TASMANIA has many assets, but there is one that is not being engaged fully, the Tasmanian expat community.
Too often politicians ask why do Tasmanians leave, instead of asking, how can we benefit from those who live away?
This community of Tasmanians living abroad has skills and passion for Tasmania: an important mix, which Tasmania could gain from.
In the 2011-12 financial year, 2552 people left Tasmania. I also moved from Tasmania about five years ago, and have lived interstate and overseas.
Like many others I left Tasmania with a heavy heart, to work in a field just not available on the island. But I come home often; maintain close links to the state; and my hope is to one day return for good.
Where I live now, the Tasmanian expat community is large; their skills are strong and diverse; and their passion for Tasmania is clear.
Many moved away to advance their careers and for opportunities not available on the island, but there is often a sense of unease, sometimes even guilt about leaving Tasmania.
Many expats maintain a strong identity as being Tasmanian. This mix of high skills and deep attachment to home is something Tasmania must properly harness.
How can we best gather those feelings of connection and obligation? How can we link Tasmanians living away back to the island, for more than just two weeks over Christmas? How can we use their attributes for the betterment of the state?
There are many ways Tasmanians abroad can support their home state.
Economically, expats invest a great deal. They buy airfares home, and when they get back to the island, they spend much in the local economy. Every expat I know proudly has a list of Tasmanian recommendations for all their Melbourne friends (and on your way to MONA, stop into this little bakery). Tasmanian expats are often aware of the latest happenings and emerging Tasmanian brands. They are a ready-made export market, with strong networks. Can this be developed? Can these expats be made stronger brand ambassadors for Tasmanian tourism, products and businesses? Can we stimulate the Tasmanian economy through Tasmanian networks off the island?
The potential benefits are social too. It is possible to strengthen those ties that bind expat Tasmanians to their first home, and in doing so, improve relationships and social cohesion between Tasmanians on and off the Island. Those expats who eventually return might find this easier.
Those who never move back will still feel that they are valuable to their home state.
The issues that Tasmanian society faces in this transition time might also benefit.
Tasmanians abroad have skills that can be linked to particular Tasmanian projects; experiences that can improve Tasmanian happenings; knowledge that can be drawn upon by government and non-government sectors alike. They can provide information to improve Tasmania's social fabric.
In a globalising world, we cannot afford to be overly parochial; we have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes and successes of those elsewhere. This network can connect Tasmania to the world.
With technology and social media, it is easier than ever to tap into this resource.
With Tasmania to be the first state to have full roll-out of the National Broadband Network, there is potential as never before to connect Tasmanian expats back to their island home. Some possibilities for growing and supporting this resource might include a Tasmanian parliamentary secretary for external engagement.
Another option might be a community organisation. In New Zealand, the organisation Kea aims to reach and motivate expatriate Kiwis and friends of New Zealand to increase their contribution to New Zealand - thereby turning them into a strategic national asset.
The potential for something similar for Tasmania is exciting.
Whether in Melbourne or Manhattan, Tasmanians abroad are carving out lives, careers, and relationships away from their original home. These things should be celebrated.
And in celebrating them, we can facilitate deeper involvement for expat Tasmanians with their home state for mutual benefit.
SOPHIE RIGNEY is a Melbourne-based Tasmanian, undertaking a PhD in international criminal procedure at the Melbourne Law School.