The ambitious plan to connect a million Aussie expats with employers back home

An ambitious plan to connect Australia’s one million expats with jobs back home will be launched by the Advance organisation – the only group that connects Australians living and working overseas. 

The federal government-funded in partnership with global job site Indeed has released research showing many highly-skilled Australian expats find it extremely difficult to find work when they return home. 

“It’s time Australia recognised that the market is global, that capital flows globally – and Aussie talent isn’t just at home – it’s global too,” said Maria MacNamara, the newly appointed CEO of Advance.

Maria MacNamara, CEO of

“We can do better at demonstrating the value to Australia of employing bold Australian professionals, who have overcome challenges and shown the determination to succeed in a foreign land,” she said.

“There are corporations, universities and government employers all missing out on our own highly-valued Australian talent,” she said.

MacNamara said that Advance is building a platform to digitally connect Aussies with Australian organisations who need access to their skills.  The platform will be launched in late 2020.

“Australian business leaders are desperately seeking skills, technology and investment opportunities to keep their companies competitive. They want professionals in the areas of cybersecurity, data, robotics and AI.” said MacNamara.

MacNamara said that Advance would help Australian recruiters and corporations connect with the off-shore talent-pool.

Australia’s skill shortage has prompted the Federal Government to deploy government staff overseas to recruit 5000 highly-skilled workers in a range of industries – with a particular focus on the tech sector.

It recently announced it was targeting the United States, Singapore, Santiago, Shanghai and Dubai in an ambitious search for international talent, however,  the recruiters have not been told to focus on Australian talent.

“That’s where we can assist,” said MacNamara. “Advance is central to solving this challenge, and we think the government can be looking at Australian expats first,” she said. is in constant contact with Australians living and working overseas who receive updates and attend events in places like Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Jakarta, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo and London. 

“We need to expand and connect with expats in more places like Hanoi, Tel-Aviv, Toronto, Dubai and Dublin,” said MacNamara.

“We will be ramping up our programs to celebrate and introduce talented Australian expats directly to those who want to tap into their unique skills,” she said.

Advance will hold the Advance Awards this month to recognise some of Australia’s most impressive expats and next year for the first time they will introduce the Australian World Summit as part of their ongoing efforts to promote expats.

“It is time to showcase more of our talent and the opportunities they bring with them, from economies around the world that are at the cutting edge,” she said.

MacNamara said that Advance has intentionally relocated to Stone & Chalk in the Sydney Startup Hub to connect with corporates, entrepreneurs and investors looking to expand.

It currently partners with companies like NAB, Atlassian, KPMG and GE Health.

“We want to connect our expats with all future-focused organisations that see their market as global,” she said.

“Most people are surprised that close to a million Australians live and work abroad. We know many high-skilled workers leave Australia to gain experience overseas,” said MacNamara.

Professor Carolyn McGregor AM, Canada Research Chair (Alumni) in Health Informatics, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Advance Awards winner Professor Carolyn McGregor, an expat who moved to Canada to take up a Research Chair position, is an example.  McGregor has led pioneering research in big data analytics, internet of things, serious games and cloud computing.

She does this research within the context of critical care medicine, homecare, mental health, astronaut health, along with military and civilian tactical and firefighter training. While McGregor hasn’t returned home, she is now collaborating with UTS and WA Health – sharing her global experience and IP. 

“Winning the Advance Tech Innovation Award has allowed me to build a professional network in Australia and give back to my country, thanks to Advance,” said McGregor.

Yasmin Allen, Chairman of Advance

Chairman of Advance Yasmin Allen said that the board of Advance had appointed MacNamara as CEO because of her experience in digital transformation, entrepreneurship and innovation.

“Our new drive will be about identifying Australian ingenuity and more actively linking it to our public and private sector organisations, as well as research institutions and Universities,” she said.

“We can supercharge the engine driving our economy if we tap into the large and amazingly talented pool of global Australian talent.  They can be game-changers in the new digital economy.

“Our next step will be a ‘shout out’ to all the talented Australians living abroad to make sure they’ve registered with Advance,” she concluded.