Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Kiwis in Aussie face long-term implications - historian

Dr Rosemary Baird
Dr Rosemary Baird

Kiwis who have emigrated to Australia over the last 50 years say it's been a positive move, and have few regrets, an oral historian says.

But researcher Dr Rosemary Baird said many "have to say that'' as they reflect on their lives on a positive way.

Many who have emigrated rush in without considering long-term implications, especially the impact it can have on family life, she says.

"I'm not trying to put a downer on migration to Australia, it's just that a lot of Kiwis go into it without really considering there could a downside in the long-term - we think it's going to be super easy,'' said Dr Baird, who is giving a public lecture at University of Canterbury tonight.

Kiwis move for many more reasons other than just money, her study of 276 emigrants between the late 1960s and early 1990s concluded.

Bad break-ups, overbearing parents, meeting Australian spouses, short stays turning into long-term moves, the weather, even the better surfing were some of the "rich, contradictory, messy and evolving'' reasons she encountered for skipping across the Tasman.

But one common trait she found was that many left without giving due reflection on the long term ramifications of being a Kiwi in Australia.

"Kiwis often initially experience a sense of cultural dislocation,'' Dr Baird says.

"Moving to Australia is often portrayed as easy, lucrative and painless. However, there can be hidden long-term emotional and relational costs.''

The early challenges can range from teasing of the New Zealand accent, fitting into networks or finding a place in Australian society, to shock at western neighbours' sexism and racism.

The more serious costs of the move come more in the future, Dr Baird said.

While many move when they are young, without children or families, and carefree, it can come back to haunt them later in life.

"When they have kids, they might miss their support networks, or 20 years down the line and their parents are sick, suddenly there's a raft of issues. They might even miss a parent's death, and there's the guilt associated with that,'' Dr Baird said.

She was also surprised at how many people move to Australia, before moving back home after not making it a success financially, or otherwise.

Some then move back again, she said.

Cheap and affordable air travel has made emigration easier but that brings its own dangers.

"Some of the earliest people I spoke to actually went by ship, a three day voyage,'' Dr Baird said.

"Most people with a job can afford a ticket to Australia. And I think that's half the problem, they head away on a whim and don't plan long term.''

Migration to Australia will only drop if it finds itself in a far weaker economic position than New Zealand, she said.

- NZ Herald

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