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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Shutterstock/Petr Kratochvila

Emigrating to Australia 'I’ve learned that home is home'

Moving to Australia at just eleven was daunting but taught me lots about myself, writes Aimee Murphy.

IT WAS FEBRUARY 2011, the worst day. Deep breaths and 1,2,3. This was something my dad taught me. I still question whether it works, but to this day I frequently remember the words my dad would say to me.

My last day with him was a turmoil of emotions, one moment marginally exciting, and the next devastatingly dragged and dejected, as I sat on his stairs, evaluating a card he had handed me.

I could tell by his swollen, soggy eyes and his rosy coloured cheeks that he had been crying. He left as I began opening the envelope with trembling hands. I couldn’t hold back the endless tears that slid down my cheeks.

Moving to Australia

Moving to Australia was a very daunting thing, especially because I didn’t know how it would affect my identity, not only culturally, but socially and personally too.

I had heard that some children thrive when they enter new environments, depending on their own circumstances, but I felt like this was potentially not going to happen for me.

How would the Australians view me? Would they think we looked and sounded different? Would they make fun of me?

These questions raced through my mind. Having to establish new, important relationships outside my family was extremely intimidating. The threat that the move had on my relationship with my friends was hard to accept.

Culture shock

It was obviously disruptive to the stability of my established core friends and family. The culture that I had grown up was about to dramatically change. My wardrobe was a small but drastic modification, as the weather was radically different.

Not all homes had a solid structure made from brick. We had two fireplaces in our Irish house. How did Santa come down the chimney in Australia or did they even believe in Santa?

As years passed the longing to return to the Emerald Isle didn’t disappear, but sometimes I have the ability to shut it out of my thoughts. I don’t live with a sudden absence and ache in my heart.

But at other times it will hit. The sense of melancholy and misery echoes through every particle in my body, as the absence of home reverberates.

I miss my family and friends. I miss the culture. I miss the endless fields of green, the fresh air that rejuvenates my lungs, the infinite number of castles, folk music and dance, the verdant landscape and the mythological stories told by older relatives.

Family connections

shutterstock_550843786 Shutterstock / amophoto_au Shutterstock / amophoto_au / amophoto_au

I don’t think anyone can try to envisage or contemplate how much one’s family means to them, and how they play a central role in the shaping of your individuality, until you are away from them.

I have realised that family are your first “friends”. You learn and grow from what you see them do. Through all that had happened with the move I became extremely close with my brother, Jack.

We did actually only have each other. Especially at Christmas, on birthdays and at other times where the whole family would be in one small cubed room parading around, gossiping about whatever relevant news they thought was important.


I get homesick, a lot, and with the homesickness comes dreams about Ireland. It is always worse in winter, with the lengthy cold evenings bringing so many emotions to the surface, and the thought that I may one day return to be a tourist in my own town.

I feel physically sick and can’t sleep. The oddest of things are the things I miss the most, like being amongst a crowd watching a Six Nation’s match.

Things like sitting at the kitchen table with my maternal grandmother, seeing the unconditional love in her eyes, the sadness that we are gone, the pride in who we have become.

Learning curve

I have gained a greater understanding and awareness of my place in this world because of this experience. Although as soon as I introduce myself to others I immediately feel different. My accent is a bit of a giveaway so there is an immediate division or feeling of otherness.

I have learned to overcome and live with this, but my culture is something I am extremely proud of. I’ve been here for some time now and I still don’t understand some Australian jokes and some people don’t get mine. I can be with my friends, feel so involved but always be the one step outside the circle.

I have had to mature and grow up in unexpected ways and I’m sure this will benefit me in the future.

So, what has all this taught me you ask?

Well it has taught me to shut up when I feel homesick because no one wants to hear that any immigrant might be happier elsewhere. It has taught me that I’d better not feel sorry for myself for having been dragged here, against my will, and forced to “make the best of it” throughout my formative years.

I’ve learned that home is home, even if it doesn’t have the best beaches, the best barbeques and the best opportunities.

I’ve learned that Australians are way more image-conscious and Irish people are way too attached to family and “the land”, myself included.

I have learned to look at my own country, culture and traditions from a different, long distance lens and admit it has flaws, while still being so very proud of who we are, who we have become and what we have, as a nation, overcome.

Aimee Murphy moved to Australia with her mom and brother Jack in 2011.

Column: ‘”A Right To A Home” should be put to referendum’

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