Christmas is what – only 9 weeks away. Christmas time has special significance for those English and Australians living or visiting in each other's countries as there is a pining to be home with family and friends. In my own family along with wider family members who have experienced such pining when in Britain at Christmas.
Australians living in the UK do so for a variety of reasons. For those in the corporate and Government sectors, it is primarily work related. For others, it is study particularly postgraduate study at one of the prestigious universities. However for the vast majority of the one million Australians living in Britain at any one time are young Australians trying their hand in the Old Dart, a time-honoured experience for that goes back to when Australia first had free settlers.
I note similar responses mentioning family, lifestyle and general homesickness have come from Australians who work in the UK, although few actually decide to migrate to Britain. My son and a niece did return to Australia after stints in Britain; my son after a period of seven years. In that time, he had met many Australians who stayed for varying lengths of time before returning to Oz.
However, the reasons for their leaving cannot possibly be compared with the 'permanent settlers' interviewed in a recent SMH article, because most of the young travellers of Mark's son ilk will be on some type of limited working visa or student visa or tourist visa, and even if they did want to stay, Britain would not allow them to remain there. www.smh.com.au
The nature of visa entitlement
It should also be noted that Australia also has one-year visas available for youngsters under 30 years of age, and we know of one family who hosts many of these travellers for a few weeks at a time, and they have now had 50 such visitors over a two-and-a-half year period. These people have been mostly from England, US, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, France, Italy, Germany and a few from other places.
None of them would be allowed to overstay their visa, due to Australia's very strict migration rules, even if they want to. In fact, a few whom the family knows who do want to migrate here are currently having a lot of problems obtaining any sort of permission to come back here to settle (despite their professional qualifications, capacity to work, desire to raise an Aussie family, good character references and facility with English).
But nevertheless, generalities of 'homesickness' apply to all of us, whatever the circumstances of our travel, so it is instructive to look at the wide range of reasons that some people stay and some return. Christmas has special poignancy.
Of those Australians who have had jobs in England, there seems to be a homesickness: an inner yearning to return home to Australia to the wonderful weather and sunshine, the more expansive life style of extensive travel and significant distances, and not living in everyone else's pocket.
So, once these youngsters have finished their education courses or found their feet in career paths that may have been unavailable in Australia, they, like my son, return home with experiences that become a huge bonus in the professional job market.
And the professions
On the other hand, there are others who are truly 'ex-patriots', who find their niche in another place. Thinking of England alone, there are those who have 'stayed there' who are in professions as widely separated as science (for example, the chemistry Nobel Laureate Sir John Cornforth originally from the University of Sydney), many authors and painters for generations (including Henry Handel Richardson of former generations, Germaine Greer of Mark's generation), those Australians in the corporate world in the UK on 'rotations', sports people galore and entertainers as diverse and different in age as Rolf Harris (now disgraced) and Kylie Monogue. These too say they pine for an Australian Christmas.
Christian Ministers are also often engaged in international exchanges, but without any desire or intent to stay in the other country. As just two of many examples, the Reverend Simon Manchester of St Thomas North Sydney spent a year in Britain, and Baptist Dr Ken Manley, the retired Principal of Melbourne's Whitley College, has been to Oxford. These are part of a rich heritage of Australian Ministers going across to England and subsequently returning and bringing with them a bountiful heart for evangelism and ministry.
After being in another culture, these caring Ministers can bring a greater understanding of British culture back here. British ministers often engage in 'parish swaps' from several months to 12 months and they take back those experiences, especially their families. Many family members have taken up opportunities Australia has to offer such as education and sports.
By having been through it themselves, they will be able to explain some of the cultural differences between the two countries. By having experienced personally the emotional issues involved in missing one's family and lifestyle, maybe they can help some families to 'work through' the feelings of homesickness, and to help keep them here.
After all, there will be a greater emotional (as well as financial) burden if they find that 'home' is not quite what they remembered it to be! When they return home for a Christmas, too often, they find this to be the case at hand and wonder why they returned. Christmas has a strange effect upon us all.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html