There is a thing in Tasmania where many people leave the state once they finish school or University. Off to the see the big wide world – or the mainland!
Then many return – usually many years later, often with families and usually looking for a lifestyle change.
I did it too. Off to Melbourne once Uni finished. Back 20 years later.
It is great to read the stories of others and this article gives a great insight into why people are returning to Tassie.
This story from The Mercury.
Homing pigeons return to roots
They call themselves “homing pigeons”, those Tasmanians who feel drawn back to the state they were so desperate to leave when they finished school. They have done the overseas thing or earned their stripes in a big city and feel it is time to return home.
Maybe they have children, or plan to, and want them to enjoy the same small-town, outdoorsy upbringing they enjoyed. Or they are impressed by the cultural revolution sweeping Tasmania, led by MONA but backed up by a raft of great new restaurants and events.
Many are excited about the untapped potential of Tasmania. Hobart chef Oskar Rossi has just returned after many years working in some of the best interstate and overseas restaurants, including Melbourne’s Vue de Monde.
He and Naples-born chef Federica Andrisani fell in love while working together in the high-pressure kitchen of Italy’s one Michelinstarred El Coq. She spoke little English and he spoke little Italian (even less Neapolitan).
“In the beginning the communication was a lot with the hands,” Andrisani says in her now-excellent English. A few months ago the couple moved to Hobart, where their pop-up dinners at Criterion St Cafe are earning rave reviews.
Andrisani says she took little convincing to make the move to Rossi’s home town, having become jaded with the international fine dining scene, where she says visual perfection often overrode flavour.
“After seven years
If the pop-up dinners continue to be popular Rossi says they will look for permanent space.
“We were both at a point where we didn’t want to work for anyone else,” he says.
“Hobart is quite an exciting place to be involved in the restaurant scene because you can have an impact relatively quickly.”
A similar feeling about Tasmania – and a desire to be near family – prompted young sommelier Damien Byrne to give up a high-paced career in Melbourne, where pop stars and royalty were among his customers.
Having earned his credentials at The Atlantic and Grossi Florentino, Byrne is now head sommelier for Me Wah in Sandy Bay.
“I considered Tasmania to be one of the up-and-coming areas in the wine and restaurant scene,” he says.
“I wanted to be part of that having been away for so long.”
Marine biologist Bec Donaldson grew up near Wynyard in Tasmania’s north and, like so many of her friends, was itching to leave by the time she finished her degree.
“I got my dream job studying dolphins straight out of uni, which took me to Fremantle,” Donaldson says. “But I was going anyway, if not working, then backpacking around the world.”
After 15 years away, she has returned to Tasmania while managing to keep her part-time job working for a conservation veterinary program at Murdoch University in Perth.
“I go back to WA sometimes for teaching duties, and we Skype weekly, it’s easy,” Donaldson says.
“I also work at the University of Tasmania, which gives me time with local students and keeps the social balance. Hobart has a great arts scene these days and you can be on the mountain or the beach in 20 minutes.
“Most of my friends moved back in their 30s, with families. Their kids have access to grandparents, and a great lifestyle.”
Although the homing pigeon phenomenon is evident around us, Tasmania is still losing more bright young things than it is getting back.
In 2012-2013, the state lost an estimated 2173 people through net interstate migration, even with all those Gourmet Farmer-types and climate refugees coming in from Sydney and Brisbane.
The State Government is about to release a directions paper on its ambitious plan to boost the population to 650,000 by 2050. It has its work cut out for itself.
At the end of June, an estimated 513,012 people lived in Tasmania, just 2.2 per cent of the nation’s population.
Overall, the state gained just 822 people over the 12 months to June 30, a growth rate of 0.2 per cent compared with the national rate of 1.8 per cent.
By necessity, a key plank in the growth strategy will be initiatives to lure more expats back to the state, something the Minister for State Growth Matthew Groom is all too aware of.
“Giving Tasmanians who have left the state to work interstate or internationally the opportunity to return brings high-level skills and experience back into our economy and is an important objective that will contribute towards reaching our population target,” Groom tells TasWeekend. “The key to getting Tasmanians to return to the state is having the right jobs and opportunities available. We are seeing this start to happen in areas such as construction.”
Those in the building industry are not so sure of that. The number of builders employed in Tasmania peaked at 22,000 in 2011 when the Federal Government’s school-building stimulus package coincided inconveniently with a spike in residential projects.
The jobs didn’t last and an estimated 5000 builders and tradespeople have since left, either opting out of the industry or trying their luck interstate.
The key to getting Tasmanians to return to the state is having the right jobs and opportunities available
“The industry is continually swinging massively between undersupply and oversupply which makes permanent employment opportunities difficult to secure,” Tasmanian team leader for Hutchinson Builders Mick Connolly says.
Once again this year a raft of big projects are coming online, including Federal’s new waterfront hotel, Ali Sultan’s Montpelier Retreat development, Myer and two major university projects.
Master Builders Tasmania chief executive Michael Kerschbaum says the problem is convincing Tasmanians who have left for Western Australia or Queensland that the work will continue.
“They’ve left for a reason and they would have some trepidation in coming back to the state if they’re not certain that work is ongoing after this glut of work is complete,” Kerschbaum says.
He wants the State Government to release a time frame for future work and possibly delay any new public projects until after the current flurry of activity.
Australian Institute of Building Tasmanian chapter president Peter Overton did his carpentry apprenticeship in Hobart in the 1990s before heading interstate.
“I wanted to learn how to build big buildings, but there was very little work in Hobart then,” Overton says.
“After 10 years building in Canberra and Taiwan I returned to Hobart in 2010. It has been a tough market to return to since 2010, but hopefully these major projects coming to Hobart will provide plenty of work and training opportunities for everyone.”
After more than 30 years away, high-profile economist Saul Eslake has upped stumps in Melbourne and returned to Tasmania with his US-born wife Linda Arenella and their children Caroline, 13, and Jonathan, 7.
Eslake, who grew up in Smithton and Hobart, first left in 1981 to work for the Commonwealth Treasury in Canberra and again in 1983 to be economics adviser to Jeff Kennett.
He rose to fame as chief economist for ANZ and is now head number-cruncher for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He and Arenella finally found their dream home, the convict-built Acton House, in 2013 and spent 18 months renovating, moving in just before Christmas.
The fact that Eslake can base his work, analysing economic situations for Merrill Lynch’s Australian clients, from his Tasmanian abode could be a game-changer for the state.
Rather than being seen as a “leach on Australia’s teat”, why not talk up the possibility of being a haven for executives, where they can boost their productivity by escaping the nightmare of peak hour and crippling living costs?
If Eslake can snap up a glorious country estate for $1.8 million (an absolute steal in Sydney or Melbourne terms) and maintain his career from his home office, what is to stop hordes of other high-flyers following suit?
I drove out of here at 9.30am to catch a 10.05am flight and was in the office in Sydney by 12.25pm, I couldn’t have done that from where I lived in Melbourne
Eslake has even shaved some time off his commute to Sydney, where most of his clients are based.
“I drove out of here at 9.30am to catch a 10.05am flight and was in the office in Sydney by 12.25pm, I couldn’t have done that from where I lived in Melbourne,” he says.
“I haven’t persuaded all the sceptics but so far so good. I’m plugged into the Merrill Lynch system, I can do my work just as easily from here, I can do the television interviews at the ABC studio in Hobart, it’s fine.
“I was paying $20 a day for parking in Melbourne and now if I need to go to the office I go downstairs.”
Even from afar Eslake has over the years been an outspoken commentator on the need for better schools and job opportunities in Tasmania.
Now he and his family have settled into their Georgian mansion on Hobart’s Eastern Shore he has a few less obvious suggestions to make the state more attractive.
“The difficulty it is to get a meal on this side of the river after 8pm,” Eslake says. “If you try to go for a meal much after 7.30pm you’re struggling.”
No doubt some of his new neighbours will have a few eating-out tips to solve that problem, but another gripe is Qantas’ treatment of Hobart as a rural outpost.
“Flights to and from Hobart are the only intercapital flights where you don’t get free booze after 4pm,” Eslake says. “It’s a small thing but it says something about how they think about the place.”
More flights in general are needed, he adds, as well as better roads and promotion of the University of Tasmania.
“We have a first-class uni although it’s not always seen as such by people on the mainland,” he says.
The biggest hurdle for the State Government’s ambitious growth plan, the ageing population, is creating an employment area boom in certain industry sectors.
Adele Woodhouse is an award-winning scientist with the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre. She and her husband Samuel Foster, a university technician, spent four years working in France but returned in 2012.
Woodhouse says the time in France was a fantastic learning and cultural experience, but the couple is thrilled to be back on home turf, living at Kingston with their six-month-old son Liam.
“We do world-class research at the Wicking Centre and it is a fantastic place to work,” Woodhouse says.
“I love the lifestyle that is possible in Tasmania, we are five minutes from the beach, a short drive to some wonderful bushwalks and great fishing. There is also an impressive array of restaurants around Hobart with some wonderful food.”
It is no surprise so many “homing pigeons” mention restaurants when discussing Tasmania’s liveability. Melbourne’s restaurant scene was a key reason the city took out number one spot in The Economist’s global liveability index last year.
Byrne says the scrapping of penalty rates would do wonders to boost the profitability of local restaurants and lead to greater investment in businesses, thus creating more jobs.
As with Rossi and Andrisani, the challenge will be keeping Byrne in the state long-term. Rossi says chefs and other hospitality workers crave their own food adventures so Tasmania needs enough new venues and events to keep them excited. “It’s that roll-on effect,” he says. “The other challenge is running a business during the winter.” Donaldson also says those who have lived in big cities “crave arts and culture”, so support for visionaries such as the MONA team and entrepreneur Graeme Wood is essential.
“I know one dynamic couple who just moved from WA to Triabunna, because they’re excited about the proposed arts-tourism hub and want to be involved,” Donaldson says. “They’re hoping politics can be kept out of investment.”
Most of all, Donaldson believes, we have to “dispel the myths” about Tasmania.
“We’re not a backwater,” she says. “We’ve always had a great natural environment, we now have great arts and culture. Our communities are getting more diverse, and supportive of diversity.
“Worldwide, job opportunities are changing, becoming more global.
We might need to retrain, up-skill, be adventurous and informed about the world to take advantage of that. That’s OK, we learned those skills when we left home.”
Are you a homing pigeon? Or a wannabe homing pigeon? We would love to hear your story.