While hundreds of thousands of Australians returned in 2020, and thousands more struggled to, most expatriates stayed put – here some share why

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the foreign affairs department estimated there were about one million Australians living overseas at any given time. This year, between March and October about 398,000 Australians forked out thousands of dollars and navigated strict border controls to return home, many for good. At least another 36,000 wanted to return, but were unable to do so. Which means that most decided to stay where they were – and for some the events of 2020 crystallised exactly why.

“It’s difficult to feel a sense of belonging when fellow Australians act like they don’t want us to come home,” says Ashton Hollwarth, a vet who moved from Perth to the UK five years ago. “People say things like ‘Well, you chose to stay there’ and ‘you were told to come home’ when I have friends that spent thousands trying and had so many flights cancelled. The way Aussies in Australia turned on Aussies abroad is hurtful and a little frightening.”

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