We love Oz, but Cork is where our hearts lie

TIMOTHY O’MAHONY continues his series of interviews with Corkonians abroad. This week, he chats to Cork city couple Rebecca and Lenny Baker about life down under
We love Oz, but Cork is where our hearts lie

Lenny and Rebecca Baker with their family

LENNY and Rebecca Baker grew up close to each other in Cork city - and now live with their three young children on the other side of the world, in Carramar in Perth, Australia.

Rebecca is from Mount Nebo Avenue in Gurranabraher while Lenny hails from Bakers road not too far up the hill.

When the recession hit Ireland, they moved to Sydney in June, 2010, for nine months and then moved to Perth in February, 2011, after taking up an opportunity for Lenny to be sponsored on a four-year working visa.

“At the time, I was working as a teller in Gurranabraher Credit Union and also as a shop assistant in Con’s Shop in Gurranabraher,” said Rebecca. “We decided to book a one-year trip to Australia to travel.”

“Life can be pretty hectic with us both working full time and having three kids, but we try and enjoy our downtime as much as possible.

“Not having any family support here, we rely on our close friends who are also from Cork, but also new friends that we have made over the years.”

The couple’s son, Zack, aged nine, and Jaxon, six, both attend the local Carramar Primary school. Their 15-month-old daughter Sienna goes to the local daycare facility three days a week.

“We are lucky to have a big group of close friends, which includes both our childhood best friends,” said Rebecca.

“We have grown from a group of 17 adults to now 17 adults and 13 kids.

Zack nd Jaxon enjoying the sun in Perth
Zack nd Jaxon enjoying the sun in Perth

“As you can imagine, the barbecues are a lot different to what they were many years ago!”

Zack and Jaxon are part of the local soccer team, Carramar Shamrock Rovers, and also do Football Evolution Training (FET), so they both train on Saturday mornings and have a match on Sunday mornings.

Lenny coaches Zack’s U11s team and has his own match after this for the over 35s - he’s a far cry from his Nufarm Athletic days!,” laughs Rebecca.

“When we’re not attending soccer training or watching soccer matches, we try and do fun activities with the kids like mini golf, going to the beach and bike riding,” said Rebecca, “or sometimes we are just happy to sit out in our backyard enjoying the sunshine while the kids play in the swimming pool.”

Australia has a diverse range of cultures, said Rebecca.

“Our kids attend the local school and mix with kids with all types of cultural backgrounds.

“They find it quite interesting because the school encourages families to come to the class and talk about their cultures.

“Just recently, Jaxon had a multi-cultural lunch where each child brought in food which was associated with their culture. We baked soda bread at home, cut it up and brought it into school. Each child then got to taste all these types of foods which is a fun way for them to learn about different cultures.

“We often laugh when the kids come home with slang Aussie words that they have learned from their friends.”

Rebecca is the Client Services Manager for the Geochemistry division at Australian Laboratory Services (ALS). It is a global company with various locations all over the world, including Galway.

“I have worked here for over eight years,” she said, “I studied Biology for four years at Cork Institute of Technology and I wanted to pursue a career which allowed me to use my qualifications, although this is more geology than biology.

“We test mining samples, mostly from Western Australia, but also from various locations within Australia and from around the world.

“My role is to ensure we have constant open communication with our clients and field any questions they may have on any topic of choice.

“I have a flexible working arrangement which allows me to work from the office but also from home, so it provides a perfect balance.”

Lenny works for Western Power as a High Voltage Cable Jointer and Switching Operator. Western Power is the electricity board that supplies electricity to Western Australia, which can be compared to the ESB at home.

Lenny works in the Metro Faults Response team. He is responsible for repairing various LV and HV faults on the network.

“He loves the flexibility of his job and the work life family balance it provides,” said Rebecca.

“We definitely miss our families. The decision to move away from home and spend our lives separated from our families has to be the toughest decision we have made and it never gets easier. Home is where the heart is and it always will be.”

Rebecca added: “Lennys mam (Bernie), Dad (Pat) and sister (Aoife) are coming for a visit at Christmas. My mam (Catherine) is coming in March, 2023, also for a visit.

Rebecca and Lenny with their Cork friends in Perth
Rebecca and Lenny with their Cork friends in Perth

“We cannot wait to spend these precious times with our loved ones and making new memories.”

If the couple had a dream trip home, Rebecca said: “We would head to West Cork for a night away with our families for some nice food and drink and a trad session.

“We are very blessed with the life we have here in Perth and we love every minute of it, but nothing replaces the bond and love we have for our families and homeland.”

The couple got married in Portugal in, July, 2019.

“It was the last time we were home due to Covid until recently, when we were finally allowed to travel again,” said Rebecca.

“It was three long years that we were unable to see, hug or kiss or families.

“We spent the six weeks at home making up for lost time, where Lenny brought the boys to Manchester to see their very first Manchester United match.

“We travelled to Spain for a week with our families, we even got to have a few days in Venice, just the two of us, while our families looked after the kids.

“We brought the kids to well-known Cork locations such as the Old Woman’s Gaol and Blarney Castle.

“They both enjoyed learning about their Irish heritage and it’s safe to say the boys came back with stronger Cork accents from this trip!”

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