Janet and Eugene Bennis pictured with their grandchildren in Australia last Christmas
TWO grandparents who captured the hearts of Limerick when they emigrated to Australia to be with their young family have secured their dream of permanent residency Down Under.
Janet and Eugene Bennis sold their home of 30 years in Granville Park and moved to Brisbane in 2015, where their four grown-up children and four young grand-children are all based.
Having invested their life savings into the move - their dream of reuniting with their family faced a series of obstacles along the way.
The couple, both in their 50s, have received a letter confirming they are now permanent residents in Australia. It means they can legally work and no longer face hefty Visa fees.
“It’s great, and it’s such a relief over two-and-a-half years after applying. It was such a long road. But I’m so glad we made it,”
Liverpool-born Janet smiled: “I laughed and cried with emotion when the news came through that at last we could call Australia home.”
Under the terms of their final tourist Visa, the parents-of-four were legally bound to leave Australia every 90 days. Because of that they headed for a short break in nearby New Zealand when the good news on their residency came through.
“We left Australia at 6am, and the residency was granted at 10.30am,” Jan explained.
Their youngest daughter Claire who is acting as her parent’s agent, passed on the email confirming the life-changing news shortly after they touched down in the kiwi city of Auckland.
Jan laughed that when they heard the news, she asked husband Eugene:
“Is it too early for a gin and tonic?!”
The pair did enjoy a celebration at Father Ted’s bar in downtown Auckland, an establishment owned by Foynes man Colin Fitzsimons and managed by Wicklow lady Sue Whelan.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader in New Zealand, Jan added: “It feels a bit surreal really. When we go back, and go through customs, they are not going to stop us. I think everybody who comes this far from Europe, because they are so strict, they will stop you for any reasons. But we will go through as Australian residents which is amazing really.”
Their children - mum-of-two Jennifer, 32, father-of-three Eoin, 31, Claire, 28, and Cian, 26 -were all ‘buzzing’ after the news.
“They know they have permanent babysitters now! The last two years have taken their toll on all of us. But we have cleared the final hurdle, and when we go back, it will be time to party,” Jan added.
Jan - whose mother hailed from Pallaskenry - and Eugene have spent the last two Christmases with their children.
But before that, they had not spent the festive season as a family for 13 years after their children moved away for work reasons.
The couple have spent close to €200,000 on making their dream come true, and have not been able to work for the last two years.
Eugene has joined a Men’s Shed group in Brisbane to help pass the time, something Jan says is “the best thing which has happened to him in the two years we’ve been here”.
For her part, Jan is involved with suicide prevention charity Pieta House, and plans to take part in the Brisbane Darkness into Light walk this May.
The former UL catering supervisor now hopes to go into childminding or working as a carer, while Eugene is applying for a role with Cook Medical, which has bases in both Limerick and his new home city of Brisbane.
The pair have both been told they are an ‘inspiration’ to other Irish parents and grandparents.
“When we started this journey, a lot of people thought we were mad. Hell, we thought we were mad ourselves. It was a big upheaval. But I’d encourage any grandparent or parent who has children living this far away, and with no ties in Ireland or Britain to just do it. It has been hard - it has taken ten years off us. But I wouldn't change a thing,” she concluded.