Our expatriates make an enormous economic and intellectual contribution, but very little of this benefits Australia. Like a vast mineral or gas deposit that is marked on all the maps but that nobody shows any interest in exploring, our overseas community largely sits there unused. I believe the time has come to mobilise the Australian diaspora, and to establish a co-ordinated framework through which our high-achieving expats can direct their knowledge and experience back home.
A simple, low-cost, starting point would be a Federal Government program of "return fellowships", through which expats from a range of backgrounds could come home for repeated short visits - perhaps two to three months a year for five successive years. Such a scheme would provide Australia with access to brilliant minds from prestigious overseas-based institutions, at a cost vastly lower than that needed to lure these people back home permanently. Return fellowships would also give our brightest international stars the chance to contribute to Australia's economy, productivity and intellectual output, without forcing them to "choose" between the Australian and overseas experiences.
I'll restate that I'm not adverse to helping people who want to stay, stay. I also support aiding the return of human capital that wishes to do so. But for those folks who want to leave and prefer living far from Pittsburgh, the region should not turn its back on this wealth of talent.
I understand the motivation to call a city's favorite daughters and sons home. But the better approach is to figure out a way to tap the Cleveburgh Diaspora, putting it to work in our shrinking communities. Establishing Cleveburgh Return Fellowships would be a great first step.