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"Emigration from Ireland to Australia increased significantly after the Great Famine of 1845–52. Before that time the main way the Irish found a passage to the new British colony was as a convict. Approximately one third of the 161,000 men and women who were transported to the penal colonies of Australia between 1788 and 1864 were born in Ireland. However, even at the height of transportation two little-known immigration schemes operated bringing free people to the developing settlements."
This article, by Perry McIntyre, looks at 'Free Emigration' to Australia - people emigrating to Australia who were not part of the penal system. Many of those people were Irish, and chose to leave at a time before the added pressures of the Great Famine.