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I went to Australia on a £10 boat ticket ... now I have hotel empire

THESE two Irish business moguls have struck gold in Australia -- and are now over here looking for others to share in their good fortune.

Dubliner Ashok Parekh left for Australia on a £10 ferry ticket from England in the 1970s with no money in his back pocket and only a desire to work hard.

After years of hard graft he built up a hotel empire and a booming mining company in the west of the country.

Likewise, Sean Reid, who was born in Dublin. He was named the Top 40 Under 40 in Australia where he fronts top restaurant and nightclub complex, The Breakwater, in Perth.

Now the pair have returned home to find Ireland's best hospitality workers to staff their companies, as well as sharing some of their hard-earned secrets of success.

They are part of a delegation of hotel and hospitality leaders who travelled with the Australian Hotels Association to Ireland to try to fill the massive need for skilled, trained professionals.







Crying

The businessmen want Irish workers to consider Western Australia as their first port of call.

The region has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country, at just 4.2pc, and they are crying out for the right kind of employees.

Ashok (56) is originally from Dundrum -- his dad was Indian and his mum was Irish.

"I went to Willow Park school at five and came out at 18," he said. "My mum died and when I was 18 and after I did my Leaving Cert, my dad lost everything. We had nothing, no money, nowhere to live.

"So I went to England with 26 Irish blokes and we worked in the Bulmers factory. It was just by chance that I got the £10 pom ferry and made it to Australia.

"I got a job in the mines, went to university and became a chartered accountant," he added.

"I'm now the chairman of several gold-mining companies, I own hotels and nightclubs."

Mr Parekh employs 80 people directly and has responsibility for another 70 employees and beyond in the mining companies.

He stresses it is important to remember your roots.

"People like myself were given an opportunity to go to Australia," he said.

"I had nowhere to live and I thought, it can't get any worse than this, so I just went for it.

"The one thing I would say is in life if you do well, never forget where you came from. Never put yourself above everyone else and treat everyone else the way you would like to be treated."

Mr Parekh believes Irish workers are an ideal choice for Australian companies.

"The Irish people are very similar to the Australians -- they are very good communicators, hardworking, they do like to party and there are a lot of gas characters, so they will fit in very well.







Family

"I think a lot of people will want to go over there to find something good for their family that they probably can't have in Ireland," he added.

Sean Reid (35) took over his parents' Hillarys Boat Harbour tavern and transformed it into an award-winning venue.

Sean's first lucky break was when he won a green card lottery and moved to New York.

Years of hard work and determination saw him climb the ladder into developing a successful management consultant business.

Then Sean's parents, who once owned the Mayflower pub in Wexford, decided to move to Perth where they set up their own business.

The second oldest of six children, Sean is now The Breakwater's managing director and leads a staff of 150 employees, as well as overseeing its 18-strong management team.

"My mum's parents and grandparents were all in the hospitality industry," he said.

"I guess when I went to college and studied a Bachelor of Commerce, I really wanted to do my own thing and was fairly successful in New York.



Plenty

"But then my dad was quite sick, he has since passed away, and I went to Australia, knowing that he would pass away. Things then just fell into place. The opportunity came up to develop the new Breakwater," he added.

Sean is looking to fill at least another 50 positions at his venue in Perth, but knows there are plenty of more businesses crying out for Irish workers.

"Especially for the hospitality industry, Irish people are a good fit," he said. "If I was to give some advice, I guess it would be not to be too picky about where to start," he added.

"If you are the right person, you will grow and if you have the right attitude you will find the right place for you."

More information is available at the AHA conference at the Burlington hotel today between 1.30pm to 6.30pm.

clairemurphy@herald.ie


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