An emigrant welfare group in Perth has raised concerns that a growing number of Irish backpackers are arriving in Australia “totally unprepared”, after it was forced to bail out several penniless new arrivals.
The Claddagh Association of WA – a support group that assists people from the Irish community in times of crisis and trauma – says they have received five emergency calls in 10 days from male backpackers on the cusp of homelessness.
“We just had Christmas and New Year, and I think a lot of the backpackers have been having a good time,” Claddagh Association president Joan Ross says.
“Some of these backpackers have come to Australia totally unprepared, with not enough cash to last a month. One guy we met this week had a one-way ticket and a few hundred dollars to his name. He got work for cash-in-hand, but the guy didn’t pay him.
“He was going to be homeless unless we picked him up. We managed to get him a temporary job, and paid for a hostel, because there was no one else to do it. Sometimes a bit of a leg-up is all they need.”
The Claddagh Association consists of a group of volunteers and is dependent on the Irish government’s Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) for most of its funding.
Claddagh received $13,000 in emigrant funds in 2012. Additional funding was raised through donations.
Ms Ross said the support group would be distributing a resource pack on St Patrick’s Day, filled with advice for newly arrived backpackers.
“We need to get the word to Ireland that these issues and problems are building up here,” she said.
“We need to make them aware and make sure they are very prepared for when they get here. They think that WA is resource rich with plenty of jobs. They expect to come here on a Wednesday and have a job on Thursday.
“That’s not the case, because a lot of them do not have the skills they need. We need to get to them before they get on a plane to Australia.”
Ms Ross said preparation was key and urged those planning on moving to Australia to bring a return ticket, insurance and enough money to survive for at least a month.
“A lot of people live for today and don’t think that tomorrow exists,” she said.
“In many cases, it’s a lesson learnt. They say to themselves that they won’t get into this mess again.”