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7 Famous Irish Australians

Much like the United States of America and Canada, Australia feels like a part of the Irish family that exists beyond the shores of the Emerald Isle.

This is in large part due to the swathes of men, women and children that have left Ireland and travelled thousands of miles around the globe from the early 18th century right up to the present day.

In the last Australian census, held in 2011, over 2 million citizens down under claimed full Irish heritage with up to 7 million having a partial connection to the country we all call home. This incredible figure, somewhere between 10% and 30% of the population, is also added to with the thousands of young people who travel between the countries every year!

To celebrate this ever-present bond we thought we’d take a look at some of the most famous Australians connected to Ireland through family and ancestors.  

Ned Kelly

When it comes to famous Irish people in Australia, rightly or wrongly, Ned Kelly’s name is always bound to come up. The infamous bushranger, born to John “Red” Kelly originally from Tipperary, lived a short, action packed life during the late 1800s as an outlaw, murderer and bank robber. 

Kelly lived a hard life, providing for his entire family from the age of 12 after his father’s early death, and can be equally seen as a bandit or as a Robin Hood style character.

Whatever side you stand on, his legacy within the Irish Australian community stands to this day.

John and James Toohey

John and James Toohey lead a slightly more positive and normal lifestyle as self-styled publicans and brewers. John, only a boy when his family moved to Australia, was a County Limerick native and ran pubs, including The Limerick Arms and The Great Britain, with his brother James before setting up a brewery in 1870.

In the years that followed, as business increased and demand for beer grew, John became an influential Australian politician and keen supporter of Irish nationalism and the Toohey name, both in beer and Irish life, is still known today. 

Nicholas Fitzgerald

Nicholas Fitzgerald, born in County Galway in 1829, continued this brewing tradition and would have been a Toohey’s contemporary in the late 1800s.

Fitzgerald, unlike the Toohey’s, moved to Australia in later life after attending Trinity College in Dublin and travelling the world in his twenties. He eventually settled in Australia in 1859, first in Victoria before moving to Brisbane, and set up the now famous Castlemaine Perkins Brewery in 1878.

The brewery first produced the XXX beer before moving on to the XXXX beer and name is now highly popular in Australia and further afield.

Tom Keneally

If you’re not a fan of fiction or literature the name Tom Keneally might not roll off the tongue but if we told you that this was the man behind Schindler’s List you might be more interested!

Keneally, a grandson to Irish grandparents who hailed from County Cork and moved south in the late 19th century, is a novelist, playwright and lecturer best known for his 1982 publication Schindler’s Ark which was later adapted into the 1993 film named above.

No doubt Keneally would’ve enjoyed the fact that Schindler’s List is also credited with the making of another Irishman, Liam Neeson! 

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman is undoubtedly the most famous name on this list but she also boasts the most diverse ancestry with Irish, Scottish and English roots all mixed up with her dual nationality in Australia and USA! 

The Academy and BAFTA Award Winner, known for her roles in Batman, Australia, The Hours, The Others and Lion amongst countless other films, attributes her Irish roots to settlers arriving from the Emerald Isle in 1839!

Mick Fanning

Mick Fanning is another man routinely listed amongst the most famous living Irish Australians today. Fanning, a pro surfer and 3 time world champion (2007, 2009 and 2013), can easily trace his Irish heritage back to his father who originally hails from Malin Head in County Donegal and moved to Sydney in the late 1970s.

It must be something in the blood because it’s remarkable that Fanning became a surfer after his father grew up and lived in one of the most famous surfing destinations in the world! 

Alan Joyce

Last but most certainly not least is Alan Joyce, a new modern breed of Irish Australian…if that’s a real thing! 

Unlike everyone else listed above Joyce actually comes directly from the Emerald Isle as he grew up in Tallaght, Dublin and was educated at DIT and Trinity College before embarking on a career with Aer Lingus. This career eventually lead him to Qantas and a move to Australia in 2000. 

Joyce is now the CEO of Qantas and can be seen as a great modern role model for Irish Australians both old and new! 


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