Friday 22 September 2017

'Even hearing the Irish accent can help' - Australian counselling service helping Irish abroad of all ages

Elderly community enjoying St Patrick's Day at the IASRB centre in Melbourne in 2017.
Elderly community enjoying St Patrick's Day at the IASRB centre in Melbourne in 2017.
Denise Flanagan,Paddy Farrelly and Ashley Quigley at the Link Irish event in Melbourne recently. All three are from Kells.

Claire Fox

An Irish Australian counselling service has said that there’s still a demand for their services as elderly and young emigrants can still feel isolated, even in the age of social media.

Ashley Quigley, who is a coordinator at the Irish Australian Support and Resource Bureau (IASRB) in Melbourne, told Independent.ie that the organisation also provide a Skype service where people can talk to counsellors in Ireland face-to-face.

They partner with Irish organisation Cabhrú, a mental health support group for the Irish abroad.

Ms Quigley said: “We refer lot of people to Cabhrú. They do great work and we’d be lost without them. People who experience death over here or loneliness or who are going through a difficult time sometimes need someone from home to talk to. Even hearing the Irish accent can be a help.

"One girl came into us and she severed her finger at work here. She had only been here three weeks and came over by herself. The trauma really affected her so Cabhrú was of great help to her.”

Ms Quigley, who is originally from Kells, Co Meath, said that the group is inundated with requests from elderly Irish people in Melbourne to help them with legal issues.

Denise Flanagan,Paddy Farrelly and Ashley Quigley at the Link Irish event in Melbourne recently. All three are from Kells.
Denise Flanagan,Paddy Farrelly and Ashley Quigley at the Link Irish event in Melbourne recently. All three are from Kells.

“We have an outreach programme that helps elderly people to keep in touch with the Irish community. We visit about 50 of them a week and we assist them with solicitors appointments as they may need someone there with him,” she said.

Ms Quigley recalled one occasion where an elderly Irish man living in Melbourne was keen to return to Ireland for a visit but was put off by all the legal documents involved in the process.

She said: “An 81-year-old man came into us and he was as fit as a fiddle but wanted to go back to Ireland to see his home place one last time as he thought it would be his last chance.

"He was on a VISA that’s no longer available and he just thought it was too hard and that he wouldn’t be able to go home. Everything is online these days and can be very off putting but we helped him out and he got to go home.”

The group also has a senior group and a parents group every week and host different events to bring the Irish community closer together.

“It’s mostly made up of people with Irish ancestors who came over during the Great Hunger and want to keep in touch with their heritage or people who emigrated in the 40s and 50s,” said the Meath woman.

Ms Quigley has lived in Australia with her partner since 2011 and is seven-months pregnant.

She plans to settle down in Melbourne, but she said that it’s common for Irish people to return home after they have children as the “guilt element is always there”.

“You see in our parents group that a lot of people go home. There’s no cousins for their children to play with and you miss out on all the stuff you took for granted in Ireland. There’s a guilt element and it depends how much your heart strings are getting pulled."

Ms Quigley has lived in Australia with her partner since 2011.

While working at the support group is sometimes challenging, Ms Quigley explained that there are a lot of happy days.

“It is challenging and there are sad times but it’s enjoyable and it’s great when you see happy outcomes.”

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