IT WAS referred to as ‘the Push’, a heady fraternity of Australian artists, intellectuals and journalists who weaved their way towards London and the UK in the 60s and 70s, making a mark on the culture and fabric of UK society that would have reverberations both here and back home.
Starting as a loose movement of talented and energetic individuals based in Sydney, including John Olsen, Robert Hughes, Frank Moorhouse, Brett Whitley, Clive James and Germaine Greer, the group soon chaffed against the perceived conservatism of an Australia only just emerging from the shackles of a staid and homely 50s and a colonial past.
They fled, in the direction of liberal Europe and UK to become part of the creative film, music and theatre ‘scenes’, rarely to return to Australia’s sunny shores again.
The move can best be personified by the journey of the Oz — a psychedelic, underground, counter-culture commentary in the form of a magazine. Initially produced and distributed in Sydney in the early 60s, it made the journey with its co-editor Richard Neville to London in 1966. Here it, and its editor, stayed, attracting regular contributions from the rest of ‘the Push’.
It is a journey that has been replicated by countless Aussies in the generations since, the two year working holiday in the UK almost becoming a rite of passage for under-30s Australians. Particularly in the giddy days of the 2000’s, before the financial crisis, the exodus reached a peak with Aussie’s looking to capitalize on currency conversion rates that turned pounds into liquid gold back home.
Now, it seems, the flow has slowed, and may even be shifting in the opposite direction, with new research produced by the UK Home Office demonstrating key trends in the long-term emigration of UK residents.
The findings have led to fears of a possible ‘brain drain’ from UK professional industries of British workers to countries perceived to have greater economic opportunities for skilled employees.
The proportion of emigrants in professional or managerial roles has increased from 37% in 1991 to nearly 48% in 2010. The report identifies that a key driver of emigration in recent years is to find work or pursue an already established job opportunity. 72% of emigrants from the UK in 2011 identified they were leaving for work-related reasons. The loss of workers with valuable knowledge and experience has led the report to warn of significant “implications for the availability of skills in the UK”.
Also see: Move To Australia guide to migrating Down Under
One of the most popular destinations within this emigration flow is Australia, and there are now 1.2m (out of an estimated 4.7m) UK-born emigrants living Down Under. Australia is the top destination for emigrants aged 44 years and under.
Over the period 2000-2010 Australia has received 22% of British nationals who have emigrated, and according to the report Australia “has consistently been the most popular destination for British emigrants over the last few decades”.
It also seems that once the British head Down Under, it’s not just for a week’s holiday on Bondi Beach. Almost half (49%) of British citizens migrating to Australia planned to stay for more than four years, and 41% for at least one to two years.
It seems Australia is now exerting more of a pull than a push.