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Australians in Britain: The Twentieth-Century Experience




While there has been a strong gradient in UK-Australia migration from the former to the latter the counterflow has long been significant. This paper traces the size and nature of the contemporary migration from Australia to the UK from a demographic perspective. It is shown that it has grown substantially in recent years including both permanent and long term moves. The size and composition of the Australian expatriate community in the UK is analysed using survey data. The diasporas connections with Australia are examined and some of its implications are explored.

While Australia is seen overwhelmingly as an immigrant nation it is also an important nation of emigration. More than a century ago, Ravenstein1 put forward a series of ‘migration laws’, including one that ‘each main current of migration produces a compensating counter current’. Although this observation has been consistently replicated, counter-currents remain under-researched. In the UK-Australia case there has been a pattern of circularity in migration for more than two centuries. One consistent component in this was the return of former settlers, both anticipated and unanticipated at the time of original migration. An insight into another element, however, is given by the novelist Miles Franklin in My Brilliant Career (1901) where her character, Robert Miller, moves to London to escape ‘the prison of isolation’ that was Sydney.2 For much of the post-European settlement period of Australia’s history a trip to the ‘home country’ was de rigeur for elite groups such as the intelligentsia and artists on the one hand, and the better-off on the other. Such movement was facilitated by the British Empire and Commonwealth linkages of the pre European Union period that made it possible for Australians to enter the UK easily and settle. Ian Britain and Storry Walton quote well-known Australians leaving in the early post-war years:


Clive James left Australia because he had ‘exhausted what challenges and comforts it could offer him’.

Germaine Greer left because ‘the outward bourgeois decencies, the “even tenor” of suburban life, became an offence when unmatched, unrelieved by any stimuli for the life of the mind’.

Sidney Nolan felt he had no option but to leave Australia to escape the stultifying artistic and critical environment.3

However, overall emigration has reached unprecedented levels in recent years. This is apparent in Figure 2.1, which shows the increase in the permanent departures from Australia over the last few decades. The increase in recent years is apparent with the number of permanent departures between 2004 and 2005 being 17.1 per cent and the number doubling over the last decade. It is important to note the difference in trends between the overseas-born ‘former settler’ component of the exodus and the Australia-born element.

Figure 2.1 Australia: Permanent departures of former settlers and Australia-born persons, 1968-69 to 2003-04

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs [DIMIA] Australian immigration consolidated statistics and Immigration update, various issues; Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics [CBCS] Demography Bulletins, various issues

Clearly, the Australia-born group has increased substantially in recent years. The distribution of destinations of the Australia-born and overseas-born groups leaving Australia between 1993 and 2003 are shown in Figure 2.2a and 2.2b.

In considering emigration from Australia it is important also to consider long-term migration. Figure 2.3 shows that this type of out-movement also has increased dramatically over the last decade or so, doubling since 1989. It will be noted that the Australian resident component of this emigration has particularly increased.

Turning to the UK, the pattern of permanent migration from Australia to the UK in recent years is depicted in Figure 2.4. For much of the early postwar years migration of former settlers has been the dominant element in emigration from Australia. Moreover, it should be noted that a part of the Australia-born emigration involves the Australia-born children of UK-born former settlers. It will be noticed in Figure 2.2 that the UK is an important destination both of returning settlers and of the Australia-born.

Looking first of all at the UK-born settler loss component of emigration to the UK, Figure 2.5 shows the permanent flows of the UK-born outside of Australia, and the largest flows were in the 1960s and early 1970s. This is the echo effect of the large UK immigration of the late 50s and early 60s. In the 1960s there was considerable concern in the Australian government about the issue of settler loss, especially as it related to British migrants. As a result there were a number of studies which investigated these issues4 and the main findings were as follows:

Figure 2.2a Country of destination of departures from Australia, 1993–2003 – permanent departures, Australia-born

Source: DIMIA unpublished data

Figure 2.2b Country of departures from Australia, 1993–2003 – permanent departures, overseas-born

Source: DIMIA unpublished data

Figure 2.3 Australia: Long-term departures of Australian residents and overseas visitors, 1959–60 to 2003–04

Source: DIMIA Australian Immigration Consolidated Statistics and Immigration Update, various issues; CBCS Demography Bulletins, various issues

Figure 2.4 Australia: Permanent departures to the United Kingdom and Ireland by birthplace, 1988 to 2004

Source: DIMIA Immigration update, various issues

Figure 2.5 Australia: Permanent departures of the United Kingdom and Ireland-born, 1959 to 2004

Source: DIMIA Australian Immigration Consolidated Statistics and Immigration Update, various issues; CBCS Demography Bulletins, various issues


  • In a study of immigrants arriving in 1959, some 15.3 per cent had returned to the UK by 1966–7.5
  • Most decided to return within the first three years and quoted family reasons rather than economic factors.
  • Another study found return rates of 22–24 per cent in the late 1960s (Immigration Advisory Council Committee on Social Patterns 1973).
  • Highest rates of return were singles, males, professionals and skilled persons.
  • There is a clear pattern of settler loss emigration reflecting the immigration patterns three to five years earlier.

A more recent set of data relating to settler loss is the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia [LSIA], which interviewed a cohort of visaed immigrants arriving in Australia in 1993–95, and then a year later and again a further two years ahead.6 Of the 5,192 proposed applicants in the initial survey 8.2 per cent (428) were from the UK. By the time of the third wave of interviews some 113 of the latter or 26.4 per cent were not contactable. Interviewers sought to categorise the non-contactable respondents and Table 2.1 shows that some 6.8 per cent of the original sample were found to have left Australia permanently and 5.8 per cent temporarily. An analysis of these data7 had the following findings:


  • The immigrants most likely to leave were those who entered Australia under the skilled business section of the migration programme.
  • Immigrants from the UK had the second highest return rate to those from the USA.
  • Those most likely to leave were highly educated with professional occupations.
  • Most who left were in their 20s and 30s with a slightly higher representation of females.

Table 2.1 Reasons why principal applicants from the United Kingdom in Wave 1 were not interviewed in Wave 3

Source: LSIA

Figure 2.6 shows the age structure of the UK-born returning to the UK, and it is interesting that while the young adults identified in the LSIA study are apparent, there is also a strong representation of people aged 65 years and over. This is indicative of a significant retirement migration component in the settler loss. This is discussed in greater detail elsewhere,8 but there are two components to this movement:


  • People who migrated at an older age often to join their extended family but after the death of a spouse or a failure to adapt to Australia decide to return to their home country after a brief stay.
  • People who migrated in the 1950s and 1960s as young, economically active individuals, reach retirement age and decide to return to their home country.

However, the majority of those leaving are in the workforce and, as Table 2.2 shows, they are concentrated in the higher skill areas. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that, as the Table shows, there is a substantial net migration gain of UK-born in all occupational groups especially the skilled areas.

Turning to the Australia-born component of the migration from Australia to the UK, it is apparent from Figure 2.7 that this has increased over the last decade or so. However, it is important to consider these data in conjunction with the long-term emigration of Australian residents. Figure 2.8 shows that the numbers of long-term departures of Australian residents increased rapidly between 1994 and 2002 and have since stabilised. Hence, overall there has been a substantial increase in the numbers of Australians of longstanding moving on a long-term or permanent basis to the UK. This is shown in Table 2.3 which shows the Australia-born permanent and Australian resident long-term departures from Australia to the UK in recent years. This upswing in movement is a function of two main developments:


  • The rite of passage and elite migration of the past continues, but this type of movement has become more extensive and involves a wider range of groups than ever before, with a period working overseas becoming part of growing up for many young Australians.
  • A new element, however, is career and work related migration. One important element of globalisation has been the internationalisation of labour markets, which has meant that whereas Australians previously restricted their search for work to within their state of residence or at most within Australia, many now operate in international labour markets.

Figure 2.6 Australia: Age-sex structure of UK-Born settlers returning to the United Kingdom, 2003–04

Source: DIMIA Unpublished data

Table 2.2 Australia: Permanent arrivals and departures of United Kingdom-Ireland-born persons by occupation, 2003–04

Source: DIMIA Movements Data Base

Figure 2.7 Permanent migration from Australia to the UK, 1981 to 2004

* Data incomplete

Source: Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research Movements Data Base; DIMIA 2002 and Unpublished data

Figure 2.8 Australia: Long-term resident departures to the United Kingdom, 1976 to 2004

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] Migration Australia, various issues; DIMIA unpublished data

Table 2.3 Australian-born permanent departures and Australian resident long-term departures to the UK, 1991–92 to 2003–04

Source: DIMIA unpublished data

Figure 2.9 Australia: Age/sex structure of Australia-born emigrants to the United Kingdom, 1994–95 to 2003–04

Source: DIMIA unpublished data

The result has been an exponential increase in the numbers of Australians going overseas on a permanent or long-term basis. The most recent figures from DIMIA show that the overall number of Australia-born emigrants and Australian resident long-term departures has increased by 44.6 per cent in the last decade. It is apparent that the UK is their main destination.

Australian emigrants to the UK have a number of distinctive characteristics. Taking first of all the Australia-born permanent emigrants, Figure 2.9 shows the dominance of young adults in their 20s and 30s in the flow. The significant number of dependent children indicates that some move as families, but it also reflects the Australia-born children of returning UK-born former settlers. Another key feature is that there is a predominance of females, with the sex ratio among Australia-born permanent departures to the UK over the last decade being 80 males for every 100 females. This is an unusual pattern since males slightly outnumber females among all Australia-born emigration from Australia. It may be that this is a function of the greater involvement of rite of passage migration in the migration to the UK. Figure 2.10 demonstrates the difference in age structure between the returning settlers and the Australia-born departures to the UK showing that the former are more widely distributed across age groups while the Australia-born are overwhelmingly in their 20s.

Figure 2.10 Age Distribution of Australia-born and overseas-born emigrants to the United Kingdom, 2003–04

Source: DIMIA unpublished data

Turning to the long-term departures to the UK, Figure 2.11 shows that this is absolutely dominated by those aged in their 20s, who account for 69 per cent of all movers. Clearly the rite of passage factor is dominant here. Moreover, there is a predominance of women with the sex ratio being 78.6 which also underlines this element. If we put together the age/sex information on all departures from Australia to the UK Table 2.4 shows a pattern somewhat different than that for all departures from Australia, particularly in two respects:


  • There is an overwhelming emphasis on the 20–29 age group, which accounts for almost two-thirds of all permanent and long term migrants – twice the proportion for all departures. This is a factor assisted by the large number of rite of passage movers who go to the UK – often as the first stage to travelling to other countries.
  • It is also noticeable that females substantially outnumber males, especially in the key 20–29 age group, again a reflection that Australian young women are more likely to engage in the rite of passage migration.

Figure 2.11 Australia: Age/sex structure of Australia-born long term resident departures to the United Kingdom, 1994–95 to 2003–04

Source: DIMIA unpublished data

Table 2.4 Age/Sex Structure of Permanent and Long-Term Departures of Australia-Born to the United Kingdom, 1994–95 to 2003–04

Source: DIMIA Movements Data Base

It is apparent too that the Australian emigrants have a high skill profile. This is clear from the occupational structure shown in Table 2.5 which indicates that almost two-thirds of both permanent and long-term movers are in two categories. Firstly some 46 per cent were professionals. This group is especially important among the labour-market related migrants. The second largest group are in lower skill, clerical, sales, service and transport work, and largely reflect the rite of passage migrants. Managers and administrators are an important group and are clearly associated with labour market migration.

There is then a clear differentiation between the ‘settler loss’ and the Australian origin component of the migration from Australia to the United Kingdom. They are not only demographically different, but it is clear that their motives for migration are quite different as well. Hence, Table 2.6 shows that whereas family and life cycle factors dominate among the former settlers, it is the labour market and search for experience that are most significant among the Australia-born migrants.

Table 2.5 Australia: Australia-born permanent and long term resident departures to United Kingdom by occupation, 2003–04

Source: DIMIA unpublished data

Table 2.6 A typology of causes of emigration from Australia to the United Kingdom

While the main focus here is on people who have settled on a permanent or long-term basis in the UK, it is important also to examine briefly trends in short-term movement, for at least two reasons. Firstly, at any one time, a substantial proportion of the Australians in the UK are there on a short-term basis and it must be recalled that this group includes people who intend to stay away from Australia for up to a year, many of whom are rite of passage movers. Secondly, and importantly, it is clear from research that there are strong linkages between short-term, longer-term and permanent migration. It is apparent that a significant number of Australians in the UK come originally as short-term visitors. Figure 2.12 shows the increase in Australian resident short-term movement to the UK. In fact almost one in ten short-term departures out of Australia is directed to the UK. The growth in this movement has increased substantially in the last decade, with a lull due to the 9/11 and Bali Bombing incidents in the early part of this decade. The reasons given for travelling are presented in Table 2.7 and demonstrate strong family linkages between Australia and the UK, in that more than a third of trips are to visit relatives.

Figure 2.12 Australia: Short-term resident departures to the United Kingdom and Ireland, 1947 to 2005

Source: CBCS Demography Bulletins and ABS Overseas Arrivals and Departures Bulletins

Table 2.7 Australia: Short-term departures of Australian Residents to the United Kingdom and elsewhere by purpose of journey, 2002–03

Source: DIMIA unpublished data


The immigrant population of the UK has increased from 2.98 million in 1971 (5.3 per cent of the total population) to 4.87 million (8.3 per cent). However, of the 1971 figure more than a quarter of the overseas-born, 0.71 million of them, were from Ireland and another 0.51 million were overseas-born but had UK-born parents and were mostly born in colonies. Hence in 2001 the overseas-born of the UK were a much more multicultural and diverse group. The Oceania-born population over that period increased by 119.8 per cent (compared with 64 per cent for the total overseas-born), from 78,200 to 171,900 persons.9 The birthplace breakdown of the UK overseas-born population at the 2001 census is shown in Table 2.8. and this indicates that the Australia-born are the tenth largest group with only those born in Ireland, India, Pakistan, Germany, USA, Bangladesh, Jamaica, South Africa and Kenya being greater. At the 1991 census there were 73,336 Australia-born counted in the UK – a growth rate of 45.1 per cent over the decade of the 1990s.

However, it is clear that the UK census figures significantly understate the number of Australians in the UK, for the following reasons:


  • The census includes only the Australia-born and many UK residents identifying with Australia and even having Australian citizenship were born elsewhere.
  • Many of the Australians in the UK still identify with Australia and do not consider that they should be counted in the census.
  • Some expatriates deliberately avoid being counted in the census.
  • It excludes second, third and later generations.
  • Hence, there are quite different estimates of the number of Australians in the UK and several commentators put it at 300,000.10

Table 2.8 Top 10 countries of birth of migrants resident in the United Kingdom, 2001

Source: OECD database on immigrants and expatriates

Some insights into Australians in the UK can be gained from the results of a survey of 661 Australian expatriates.11 Of those interviewed, some 21.2 per cent were born outside of Australia and 72.9 per cent have retained Australian citizenship, but 14.8 per cent intended to take up UK citizenship. The majority (92 per cent) are currently employed, most of them as professionals (83.5 per cent). They are a relatively high income group as is evident in Table 2.9. The sample was selectively drawn from graduates of Australian universities so it is not surprising that 90.2 per cent had degrees. A third of the respondents were single reflecting the young age of the group with a quarter being aged less than 30 and 41.3 per cent in their 30s. Of the group 72.5 per cent left Australia at an age less than 30 years.

Table 2.9 Australians in the UK: Current annual income in $A, 2002 (n=661)

Source: Australian Emigration Survey

One of the interesting features of the group is that of the almost two-thirds who were married, only one-third had a partner who was Australian and half had a partner who was born in the UK. Clearly one of the factors leading to more Australians living overseas on a long-term or permanent basis is the fact that more Australians are travelling overseas as a rite of passage as young adults and so many more meet and partner with a non-Australian. Hence, the proportion of Australians marrying non-Australians is increasing and the proportion of Australians with family loyalties and commitments extending trans-nationally is also increasing. A quarter of the total sample had married since they left Australia and 4.2 per cent had taken a partner outside marriage, while 39 had divorced and remarried while overseas. The family situation of the sample is depicted in Table 2.10 and again the young age of the group is evident, with almost one in five living in a group household and one in eight living alone. Only a quarter have children. This reflects the fact that a major part of the Australian community in the UK do not see themselves as staying permanently. However, more than a half either own (39.3 per cent) or are purchasing (12.6) their current place of residence in the UK.

Table 2.10 Australians in the UK: Current family status, 2002 (n=661)

Source: Australian Emigration Survey 2002

It is interesting to examine the reasons given by respondents for leaving Australia. Table 2.11 shows that overwhelmingly the motivations for going to the UK are work-related, with respondents stressing better employment opportunities, professional development, higher income, promotion, job transfer and partner’s employment as the main causes for them going to the UK. However, the rite of passage factor is also evident in such responses as ‘to travel the world’, gain international experience, working holiday and lifestyle. Very clearly the expansion of the Australian community in the UK is strongly related to globalisation, the internationalisation of labour markets and the growth of London as one of the world’s global cities.

Table 2.11 Australians in the UK: Reasons given by respondents for leaving Australia to live in the UK, 2002

Source: Australian Emigration Survey 2002


With the increase in global international migration there has been a new interest in the formation of diaspora communities in destination countries. Much of the interest has been focussed on the rapid growth of communities from south countries in north countries and how they can be harnessed to facilitate development in their homeland.12 Less attention has been focused on north-north migrations and the role of diaspora.13 However, at least two points can be made with respect to this:


  • Migrant communities from north countries living in OECD nations are increasing in size.
  • The new information and communication technology facilitates them maintaining close and intimate contact with their homelands.

Let us now examine the relationship maintained by Australians in the UK with their homeland.

One of the most striking responses to both the survey being used here, and also in the in-depth interviews with Australians in the UK, was the strong level of identification with Australia, even among those with no intention of returning to live in Australia. Some 81.1 per cent in the survey indicated that they ‘still called Australia home’ and only 15.6 per cent did not. This was reflected in the strong reaction among expatriates about the dual nationality issue. Prior to 2002, Australians had to give up their Australian nationality if they were to take on the citizenship of another country. Many expatriates, especially those who had partnered a non-Australian and whose children were born, and grew up, in other countries needed to gain the citizenship of their new country for their work. They expressed real anguish at having to give up their Australian citizenship. Two responses from UK respondents express this:


I am not sure what you hope to determine in this study but I hope part of the results reflect the overwhelming expatriate anger at being disenfranchised by our government just because we chose to live in another country.

The nature of what it is to be a citizen is changing as our world evolves. In my mind it makes little sense to penalise your citizens for taking advantage of global opportunities in a world where the market places of the globe are your customers. For countries to remain vibrant they need to allow their citizens the opportunities to live and work overseas and return home with ease. Allow dual citizenship or tri or quadruple citizenship. The reality is that more people are leaving than ever before, they will continue to leave. I know people that have taken up citizenship even knowing that they would lose their Aussie one. It didn’t stop them although it did make them sad. Some were even angry that the government of Australia has the nerve to demand that you forgo your citizenship if you want to take that of another country.

Hence, Australian expatriates were at the forefront of the campaign which saw the Australian government eventually allow dual citizenship in 2002.14

The identities of Australian expatriates in the UK are complex. There are some who fiercely retain their Australian identity.


I regularly struggle with the issue of national identity.

It is important that people understand that you don’t stop being Australian just because you don’t live in Australia.

Others have been able to develop a trans-national or multiple identity involving both Australia and the UK.


Being born, raised and educated in Australia set the values by which I live today. Had my wife and I had children we would have returned to Australia for their education.

For others there is a more complex pattern of identity. To some extent there may be a distinct identity as an expatriate as expressed by the novelists Nikki Gemmell and Caroline Brothers.


Perhaps my husband and I are slipping towards some expatriate no man’s land outsiders not only in the country we have chosen to live in but our own country as well. We wonder if we will ever settle contentedly into Australia again, and fear we won’t. Perhaps we have entered, without even realising it, that strange state of exile where a memory of home is all we have left.

Becoming an expatriate has also opened my eyes about the world in ways not available to me had I stayed at home. I am aware this life has a price – missing defining experiences, both public and private at home. But I characterise myself as an Australian member of an internationally minded community, who just happens to live her Australianism abroad.15

Others see themselves as a global citizen, albeit with a strong Australian streak.


As the son of Irish immigrants, “home” was always Ireland. I am now told by my mother and my wife that Australia is now my “home”. Cliché or not I regard myself as a citizen of the world but first and foremost – a Collingwood supporter.

What is clear is that Australians in the UK are able to maintain strong linkages with their homeland. Undoubtedly modern developments in information and communication technology such as email, cheap international phone calls, etc. allow people to maintain regular and intimate contact.


When I open emails from loved ones, I hear the words read to me in their voices, their unique body gestures.

My heart aches because it is pulled and stretched across seas, across lands, to encompass births, deaths, marriages, first homes, losing a job, gaining a job, major successes, major setbacks. When the phone receiver is replaced I smile in a distant land.16

Moreover, they can keep abreast of news, events and other developments in Australia. For example, the Australian Football League’s website received 2.5 million hits each week during the 2004 season and of these a quarter were from outside Australia – 620,000 from the United Kingdom. In addition, the cheapening of air travel has seen visiting Australia, even from as great a distance as the UK, as being much more possible than ever before. Hence, only 15.1 per cent of respondents had not visited Australia since coming to the UK, and all of those are recent arrivals. Some 30 per cent have visited Australia more than five times. Ninety per cent of visits were to visit family in Australia.

Some 55.2 per cent of respondents indicated that they had intentions of returning to live in Australia and 30.1 per cent were undecided as to whether they would return or not. It is interesting to observe the reasons given in Table 2.12. It is notable here that job and economic factors are of little significance and the whole emphasis is on lifestyle and family. Indeed, some intending to return realised that they would need to make sacrifices in terms of salary and career. Others are torn between staying or returning because of career factors.


I love Australia and want to return and hopefully make a contribution although I will need to compromise my career to do so.

I’d just like to say that I wrote undecided (to the intentions to return question) even though I know I’ll move back to Australia. But at present we don’t know when or how as it depends on employment plus in order for my husband to get a visa I will have to go there before my husband does and perhaps live and work there for more than six months.

We left Australia because in 1980–81, two PhDs in Physics in Adelaide had very little chance of getting reasonably equivalent jobs. We are still here because it is difficult to judge at a distance the costs and benefits of the return... I guess pragmatically we have emigrated but emotionally it feels more like an extended visit.

Table 2.12 Australians in the UK: Main reasons for planning to return to Australia, 2002 (n= 661)

Source: Australian Emigration Survey 2002

It is interesting, too, that there has been an emergence of an increasing number of formal expatriate organisations of which some are international and others focus on a single country. These are becoming significant lobby groups in Australia, especially on issues influencing expatriates such as citizenship and voting rights.

One of the elements, which came through strongly in the survey among many respondents, was an ambivalence toward Australia. This is reflected by the head of one of the leading expatriate organisations:


Many expatriates are bitterly disappointed at how Australians at home, and Australian governments, treat them – perhaps subconsciously – as traitors for having left. At the very least it’s usually out of sight, out of mind. The ‘tall poppy’ syndrome may play a role, which we will never be able to measure. Expats are also punished – inadvertently perhaps – by the failure of Australian governments to properly consider the impact of laws and policies – in some cases the lack thereof – on Australians living abroad.17

It is partly a feeling that expatriates are not included in the mainstream of Australian society despite their size:


I feel expat Australians tend to be forgotten once they leave the country. Only through my own efforts was I able to receive any information via the Embassy here about current events at home. The embassies don’t ever give one the feeling they are particularly interested in us.

Another dimension of this is the ‘tall poppy syndrome’, which was mentioned by several respondents and a feeling that Australia was too inward looking:


My return to Australia in 1997 was a real eye opener. I realised how inward looking it is... If your business is not property development or selling imported products then Australia is a career cul de sac.

It is difficult for people who haven’t lived overseas to view the very unentrepreneurial attitude of the Australian government and tax regime.

I was very disappointed with the inward focus of Australia.

Only family draws me back to Australia. The current Australian political situation is entirely unattractive and reinforces how parochial Australia is.

It has been my personal experience that many Australians feel somehow that leaving Australia for long periods is somehow unnatural.

I feel that London is where I “grew up”: I arrived here when I was 22 years and found independence and confidence in myself and my abilities here.

Every day I read with growing dismay the growing intolerance of political parties and followers towards refugees and asylum seekers and there have been times when I have felt ashamed of Australia and its treatment and attitudes towards human beings fleeing desperate situations, leading me to question my own citizenship.

My brother, myself and two of his best friends were all high achievers and may be a bit more academically adventurous than average Adelaide people. We all separately came to UK and have never returned, finding the scope to grow much greater in UK.

I’m sad about this because Aus is great but nothing I did when working was allowed or valued there... In Aus we were regarded as misfits and odd, in the wider world we have been regarded as entrepreneurial genius types. Unfortunately we have felt Aus has an ethos of “no tall poppies”.

Others who have returned have found that their experience overseas is not only not recognised but seen as a negative when they apply for jobs.


Australia pays a lot of lip service to gaining experience overseas but many employers cannot think outside the square when you’ve done it and returned.

The brain drain will continue until Australia becomes more open-minded and more forward thinking.


Globalisation has seen an exponential increase in the flow across national borders of money, goods, people and ideas, and trans-national networks of all kinds have proliferated. These developments have threatened to undermine several aspects of the nation state as the dominant entity for organising policies, economic development, culture and identity.18 This has led to a significant shift in thinking among many social scientists in the way in which they approach and study political, social and economic phenomena and processes and also of the ‘spatial envelope’ in which they study them. For example, Portes19 has said that it is impossible to understand the sociology of many nations without considering their diaspora. Reis in a similar vein has written:


The emphasis or adherence to the state centric model in the realm of international relations has contributed to the sidelining of entities known as diaspora as a valuable unit of analysis. In this sense, the nation state cannot account for certain features in the emerging global political economy, which can be better explained by using diaspora.20

It could be argued that in a globalising world, a national population should not be defined only as those living within the national boundaries but include the increasing number of citizens living in foreign countries. This represents a challenge across many areas. Dade argues that the most serious challenge posed by globalisation:


... is the massive migration and concomitant rise of transnational communities that obscure national borders and blur the distinction between foreign and local. Economic and social development in these new transnational communities presents an unanswered challenge to traditional development strategies that view communities only as being domestic or foreign.21

The Australian community in the UK is almost as large as the population of Canberra and the total Australian diaspora is around the size of Adelaide. Most expatriates still see themselves as Australians and many feel disenfranchised from the mainstream of Australian life. They are selective of the young, the bright, the innovative and Australians with the highest levels of human capital. If Australia engages them in the social, economic and political life of the country it can benefit considerably as a recent Senate Committee found.22 However, achieving such an engagement will not be easy and will involve divesting ourselves of traditional and deeply entrenched views of the nation state.


1     Ravenstein, 1885, 199.

2     Gemmell, 2003, 9.

3     Britain, 1997, 148, 9; Walton, 2005, 5.

4     Summarised in Hugo, 1994, 29–31.

5     Appleyard and Segal, 1998.

6     Hugo, 2006b.

7     Hugo, Rudd and Harris, 2001, Chapter 3.

8     Hugo, 1994, 87–103.

9     Rendall and Ball, 2004.

10    MacGregor, 2003, 19–20.

11    Hugo, Rudd and Harris, 2003.

12    Ellerman, 2003; Lucas, 2003; Asian Development Bank 2004; Martin, 2004; Johnson and Sedaca, 2004; House of Commons 2004; IOM 2005.

13    Hugo, 2005b.

14    Hugo, 2006a.

15    Gemmell, 2003; Brothers, 2003, 48.

16    Azure, 2003, 30.

17    MacGregor, 2003, 19–20.

18    Castles, 2003.

19    Presentation to Conference on African Migration and Urbanisation in Comparative Perspective, Johannesburg, South Africa, 4–7 June 2003.

20    Reis, 2004.

21    Dade, 2004, 1.

22    Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee 2005.


Asian Development Bank, 2004. ‘Developing the diaspora’. Paper presented at Third Co-ordination Meeting on International Migration, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat, New York, 27–28 October.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. Migration Australia. Various issues. Canberra: ABS.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia. Catalogue No. 3402.0. Canberra: ABS.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005. Migration Australia 2003–04. Catalogue No. 3412.0. Canberra: ABS.

Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee, 2005. They Still Call Australia Home: Inquiry into Australian Expatriates. Department of the Senate, Parliament House: Canberra.

Azure A. 2003. ‘Leaving and belonging’. In Australian Expats: Stories from Abroad, edited by Havenhand B.; MacGregor A. Newcastle, Australia: Global Exchange.

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Cite this chapter as: Hugo, Graeme. 2009. ‘Australians and Britain in 2001: A demographic perspective’. Australians in Britain: The Twentieth-Century Experience, edited by Bridge, Carl; Crawford, Robert; Dunstan, David. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 2.1 to 2.25.


Australians in Britain: The Twentieth-Century Experience

   by Carl Bridge