When a child, I heard stories of my mother's childhood in England and her adjustment to Australia, where she came as a lonely teenager. She did, however, find more opportunities here. She was a lover and player of cricket, even barracked for the Aussie team. Although nostalgic for some of the English experiences of her childhood, she never ever mentioned she wanted to go back.
Then, when nine years old the family left their rural (formerly farming) life in north Queensland for the suburban life and better educational opportunities in Canberra. The family, however, always considered that their true roots were in the country. He now treasures the diaries of his father, who described pioneering a 'bush 200 acre block' at the age of seventeen, and making, with his own hands, his 'first farm' on the Eungella Range near Mackay.
Until he was elderly, Mark's father was rather wistful and for that lifestyle. But then towards the end of his life, he visited a family acquaintance who still lived near his old stamping ground, and he came back saying he was very glad he had moved to Canberra, because his children and grandchildren had been able to 'better themselves' educationally and professionally in a way they would never have done if he had stayed on the farm.
In the present generation, too, my own children and nephews and nieces have left home to go to University, and some of them have lived overseas for months or years. One of his nieces is permanently settled in the USA now, and one of his nephews has married a Canadian who migrated to Australia, leaving her twin sister behind. He knows other young people who have married and settled down permanently in Britain.
Variety of reasons
So what makes some migrants so homesick that they yearn for their former life, and sometimes even return to it; while others relish the opportunities they have in their new home or at least, for reasons of pragmatism or necessity make the most of it?
The Sydney Morning Herald commented that many English people who migrated to Australia returned to the UK, not as a result of the stereotype issues of heat and flies, but for family, and the English lifestyle particularly families wanting to be close to ageing grandparents.
Researchers Mary Holmes and Roger Burrows noted that 107,000 new settlers arrived from Britain between 2005 and 2010, and over the same period more than 30,000 British-born permanent settlers decided to permanently leave. Almost 60 per cent of them went home.
But the tone of the article is a little restrictive, because when Mark analyses these same statistics given in the article, he realises that only about 10% went back to Britain, and it is not clear that all of them stayed. Certainly, people of his acquaintance he can think of at least four families of his own generation just off the top of his head did return to England, but found it quite different from what they imagined and saved and scraped to bring their families back to Australia.
But even without counting people like that, the SMH article details that at least 90% of British migrants are happy to stay, or else continue their travels to a third destination, perhaps (we do not know) to return to Australia to raise their families. (www.smh.com.au)
Slipping into an old pair of shoes
One UK returnee stated that: ''Coming back has been a bit like slipping into an old pair of shoes.' Another responded: ''I love walking everywhere, wrapping up warm, politeness, greenery, quality TV being part of Europe.''
Dr Holmes, a senior lecturer in sociology at Flinders University noted that boredom for many was an issue, and moreover pursuing a long term dream (such as migrating to another country) can result in disappointment because no place, not even the dreamed-of place, is perfect.
However, I realise that these people are no different from any one of us. We are all certain to experience homesickness when we move to another place, be it just the next suburb, another state or another country, or even on an extended holiday.
Christmas too plays a part in all of this as this 'silly season' affects those living away from Australia is many strange and peculiar ways, not least for Christians in their respective Christmas Day Church Services and the nature of the Christmas Lunch.
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