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A record number of Irish emigrate to Australia as "brain drain" continues Photo by: The Irish Times

Record numbers as 40,000 young Irish emigrate to Australia

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A record number of Irish emigrate to Australia as "brain drain" continues Photo by: The Irish Times

More Irish people than ever are making Australia their home, according to figures from Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

ABC News in Australia reports that 40,000 Irish people moved to the country in 2011 and 2012, with 5,000 settling permanently, as Ireland's economy struggles to recover.

Irish heritage minister Jimmy Deenihan attributes the increasing immigration to Australia's visa system.

"There's a very friendly visa system that encourages young Irish qualified people and also skilled people to come to Australia," he said.

"People with PhDs, people who are highly skilled ... so it's a big gain for Australia but it's obviously a drain on the resources from Ireland.

"There’s huge connections here (in Australia) in the political world, in the education world, in the medical world and in industry.

"Irish people feel very comfortable coming to Australia because they know there’s a very positive welcome for them here."

Deenihan went on to say that Ireland hopes to lure migrants back home.

"Now we are on a recovery trajectory, and hopefully some of these young people that are here in Australia, many on a temporary visa, will have the opportunity to return to Ireland, he said.

"That's the present government's ambition."

The new wave of migration from Ireland echoes Australia's past, when tens of thousands of Irish left for the country because of the great famine, says author Tom Keneally.

"Towards the end of the great famine there was a build up of orphan girls so they were sent to Australia," he said.

"A hysteria developed ... they were the boatpeople of the 1840s and 50s, the lowest of the low, orphan kids who had seen terrible diseases ... and they had a huge impact on Australia because they now have hundreds of thousands of descendants.

"The famine cast a long shadow."

Keneally said the immigrants shaped Australia's political and cultural life.

"The Irish brought with them a profound sense of politics and they knew what social justice was," he said.

"They also brought a certain raucousness that people mistook for lowness of soul."

Irish expat Dot O'Gorman, a construction worker, came to Australia looking for work. After he moved back to Ireland in 2008 and couldn't find work, he decided to settle Down Under permanently.

"In Ireland I could only get bits of work here and there," he said.

"Every day my girlfriend would go to work, and I would sit at home and watch TV with no work."

Orlaith Sheill is a counsellor who decided to stay in Australia after she first came for a backpacking holiday. She described the struggles Irish immigrants experience trying to build a life so far from home.

"Psychologically, the impact of migration is huge, the feeling that you don't have a choice versus gratitude that you can have a fresh start," she said.

"We cannot underestimate the guilt at saying goodbye, both for those who leave and for those who stay.

"We're a very loyal people and to leave is disloyal and that is a hard burden to carry," she said.

"You just get fed up. You're not getting anywhere in life."

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