'They are more like our friends than our bosses'

Mairead Donovan, Abbeydorney, meeting the wildlife in Australia.
Mairead Donovan, Abbeydorney, meeting the wildlife in Australia.

IN July 2012, Abbeydorney woman Mairead Donovan (pictured) packed her bags and headed for Australia - like so many others, hoping for a better quality of life and the all important 'good job'.

Coming from a farming background, she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty, but even the 26-year-old didn't expect how hard she'd actually work. After landing her first job in Melbourne selling farm produce door to door, where the days were long and the pay was 'awful,' she moved to a dairy farm where it was pretty much all work and no play.

"It took a long time to find a farm job but we got really lucky and found a dairy farmer that needed people to milk over 500 cows and do other jobs around the farm. We'd heard so many awful stories from people who'd done farm work here, like bad housing conditions, long hours in the sun or the farmer not signing people off for the work done, but we got so lucky and were treated really well there," she said.

"The work wasn't bad and the pay was good so it became a home away from home for us. We worked 12 days on and two days off and on weekends we only had to do the milkings and feed a few calves. During the week we did the milkings and any work the farmer or farm manager wanted us to do including driving tractors, preparing paddocks for re-seeding and spreading the seed. We did a lot of drenching cattle, fencing, freeze branding and coming from a dairy farm at home it was cool to see an operation of this size. They have a few thousand acres."

When the season ended, however, Mairead found herself in a completely different environment, waitressing in a cafe in Perth. And despite her love of the land, she was extrmeley happy there too.

"Most customers loved that I'm Irish, they'd ask my name, where I'm from etc. I met loads of Irish that came out here 40 and 50 years ago. They all loved to chat and find out my story," she said. "It was great meeting them and hearing how and why they left."

Mairead's stint in the cafe was short-lived, however, as she had been asked back to the farm once the season started up again. She has been back there since August and has absolutely no complaints.

"We're treated so well by the farmer, his wife, his parents, the farm manager and his family and the local people."

"We were always invited for dinner, drinks and barbecues, taken out for dinner and given the use of the Utes," she said.

"They are more like friends then bosses."

As she anticipates another Christmas away from home though, Mairead says that being so far away from family and friends is extremely tough.

"The hardest thing has to be being away from my mom and my family. I miss them so much. I miss something as simple as going for a coffee with mom," she said. She is certain, however, that she will be home soon.


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