Unique isolation vs networks of opportunity: Re-turn migration by young people to Tasmania

15 Nov 2008

Despite the recent population growth experienced by the state, Tasmania continues to lose more young adults than it attracts. This paper starts from the premise that to begin to answer the question of why these young people move, we must first try to comprehend how they understand their migration decisions and recognise that such understandings are intricately tied to their understandings of particular places.

Place construction – or the way people understand and discuss the nature and meaning of places - occurs at all levels from individual constructions to constructions by economic and political interest groups. These place constructions necessarily permeate and influence each other, and as a result these constructions are in constant flux and reflect the power relations evident in society. At the moment, bounded constructions of Tasmania – which stress the physical isolation and social and political insularity of the state as well as the uniqueness of the state’s environment and society - appear to be dominant.

This is true among the young people the author spoke with, in the State Government and among commercial actors. However, bounded constructions can only exist in relation to networked constructions. Such networked constructions – which focus on the opportunities for people, ideas, goods and money to benefit through connections with other places as well as the loss of the uniqueness of the Tasmanian environment and society - appear to be gaining increased prominence. This is especially the case within the State Government, which has recently released initiatives to foster ties with Tasmanians interstate and overseas, and campaigns to promote Tasmanian goods and the Tasmanian environment in order to increase exports and tourism.

This paper discusses the political, economic and social consequences of different forms of place construction for young migrants, the State Government and other economic actors in Tasmania.

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