New support network for expat Irish women

Irish women in Australia have found a new network of support through the work of one Dublin-born mother.

After a decade living in Australia, having made the move at 24, Sarah Whelan returned to Ireland for less than two years before deciding to journey back to Sydney, which she realised had become her home.

When the certified transitional life coach touched down she began to share her experiences of leaving and returning online, and expat Irish women flocked to her blog.

“People were really identifying with the things I was feeling,” Ms Whelan said.

“Women identified with the emotional impact…the guilt in leaving family behind.”

Irish Women Abroad founder Sarah Whelan aims to coach women through difficult transitions in their lives.

Irish Women Abroad founder Sarah Whelan aims to coach women through difficult transitions in their lives.

Ms Whelan was inspired to create Irish Women Abroad, an online support network to meet growing demand for answers and advice.

More than 3,000 network members, the majority of whom are Irish-Australian, provide everything from a shoulder to lean on to suggestions regarding every challenging aspect of emigration, from leaving relatives to transporting pets.

It was not long before the community moved off the internet and into the real world.

A recent Sydney meet-up was opened by the Irish Consulate in Sydney’s Vice Consul Rory Conaty, with the Consulate’s funding helping Ms Whelan - whose work with the network is voluntary - to organise events.

The Sydney Irish mission has provided support to Irish Women Abroad since its team members discovered Ms Whelan’s blog.

Sydney meet-up attendees enjoyed a reading from award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey.

Sydney meet-up attendees enjoyed a reading from award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey.

Award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey has recently joined the network after 25 years in Australia, saying she immediately saw the potential for members to bond over shared emigration experiences.

“It’s the empty chairs at birthday parties…it’s the call in the middle of the night when a family member has died.

“You don’t have to explain anything.”

The next meet-up will be held in Melbourne in November, and with an event already planned for returning expats in Ireland, there could be opportunities for further international expansion.

Ms Whelan hopes the “safe spaces” she has created continue to help women find their feet wherever they decide to resettle.

“My vision is for people to feel connected in their experiences…there’s no right or wrong way to feel.”

Meath singer Sibéal to perform at Sydney's Zone Out Festival

An up-and-coming Irish songstress has released her debut album ahead of a trip down under.

County Meath native Sibéal Ní Chasaide will perform repertoire from her self-titled work at Sydney’s Zone Out Festival at the end of September, joining an international line up with her fresh take on Irish folk.

Sibéal is an unexpected star in the 2019 music scene, introducing audiences worldwide to sean-nós, the traditional and emotive style of singing in Ireland's Gaeltacht.


The 21-year-old has said of her unique sound, “I like…bringing the contemporary edge to sean-nós singing.

“That’s who I am essentially, I’m not just a one-dimensional person.”

She also performs songs in English with Blackbird and The Parting Glass nestled among the tunes sung as Gaeilge, ensuring the eponymous album’s universal appeal.

Sibéal rose to prominence as a school student when renowned composer Patrick Cassidy heard her sing and invited her to perform vocals for a centenary documentary, 1916: The Irish Rebellion.

Sibéal discusses her journey to success.

Her live performance of Mise Éire - the moving centrepiece of the score - with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra cemented her status as one to watch.

She has since recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios and shared her voice with audiences in the United States, Canada and the UK, accustomed to the touring life after spending her childhood travelling with her father and uncles’ Irish folk band.

Sibéal has been called a young woman of the new Ireland returning Irish music to the international arena.

The Zone Out Festival features international and Australian neo-classical artists, yoga sessions, panel discussions and film screenings.

The event takes place at Carriageworks on Saturday, September 28.

Statue of Irish-born NSW Premier gets green light

Thousands of passers-by will soon have the chance to refresh their knowledge about the Irish namesake of Sydney’s Martin Place.

A lifesized bronze statue of the immigrant turned three-time NSW Premier Sir James Martin will be erected in the pedestrian mall after the City of Sydney art committee’s decision to decline the proposal was overturned.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Planning Minister Rob Stokes intervened to encourage Lord Mayor Clover Moore and the committee not to throw out the project.

Prolific Australian sculptor Alan Somerville completed both the Parramatta and Martin Place renditions of James Martin as a boy.

Prolific Australian sculptor Alan Somerville completed both the Parramatta and Martin Place renditions of James Martin as a boy.

James Martin was born in 1820 in Midleton, Cork, where there have been have been similar demands for his recognition with local historian Ged Martin (no relation) calling for a plaque to honour the expatriate.

Cork-born James Martin, after whom Martin Place in Sydney is named.

Cork-born James Martin, after whom Martin Place in Sydney is named.

After sailing to Australia in 1821 Martin grew up in a cottage adjacent to Old Government House, where his father was employed as a stable boy, and despite the family’s poverty sacrifices were made to send him to the prestigious Sydney College.

He would go on to become a journalist, editor, author and attorney before his political career took off, initially seeing him become the member for Cook and Westmoreland.

After two stints as attorney-general, Martin became Premier for the first time in 1863.

Despite his ministry losing power in 1864, Martin would have two more chances to hold the position, during which he pioneered the establishment of a branch of the royal mint in Sydney.

Raised by strongly Catholic Irish parents, Martin’s personal faith wavered over the years, yet he fought for a society based on Christian principles throughout his political life.

He retained his parents’ family focus, having 15 children with wife Isabella Long.

The bronze will replace an existing plinth in Martin Place, while there is already a statue in Parrammatta recognising Martin’s formative years spent there.

Both artworks were completed by sculptor Alan Somerville, famed for the soldiers that stand proudly on the ANZAC bridge.

Yael Stone to star in McDonagh play

Orange Is The New Black star Yael Stone will play the title role in Sydney Theatre Company’s forthcoming production of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen Of Leenane.

The role of Maureen Folan was originally to be played by Rebel Wilson but the Hollywood actor pulled out due to a scheduling clash.

Stone is an impressive replacement having also built an international following from her role as Lorna in all seven seasons of the Emmy-winning show.

She was also catapulted into the media spotlight late last year after going public with allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush with whom she co-starred in a Sydney production of Diary Of A Madman in 2010. Rush, who won a defamation case against The Daily Telegraph over reports of inappropriate conduct during a production of King Lear, has denied the allegations.

Stone, a NIDA graduate, has worked extensively in the Australian film, television and theatre industry since she began her professional career at the age of thirteen.

Yael Stone and Noni Hazelhurst star as Maureen Folan and her mother Mag in the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane. Picture; Rene Vaile

Yael Stone and Noni Hazelhurst star as Maureen Folan and her mother Mag in the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane. Picture; Rene Vaile

Most recently in Australia, Yael played Tori Lustigman in Deep Water  on SBS and Dora Lumley in Picnic At Hanging Rock on Foxtel.

Also joining her in the cast is well-known Australian actor Noni Hazlehurst, who will play Maureen Folan’s cruel mother Mag. Hazlehurst has performed in everything from Playschool to The Letdown and A Place To Call Home.

Director Paige Rattray said the two central characters are “brilliant roles for women”.

“They are both incredibly flawed beings, playing domestic roles that have been thrust onto them by society and circumstance,” she said.

“Their psychology is complex and you see-saw between feeling anger, sympathy, understanding and outrage at their actions. I can’t wait to see what actors of Yael and Noni’s calibre will bring to these roles. If our photo shoot is anything to go by our audiences are in for a very funny and surprising ride!”

Beauty Queen Of Leenane was the first big stage hit for McDonagh who went on to pen the Broadway and West End hits The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, as well as acclaimed films such as In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

The play showcases McDonagh’s devilishly satisfying sense of humour with a cruel underbelly.

The STC production comes on the back of a sell-out season of his equally dark comedy The Cripple Of Inishmaan at the Old Fitzroy.

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane runs from November 18 to December 21 at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

Sydney Swans Giveaway: Win a signed guernsey, match tickets

Win a signed Sydney Swans guernsey signed by Irish stars Tadhg Kennelly and Colin O’Riordan.

The Irish Echo, in association with the Sydney Swans, gives you the chance to win a special Irish gift pack including a signed guernsey and cap plus four tickets to the Swans final game of the season against St Kilda on Saturday, August 24.

Tadhg Kennelly is a club legend after becoming the first Irishman to win an AFL premiership with ‘the Bloods’ in 2005. Now assistant coach at the club, Kennelly also won an All Ireland Senior Football winners medal with his native county in 2009. He was recently included in our Top 100 Irish Australians of all time.

Colin O’Riordan has cemented his spot in the Swans first XVIII as a dashing defender this season. He recently signed a contract extension with the club which will keep him in Sydney until at least 2021.

To be in with a chance, just complete the form below and answer our two questions. Winners will be notified by phone on Tuesday next, August 20.

Name *
Tadhg Kennelly's home county? *
Colin O'Riordan's home county? *

Famine monument remembrance event marks 20 years

The glass panels of Sydney’s Famine Memorial feature the names of Irish orphan women settled in Australia between 1848 and 1850.

The glass panels of Sydney’s Famine Memorial feature the names of Irish orphan women settled in Australia between 1848 and 1850.

The 20th annual commemoration at the Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine takes place later this month.

Due to a major refurbishment and upgrade of the exhibition spaces at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum and installation of a lift, the Museum is closed until late in 2019.

This means that the annual event will be different this year, starting with a symposium entitled Looking Forwards And Remembering commencing at 10am at the nearby Mint Building in Macquarie Street.

Afterwards, attendees will congregate in front of the Hyde Park Barracks’ Famine Memorial for the annual commemoration.

Historian and genealogist Dr Perry McIntyre said the Irish community were the driving force behind building the monument in 1995.

“It reminds them of their roots and historical connections to Ireland,” she said.

The monument is dedicated to over 4,000 Irish orphan girls and women who were resettled under a transportation plan during the Great Famine.

The National Monument to the Great Irish Famine was completed in 1995.

The National Monument to the Great Irish Famine was completed in 1995.

Unmarried women and girls, left alone and destitute by the catastrophe, arrived in Australia between 1848 to 1850 under former British Prime Minister Earl Grey’s Orphans scheme.

The girls and women came from all 32 counties to meet Australia’s need for both female labourers and mothers in the male-dominated colony.

Dr McIntrye said these women remained influential in the cultural heritage of the Australian community today.

“We are in contact with at least several thousand descendants and my estimation is that there would be at least 500,000 people descended from these 4,114 girls, even if they don't know about this aspect of their genealogy.”

The Annual Commemoration usually commences at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum on Macquarie Street, the site where orphans who were sent to Sydney were housed.

For this year’s Commemoration on August 25, descendants of the orphan immigrants are invited to wear a lapel label indicating their ancestor’s name, home county, and the ship they journeyed on.

Symposium attendees will hear from both the Vice Consul-General of Ireland Rory Conaty and Dr McIntyre, giving insight into how the story of the young women rescued from the Famine continues to influence Australia’s cultural landscape today.

Video: GWS Giants Irish rookie's amazing goal

GWS Giants Irish recruit Callum Brown has described his first season playing Aussie Rules as ‘brilliant’.

The former Derry U20 starlet was recruited as a rookie by the Sydney outfit ahead of the current season becoming their first ever Irish rookie recruit.

He’s impressed the club in his first season playing the game, averaging more than ten possessions in the NEAFL and even scoring five goals.

"It's been brilliant so far," Brown said.

The Limavady man was key in his county reaching the All-Ireland U20 football semi-finals last summer.

It was the Giants' Irish defensive coach Nick Walsh who spotted his talent when Brown impressed with his pace and strong ability under the high ball when Derry triumphed over Walsh's native Cavan.

"He texted me and said: 'I'm from the GWS Giants, we've been watching you for at least a year now. We think you have potential'.

"It was a shock, from Australia to come and say we want to have a look at you, we want you to come out in the summer as well."

The 18-year-old had already proved himself a versatile sportsman as he had also been on the books of Linfield FC.

Now getting to grips with a new code, he is finding his feet as a defender.

"I started off as forward but they wanted me to learn the game more down in the halfback position, they want me to be more of a running role.

"At the minute I've been playing back the last couple of weeks, been really picking up the game there and improving my skills in that area.

"I'm starting to get the hang of it now as well, even calling the shots during games, telling the boys where to go, what positions to sit in. So far they're very pleased with me.”

Brown is one of six fresh Irish players on AFL lists this year with James Madden at Brisbane Lions, Anton Tohill and Mark Keane at Collingwood, Red Óg Murphy at North Melbourne and Stefan Okunbor at Geelong.

Callum Brown says he is confident of breaking into the senior side.

Callum Brown says he is confident of breaking into the senior side.

"I love how they're able to come over as well, in the same position as I am. It's brilliant how they bring other boys over here so they can experience what it's like to play professional sport. Even for myself just the first irish man to come across and play for GWS, it's pretty exciting."

While he is the first GAA player to be signed as a rookie into the Giants set-up, he is not the first Irish player to wear the orange and grey. Setanta O'hAilpin played eight matches for the Giants in 2012/13.

Also, the current GWS defender Aidan Corr was born in Tyrone and emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of three.

"[Aidan] tries to say he’s the first Irish Giants player but I just don't take him on, don't take him on at all."

Brown hopes to emulate Irish players who have made their AFL breakthroughs in recent seasons.

"The position they're in right now is brilliant. Since they've been here a couple of years, they know the whole game plan and how it works and the system. For myself being new to the sport, it's a bit harder to get into it but watching them play, I can progress my skills and just think: ‘If they can do it, then I can do it as well’."

Brown is confident of making a similar breakthrough and is even cheeky enough to suggest that he will take the place of club veteran and legendary defender Heath Shaw in the senior team.

"If I stick to how I'm going now, I could possibly take Shawie's place as well. He thinks I won't take it but I one hundred per cent will take it."

That might have to wait until the 2020 season but the GWS Giants are almost certain to play finals footy in both the AFL and NEAFL competitions.

Fintan O'Toole to speak at Sydney 'ideas' festival

Award-winning Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole will appear at Antidote, Sydney’s leading festival of ideas, joining a panel discussion on national identity.

The veteran columnist, author and political commentator has written for The Irish Times for over three decades, with a career-long focus on strong opposition to political corruption in Ireland and abroad.

Fintan O’Toole’s columns on Brexit for The Irish Times and The Guardian have earned him awards and accolades.

Fintan O’Toole’s columns on Brexit for The Irish Times and The Guardian have earned him awards and accolades.

The prolific writer , who penned a bestselling book on Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union entitled Heroic Failure: Brexit And The Politics Of Pain, will bring valuable insight about Boris Johnson’s elevation to prime ministership to the Sydney Opera House.

The State We’re In panel event will see global thinkers discuss the trials and tribulations of a world and political atmosphere obsessed with national borders.

O’Toole is sure to stir up bold conversation, having described the current political landscape a trial run for fascism’s return in a 2018 article read by millions the world over and nominated for a European Press Prize.

Antidote is one of the Opera House’s flagship contemporary festivals, presenting innovative ideas about contemporary culture on stage and through online content.

This year’s event will run from August 31 to September 1, offering seekers of change the chance to come together in an iconic location.

Read More: The State We’re in - Antidote Festival

Irishman arrested at Sydney airport over road crash

A 22-year-old Irishman is due to face court next month charged over a crash in Sydney’s east at the weekend in which two men were seriously injured.

Officers from the Metropolitan Crash Investigation Unit (CIU) arrested a 22-year-old man at Sydney Airport about 9pm on Monday, on board a flight to Dublin.

The plane was preparing for take-off before police requested it return to the boarding gate where the man was arrested.

Police allege the man, who is reported to be from Donegal, was the driver of a Mazda 323 which hit a van parked on Burke Street, Chifley, about 2am on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Irishman was taken off a plane to Dublin by NSW Police.

The 22-year-old Irishman was taken off a plane to Dublin by NSW Police.

The driver and a back-seat passenger left the the vehicle while the 25-year-old front passenger and a 27-year-old rear-seat passenger were trapped before being freed by emergency personnel.

The younger man was taken to St George Hospital where he remains in a critical but stable condition. The older man was taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where he remains in a serious but stable condition.

The man was taken to Prince of Wales Hospital where he was treated and released into the custody of a CIU officer.

He was taken to Mascot Police Station where he was charged with:

  • Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm – drive manner dangerous

  • Fail to stop and assist after vehicle impact causing grievous bodily harm

  • Cause bodily harm by misconduct, in charge of motor vehicle (two counts)

  • Fail to stop and assist after impact cause injury (two counts)

  • Negligent driving (occasions grievous bodily harm), and,

  • Not give particulars to owner of damaged property.

He was refused police bail before appearing in Central Local Court yesterday where he was granted conditional bail to appear in Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday August 15.

Inquiries continue to locate the fourth man.

Nominations open for Irish Australian Business Awards

Nominations have opened for the Irish Australian Business Awards, now in their fifth year.

Run by the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce, the awards celebrate success and innovation in the Irish business community.

There are six categories for this years prizes:

Startup - Less than three years in operation based on FYE19.

SME of the Year - This category is for small businesses in any sector and at any level of turnover operating for more than three years.

Established Business - This category is for businesses over five years old in any sector.

Young Entrepreneur - Under 40 at FYE19 and can be based anywhere in Australia. Must be a shareholder/director actively involved in the business.

Young Professional - Under 40 at FYE19 and can be based anywhere in Australia. Not a shareholder/director and must have their nomination endorsed by a senior member of their organisation.

International Trader - Does business between Ireland and Australia – import/export/both. The award winner here must demonstrate an international growth strategy that has achieved outstanding levels of sales, profit and market share improvement.

Higgins Award: People’s Choice: Open class, National finalists, voted on via the IACC website, promoted during events and via social and traditional media.

Read More: 2019 Irish Australian Business Awards Gala

For the first time, this year’s prizegiving will see an ‘Innovation Award’ added to the line-up to further inspire creativity in the business sector.

The IACC CEO Barry Corr said: “The innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of Irish Australian business has been a recurring theme over the four previous years of the awards.

“We felt that as we go into our fifth year, it was deserving of special recognition and a category of its own to highlight even more of the achievements happening in our business community every day.”

Andrew Harte took out Young Entrepreneur at the 2018 Irish Australian Business Awards.

Andrew Harte took out Young Entrepreneur at the 2018 Irish Australian Business Awards.

Last year’s winners include Irish-born Andrew Harte, a former labourer whose four companies now have a turnover of more than $20 million, and Stephanie Lyons, who was credited with working to transform the super fund business while volunteering in her local community.

To put forward a business person or corporation, visit the Awards Form.

Nominations close on August 9, with the winners to be announced at the Awards Gala on October 11.

Sexting nurse's behaviour leads to Irish sanction

A nurse who texted a picture of his penis to a patient while working in Australia six years ago, has had his Irish registration suspended for a year.

While on night duty at Concord Hospital in Sydney in 2013, nurse Edward Keegan sent an explicit photograph to his partner.

Mr Keegan then left his personal mobile phone on the desk – and the photo of his penis on the screen – while he answered a call on the hospital ward phone.

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A drug and alcohol detox patient saw the photograph and, according to evidence given to the Administrative Appeals by Mr Keegan last year, began to pressure him into sharing the image.

Mr Keegan said the patient demanded he make contact after discharge in September 2013 because he wanted to see what was in the photograph "for real".

Concord Hospital where Mr Keegan worked as a nurse in 2013.

Concord Hospital where Mr Keegan worked as a nurse in 2013.

The experienced nurse said the patient left several threatening messages on his mobile phone, so he sent a text asking to be left alone, along with the explicit photograph, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

In January 2018, the tribunal disqualified Mr Keegan for two years, and would have cancelled his registration if it was still current, finding he failed to observe professional boundaries, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Keegan resigned from his position after the incident came to light in 2015, and moved back to Ireland.

Earlier this week, the president of Ireland’s High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, confirmed sanctions sought by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) against Mr Keegan of Donacarney, Co Meath, who is on the Irish general nursing register.

The judge made orders suspending Mr Keegan's registration for a year, according to a report in the Irish Examiner.

A Fitness to Practice Committee of the NMBI held an inquiry after the Nursing and Midwifery Council of New South Wales notified the NMBI in 2016 that Mr Keegan's registration had been suspended there following allegations of "inappropriate contact" with a patient on dates in September 2013.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said he saw no reason not to confirm the proposed sanction.

Crippling laughter awaits in Inishmaan stage treat

Much has happened to Martin McDonagh since he wrote The Cripple Of Inishmaan back in 1996.

He’s now an Oscar and Golden Globe winning writer and director, deploying his sledgehammer humour on the big screen, most notably in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Sydney audiences have a chance to revisit the Cripple Of Inishmaan with a fine production of the play at the Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomooloo.

The cripple of the title is Billy, an orphan who lives in the care of his adoptive spinster aunts. He, like everyone else in Inishmaan, is bored and dreams of a better life elsewhere, anywhere.

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The arrival of a Hollywood crew to shoot Robert Flaherty’s Man Of Aran creates an exit strategy for Billy but will he get away or will his plan be derailed by secrets and lies?

McDonagh unflinchingly holds a satirical mirror up to rural Irish life, its preoccupations, obsessions and insecurities. There are dark secrets and benevolent lies, family betrayals and belligerent blackmail, vengence and violence and eggs, lots of eggs.

Laurence Coy as Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson as his mother in The Cripple Of Inishmaan. Picture: Marnya Rothe

Laurence Coy as Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson as his mother in The Cripple Of Inishmaan. Picture: Marnya Rothe

The characters are cartoonish versions of people we instantly recognise and McDonagh, who spent his youthful Summer holidays in the west of Ireland, skillfully captures the cadence and musicality of the vernacular he would have tuned into as a young man.

He also challenges myths surround Ireland and Irish people. Are we friendly? Or simply nosy?

The result is painfully hilarious, poignant and profound. It may be that Billy is the least crippled member of the Inishmaan community.

The Mad March Hare Theatre Company’s production is faithful to the spirit of the dark humour and almost all the actors comfortably inhabit their characters and embrace the terrible beauty of the script.

William Rees, a young actor who lives with a disability, is impressively compelling as Billy.

Laurence Coy is a standout as the scheming village gossip Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson is outstanding as his alcoholic, bed-ridden mother.

A cleverly adaptable set, which makes the most of the limited space at the Old Fitz, is put to good use. A shop counter becomes a currach which becomes a bed.

Director Claudia Barrie’s attention to detail is impressive and she is well supported by lighting director Benjamin Brockman and production designer Brianna Russell.

While some of the Irish accents are a little sketchy, it would be churlish to say that this slight shortcoming takes away from what is a very enjoyable night of theatre.


Death of much-loved Sydney Armagh man

Jim Burke was well-known to Sydney’s Irish business community.

Jim Burke was well-known to Sydney’s Irish business community.

Sydney’s Irish community is mourning the death of popular businessman Jim Burke, who passed away on July 3, aged 59 after a four-year battle with cancer.

Jim Burke died surrounded by his loving family; wife Gill, children Clare, Liam and Niamh; and his stepdaughter, Katie. He is also mourned by his siblings in Ireland: Gene, Luke and sister Breege.

Burkie, as he was known, is remembered by his many friends as a larger-than-life, wonderful person who made an impression on anyone who ever met him.

Born in Keady, Co Armagh on September 18, 1959, Peter James Burke went to secondary school at St Patrick’s College, Armagh, from 1971 to 1978, where he was an active member of the school’s Gaelic football and basketball teams. He also played football and hurling for Keady.

After completing his A-Levels, he went to Queens University, Belfast where he graduated with a BSc in computing science in 1982. He then did a postgraduate course in Education and took up a career as a secondary school teacher.

In the mid-eighties, he and his then-wife Stephanie, emigrated to Australia.

He was a teacher at Patrician Brothers Granville, then made the shift to a corporate world which was crying out for people with computer science knowledge. He joined Bank of New Zealand and later Westpac, working in the London office.

Jim Burke was much-loved by his family: wife Gill, children Clare, Liam and Niamh and stepdaughter, Katie.

Jim Burke was much-loved by his family: wife Gill, children Clare, Liam and Niamh and stepdaughter, Katie.

On his return to Australia, he worked for AMP and IAG. Returning to Westpac, he became the CIO for Institutional Banking .

There, he managed the introduction of a number of innovative payment systems. In 2013, he was nominated for Finance CIO of the year. He was also an enthusiastic member of the Lansdowne Club.

His boss and friend, Jim Tate of Westpac wrote of him: “He is the most inventive and intuitive people manager I have met. He knew how to recognise strengths, weaknesses, aspiration, resilience, what person to talk to, who to avoid and what roadblock to work around, which no amount of faux online personality tester could ever deduce.”

In his last months, he asked Professor Tom Hugh at Royal North Shore Hospital, what he could do to help cancer research. He set up a foundation aiming to raise $120,000. Through Westpac, Jim helped organise a fundraiser on May 17 last. At least 300 people showed up. It was funny, moving and successful and more than $180,000 was raised on the day. The foundation is now up to $250,000.

His work continues as the Jim Burke foundation for Liver Cancer Research. Donations can be made here.

One of his oldest friends from St Pat’s in Armagh said of him:  “You stuffed in so much over your life that the suitcase of memories and friends burst at the seams…. When I think of you, I smile.”

So should we all.

His funeral service will be held at St Joseph’s College chapel, Hunters Hill on Thursday July 11 at 10.30am.

Doyenne of Australian Irish dancing community honoured

Jan Currie-Henderson has received an OAM for her 60 years of service to Irish dancing.

Jan Currie-Henderson has received an OAM for her 60 years of service to Irish dancing.

Celebrated Irish dance teacher and adjudicator Janice Currie-Henderson’s Order of Australia Medal (OAM) will be in good company alongside her multitude of prizes.

Ms Currie-Henderson, ‘Miss Jan’ to her devoted students, received a Queen’s Birthday Honour last week for services to Irish dancing, just two years after receiving a lifetime achievement Brigid Award for her contributions to the Irish-Australian community.  She was also honoured last year by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (The Irish Dancing Commission), the sport’s peak body.

“I got such a shock when I got that letter,” she said.

“I don’t know who nominated me...I’ve asked, but the good fairy’s not speaking up to tell me!”

Ms Currie-Henderson, whose family hails from Offaly, Derry and Dublin, has lost count of how many young competition hopefuls she has guided through jigs and reels in her 60 years of teaching but knows the number must be in the thousands.  

Her own involvement with the tradition began at the age of five when her father saw an Irish dancing performance in the Brunswick Heads hotel owned by her grandparents.

“We came down to Sydney to live and there was Irish dancing in the school, Daddy enrolled us of course,” Ms Currie-Henderson said.

Jan Currie-Henderson at her recent Diamond Jubilee celebration with (from left) sons Craig, Andrew and Michael Henderson and husband Bob.

Jan Currie-Henderson at her recent Diamond Jubilee celebration with (from left) sons Craig, Andrew and Michael Henderson and husband Bob.

The eager prodigy would go on to become a national champion and knew by 17 that she wanted to share her skills with new generations.

In 1959, she set up the Currie-Henderson Academy of Irish Dancing. Ten years later, she became a founding member of the Australian Irish Dancing Association (AIDA).

She is a past president of the NSW division of the AIDA and continues to serve as its vice-president.

Her dedication has reaped rewards, with troupes of students from her academy winning over 100 national titles.

Fast-paced moves are the norm in Irish dancing, and Ms Currie-Henderson has watched the centuries-old tradition evolve into something quite different, especially since the emergence of Riverdance in

Today, costumes embroidered with Celtic motifs are enhanced with a healthy dose of glitter and crystals, but the sport has undergone more than a surface-level makeover.

“The basics of it are all the same but it’s more expressive now...we still have the rules in competitions but in the shows you can express yourself differently.

“It’s not always people of Irish descent, there’s dancers of many, many nationalities, they just love Irish dancing.” 

Ms Currie-Henderson will receive her OAM at Government House in September while her students prepare to take October’s Australian Championship by storm.


Sydney Rose Rebecca summons Anzac spirit for Tralee

Sydney Rose of Tralee for 2019 Rebecca Mazza with parents Catherine and Anthony.

Sydney Rose of Tralee for 2019 Rebecca Mazza with parents Catherine and Anthony.

Newly-crowned Sydney Rose of Tralee Rebecca Mazza was inspired by her heroic Irish great-grandfather to enter the contest.

James Daly emigrated from Kanturk, Co Cork to Fremantle at the age of 19 in 1909 where he pioneered clearing land and farming in Western Australia while raising four children with his wife.

He enlisted with the Australia Imperial Force (AIF) in 1915 and fought bravely at Gallipoli and later at Pozieres where he was wounded and unable to take any further part in the war.

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Although he died before Rebecca was born, the 24-year-old said the Irishman’s courage and strength continue to influence her family to this day.

“Without him coming to Australia and without him surviving Gallipoli and the Western Front, we wouldn’t be here. There’s this idea of where we came from and all the things that happened to make us as individuals. I often think, imagine if James got killed at Gallipoli, I wouldn’t be here,” she says wistfully.

Rebecca Mazza’s Cork-born great grandfather James Daly.

Rebecca Mazza’s Cork-born great grandfather James Daly.

“Knowing that inspires me to do as much as I can with my life because it’s so meaningful. You don’t know the impact you are going to have on future lives and that really resonates with me.”

James is something of a talisman for Rebecca and the Mazza family.

“Anytime something difficult is going on my Dad says ‘You’ve got the blood of Anzac flowing through you, so you can do anything’,” Rebecca said.

It’s a strength the family called on after Rebecca’s younger brother Tom, 21, was diagnosed with a devastating brain tumour two years ago.

Rebecca, who was raised in Perth but moved to Sydney last year, says her selection as Sydney Rose came as a welcome boost for her parents Catherine and Anthony Mazza and siblings Madeline and Thomas.

“My family are absolutely thrilled. I don’t think I’ve seen my parents on such a high for such a long time.

“They’ve been through the mill after my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He had to have emergency surgery and came out of that not being able to speak and it was just horrific.”

Tom underwent further operations and thankfully with help from speech and rehab teams, he is now fully recovered and studying nursing.

Rebecca currently works as a mobile speech pathologist helping families to develop strategies to communicate with their son or daughter who has difficulty speaking due to conditions like autism or cerebral palsy.

She was studying speech therapy at university when Tom got sick and said it spurned her on to complete her degree so she could help her brother and others like him who face speech issues due to medical conditions.The 24-year-old spent several months working in a school in Waterford in 2013 and can’t wait to get back to Ireland this summer.

“I need someone to make me laugh; I just love the Irish banter.

“Irish people are so good at communicating with each-other and telling stories. I remember coming back from Ireland and the banter wasn’t there. Australian guys lack the same level of wit as the Irish and I do miss that.

“I have a very Irish sense of humour. I just absolutely love Irish people. I can’t wait to meet all the Roses from around the world. It will be fascinating.”

But Mazza is keeping her cards close to her chest about what she will perform on stage for RTÉ’s television cameras.

“I play guitar and piano so I have a few options up my sleeve,” she joked.