Yet another year has rolled past since last March, and the much-anticipated joys of celebrating our shared Irish Australian Culture during the Brisbane Irish Festival; but it has been a year like no other in all fairness, and none of you will need me to remind you of the fact. There was a palpable sense of disbelief within the community in general, when word filtered down that the St Patrick’s day parade, always the centre piece of the Irish Australian Cultural year in Brisbane & Queensland, had been cancelled due to the emerging threat of the pandemic. In the space of less than a week, we went from having a wonderful and very well attended night out at the Irish Festival Charity Ball in aid of the work we undertake at IASAQ, to the gloom of lockdowns and events being cancelled all over the country. There was a sense of surrealism to it all, one weekend we were having the best time ever dressed to the nines, and the following weekend, we could not find a roll of toilet paper or a packet of pasta anywhere on a supermarket shelf, not for love nor money!
If anything, we were all very quickly reminded just how much of modern life and its blessings we had perhaps taken for granted just a bit. Very quickly the sense of bemusement with it all, evolved into real concerns. The impact of local lockdowns and the closing of both internal and international borders was hard, sharp and severe and for many people and continue to be so. There is no doubt that compared to most other Nations around the World, Australia has done very well in containing the virus and limiting the tragic loss of lives.
Even though the efforts to control the spread of the virus have been mostly a success, the collateral damage has been extensive. In the last year, we at the Irish Australian Support Association of Qld. have been doing our utmost to assist so many affected by it all. There were literally hundreds of Irish Citizens stranded in Queensland overnight when the international flights stopped. From young backpackers on working holiday visas through to elderly people who might have come to Australia for a cruise, to visit family or attend a wedding. All of these people suddenly needed assistance, help to get on the very few flights made available, and not all could afford the exorbitant prices being charged either; help to have a roof over their head for the night, help in securing medication or a doctor to prescribe same, as they were not planning to be here longer than a few days when they arrived, help with their visa status, help to keep food in their belly, help with simply being safe in a strange land far away from home.
During this period, we started an appeal and the response from the community was incredible. Both individuals and businesses answered the call, and this money in conjunction with additional emergency funding made available through the Irish Embassy in Canberra by the Irish Government; made a huge difference. It paid to keep people safe and fed and housed. It paid for many things that made a real difference to those to whom IASAQ provided assistance. Unsurprisingly, there was a marked increase in members of the community experiencing a mental health crisis of one form or another, and IASAQ was able to provide emergency professional counselling from the money raised, with an Irish Counsellor. This not only made a huge difference, having a familiar voice from home to talk to, it saved lives. There was also a massive increase in the incidents of Domestic Violence and victims came to us or to our attention, for help. This plague affected all socio-economic levels and all ages. Again, the association rose to the challenge and did the very best we could for every case. In large part the vitality and engagement of the board of IASAQ showed through in every challenge we faced as a team. The members of the board are a reflective cross section of the community they serve, most are hard working professionals or business owners in their own right and all are volunteers. They have brought a fresh and inclusive approach to everything, which is indicative of the fact the majority have only been involved with IASAQ for a few short years; which in turn, has allowed IASAQ to reach more people, in more places throughout the entire state and more effectively than ever before.
I hope everyone will enjoy the program of events for this years festival, in spite of there being no parade and a reminder that IASAQ is here for everyone and supports and celebrates what makes you uniquely you.
Is Mise Le Meas,
Irish Australian Support
Association of Qld Inc.