “Ireland Online”. The paper was based on a survey of 30 questions distributed online using SurveyMonkey, sent via email and posted to possible participants. The 144 respondents came from two distinct time cohorts – 1969 to 1985 and 1999 to 2012.
This pilot study provided some valuable data which was expanded upon with a second web-only survey in February 2014 which attracted 208 responses in two days despite the fact it was more than twice as long as the first survey.
From this data I have formed my research questions and aims. The pilot studies also pointed to a useful methodology in the feasibility and speed of web-based surveys distributed through social media. The results of these two surveys will be available in a forthcoming book chapter entitled ‘Emigration in the Age of Electronic Media: Personal Perspectives of Irish Migrants to Australia, 1969–2013’ in Ireland in the World, Angela McCarthy (ed.), published by Taylor and Francis.
In the five years from 2006 to 2011 Australia’s Irish community increased by 29 per cent. The change in the nature of Irish migration to Australia, particularly since 2008, is evident. In 2005 Patricia O’Connor noted that migration by skilled transients tended to be career/occupationally motivated while those on Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas were motivated primarily by recreational stimuli and the rite of passage of the ‘gap year’. Australian officials recognise that there has been ‘a recent shift in motivation for these visa holders, from a tourism and/or life experience to an employment opportunity’ (Department of Immigration and Border Patrol Quarterly 457 Report).
The WHM programme is often seen ‘as a pathway to long-term employment and eventual permanent residence’. The migration journey and the settlement intention is of great interest here.
Despite Ireland’s rising unemployment rate, all survey respondents held full-time positions in Ireland at the time of departure, 80 per cent of which were permanent. Given that the economic climate had considerable leverage in the decision to emigrate it might be surprising to hear that this was the case. The anecdotal evidence sheds further light on this. While this group was similarly economically engaged in Australia with only one reporting being unemployed, comments about life in Australia reveal that job prospects and career advancement are noticeably better for most.
There is no question that the visa process is a costly one both in financial and emotional terms and so the compatibility of available visas with migrant intention is a focal point. Where a long-term or permanent residency is not achieved I will investigate what caused departure from Australia and whether this entails return to Ireland or movement to another place. Departure caused by an inability to secure employment or meet visa conditions could be considered forced. The Irish government is demonstrating a practical commitment to the idea of an Irish diaspora with a visible program of diaspora engagement incentives and the establishment of the Irish Abroad Unit – these efforts must also be taken into account when looking at return forces. Consideration of the effects of homesickness will open the path to research on migrants’ physical and mental health.
This study attempts to combine a number of systematic branches of the discipline of geography. The study of diasporic nationalism calls simultaneously upon insights from population geographers (with their interest in the processes shaping the settlement experiences of international migrants), social and cultural geographers (with their concerns over diasporic cultures and identities), and political geographers (keen on investigating the role of transnational communities in nation and state building in the homeland).
The survey aims to garner migrants’ experiences of the migration decision, the Australian immigration system, moving, settling, and homesickness and, for some, leaving Australia.