After doing two Masters degrees trying to ride out the GFC in Ireland and there was still no sign of it ending, I decided to move to Australia to try to start a better life. Growing up, I had always had a fascination with Australia. I think I watched too much Home and Away when I was younger, and that gave me a skewed view of what life here was – that everybody is good-looking, and nobody has any worries! Then I arrived in Melbourne in winter, and it was not exactly the sunny landscape I had imagined. I remember thinking to myself, ‘What have I done?’
At the start, I was in a panic because the Euro was very weak against the Australian dollar and the cost of living here was really high in comparison to Ireland, so I ended up just hemorrhaging money. I came with a couple of friends, and we were all on the hunt to get a job that would sponsor us to stay, but it was very difficult because our working holiday visas only allowed us to work at a company for 6 months at a time, and that wasn’t very attractive to most places.
The only work I could get was temp work, and in the meantime, I applied for I reckon about 1100 jobs, including everything from professional positions to jobs at bars and restaurants. But from all those applications, I didn’t get a single interview.
Then, one day I saw a job with a council in Central Victoria which matched all my degrees perfectly. I said to myself, ‘If I don’t get an interview for this job, I’ll have to consider going back home.’
But first I called the guy listed on the position description and said, ‘This is my background, here’s what I’m about, and this is the visa I’m on. But please don’t make me spend days writing out all the selection criteria for nothing. If you’re not interested, just cough.’ And his response was, 'David, all I can do is to strongly encourage you to apply.'
Later, after I started, he told me that when he got off the phone with me, he said to the team, ‘It’s really interesting, I just had this Irish guy call me.’ And apparently they all said, ‘Oh my god, give it to the Irish guy!’
I was driving for 2 hours every day to get to that job and back. But it was worth it. They not only sponsored me, but also later organised for me to get my permanent residency. And the experience gave me a true understanding of Australian life. Melbourne is a global city, but when you go to places like Central Victoria, you get to meet grassroots communities of people who have lived in that place all their life.
Now I work for the City of Port Phillip Council here in St Kilda. We promote the city for tourism and look after local business. I love my job and I’ve made a lot of friends with the locals. In some ways, I’m still chasing the Home and Away lifestyle I dreamt about as a kid, but I guess a Neighbours lifestyle down in St Kilda will just have to do for now. One thing that’s for sure from working for Council – I have definitely integrated into Australian community life and I love it!
Photographer: David Brewster www.davidbrewsterphotography.com
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