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Time to act on Australians abroad

By Elena Douglas - posted Tuesday, 8 March 2005


The release today of the Senate Report into Australia’s Expatriates will be the third major report released into the country’s diaspora in the past two years.

No doubt the Senate’s report will detail similar findings to the two previous reports, but it needs to go much further and Australian governments - federal and state - now need to act to capitalise on the common conclusions these studies have found.

In 2003 a CEDA Report (pdf file 1.06MB), Australia’s Diaspora: It’s Size, Nature and Policy Implications, presented a strong argument that the large number of Australians living and working abroad is an economic and cultural asset and thought should be given to policies to make the most of the opportunity it presents.

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The Lowy Institute’s, Diaspora - The World Wide Web of Australians, found the number of Australians living abroad on a permanent basis was over 850,000 and were, in the main, prosperous, well educated, well connected and well disposed to Australia. It went further and found members of Australia’s diaspora are of particular value as they often are at the pinnacle of their careers in significant international positions or highly skilled professionals.

The Lowy paper found, rather than being a “brain drain” as often claimed, Australians abroad can and do contribute to Australia by influencing trade, investment and philanthropic flows while connecting local organisations to international developments and opportunities.

Critically, both these reports have encouraged governments and institutions to engage more fully with Australia’s diaspora to maximise the benefits they present both here and abroad.

Those of us now living and working abroad are looking to the senate report to deliver concrete recommendations to ensure our skills, experience, networks and influence can be greater used to Australia’s benefit.

More importantly, we will be looking to Australian governments at all levels to implement effective strategies to use us - "Australia’s Ambassadors Abroad" - to improve the nation’s trade, investment, tourism and cultural development overseas and at home.

In a relatively short period of time one organisation has achieved considerable success in attempting to do just that.

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Advance - Australian Professionals in America was established in 2002 and now is a network of more than 4,500 leading Australian professionals in the United States using their knowledge, expertise, influence and connections to promote Australia and assist Australian companies, institutions and individuals in their international endeavours.  It also partners with Australian government agencies abroad to promote Australia as destination for investment, tourism, trade and a place to live and work.

By engaging eminent Australians in the US it has created links with Australia in business, arts and culture, science, research and public affairs. Advance’s members clearly recognise and value their role as "ambassadors" for Australian interests in the US.

It provides the clearest demonstration of how the nation’s diaspora should and can be used to advance Australia.

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About the Author

Elena Douglas is the CEO of Advance Australian Professionals in America.

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