AUSTRALIA BROTHEL BECOMING PERFECT CHOICE FOR NUMBER OF YOUNG GIRLS FROM IRELAND WHO ARRIVED HERE ON WORKING HOLIDAY VISA BUT OVERSTAYING THEN LEFT WITH EITHER TO FACE STARVATION OR EARN MONEY AS HOOKER AND GIRLS SAY THEY EARNED 400 EUROS A NIGHT PROSTITUTING THEMSELVES It was a case of starve, or take a job in a brothel Barbara McCarthy sounds a stark warning for the thousands of young Irish who think the streets of Australia are paved with gold Recent reports about young Irish struggling in Australia must have struck a chord at home with all those who have sons or daughters, brothers, sisters or even grandchildren, out there seeking a better life. Tales of unemployment cause a shudder with little reaction from the Government or even the main Opposition. But not so Sinn Fein, who despatched Mary Lou McDonald down under. It wasn’t so much a mercy mission as a morale booster, but never mind. All kids finding it hard will call home and some will probably mention Mary Lou. That should be worth a few votes. Sinn Fein never miss a trick – even getting their Aussie hosts to stump up business class tickets to ease her trans-world passage. You might have thought that our Antipodean diaspora have little to complain about with all that is going on at home – which they have escaped. But believe me, the streets of Perth or Sydney or Adelaide are not paved with gold. There are opportunities, but often those with fewest qualifications for these jobs are the first to emigrate. I know because I have been there and I have seen young Irish girls and boys turn from hopeful and optimistic to complete desperation within a very short time, as the reality of extreme poverty in a far-off land sank in. This led to sometimes extreme decisions. I myself once worked in an Australian brothel – as a barmaid. But I knew other young Irish girls felt themselves forced to take up prostitution to make ends meet. It’s not what their tearful parents hoped for when they waved them off at the airport. It’s the last thing the girls themselves expected, but when it came down to it, they felt they had little choice. I remember two Irish girls I knew who worked in the brothel. They were in their early twenties and both came from Munster. They had come to Australia on a working visa and ended up staying longer than the one-year period allowed. Back in Ireland they had been hairdressers as well as doing other casual work. In Australia it was their dream to work hard and save some money before going home. But once the work permit ran out that was it. They became unemployable, except doing things like causal bar work in the black economy, and there, they said, “the pay was really crap. Sometimes they don’t pay you at all, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re illegal. You have no rights.” Hooking wasn’t their preferred choice, but they knew they weren’t qualified for anything else. Starving was the alternative. The cash was good, they said. They could each make up to €400 a night prostituting themselves.