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Welfare issues on the rise – Irish chaplain

Fr Tom Devereux is coming to the end of his tenure as the Irish chaplain in Sydney.

Fr Tom Devereux is coming to the end of his tenure as the Irish chaplain in Sydney.

The Irish chaplain in Bondi has recently encountered several Irishmen coming to him “with psychiatric problems”, an issue he believes will grow with increasing emigration.

Fr Tom Devereux, who ends his stint as the parish priest at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Bondi in January 2014, said some emigrants from rural parts of Ireland were struggling to adapt to life in a city such as Sydney.

“Even recently, what I’ve found is that I’ve had a number of young lads in with psychiatric problems,” Fr Devereux told the Irish Echo.

“I suppose with the kind of numbers that are coming out, that’s going to increase as well. Sometimes youngsters just can’t cope with the city,” he said.

Fr Devereux, who works closely with the Irish Australian Welfare Bureau in Bondi, said larger numbers of younger emigrants were coming to Australia.

Those in their late teens or early 20s were often not prepared for life so far from a support network, he explained.

“It gets too big, or there’s a breakdown in a relationship, they can’t get work, or the friends go in different directions and they’re left high and dry,” he said.

“Some of them are coming from the countryside, and Sydney is probably the first major city they have ever had to deal with and it can be very lonely. And obviously, others that can get in trouble with drink and drugs.”

He would not be drawn on the types of drugs that had been referenced.

“I don’t try to lecture them. I see myself as a father figure to them out here. Not a father figure in a religious sense. A father figure [in] that, if something goes wrong, they can come and talk to me and just share with me what’s happening to them. I always say to them, if something is happening to you, close ranks, look after one another,” he said.

Asked if he had any advice for his young parishioners, he said health and travel insurance were vital.

“The one thing that we keep plugging even at the welfare meetings is having bloody insurance. They won’t pay for insurance. That can give them great problems if things go wrong they have nothing to fall back on.”

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