Door open to attract world-class skilled migrants


James Riley
Editorial Director

The successful government response to the coronavirus pandemic had created an opportunity for Australia to attract world-class talent as migrants into the nation’s growing technology sector, according to Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar.

While the long-term success of the industry rested on continued investment in education and the domestic tech skills pipeline, the international profile of the success in Australia in dealing with the early phases of the pandemic was an opportunity.

“The government has done an incredible job in Australia. If you look around the world in terms of the COVID response, I would put us near the top – if not the top country,” Mr Farquhar said.

“That’s obviously the first thing for governments to do – to keep their citizens safe – and we were lucky in that Atlassian here in Sydney. And they are all safe,” he said.

Mike Cannon-Brookes Scott Farquhar
Atlassian Central: Founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar

“There may be an opportunity, with other countries closing down their borders completely or people not wanting to travel to those countries, there may be an opportunity for people – with appropriate quarantining – to be attracted to come and work in Australia.”

“There is an opportunity in immigration there. That’s an area I would focus on in response to COVID.”

Speaking at the unveiling of Atlassian’s plans to build a 40-storey global headquarters building within the Sydney Technology and Innovation Precinct adjacent to Central railway station, Mr Farquhar said the city had done well in recent years in building entrepreneurial capacity in the tech sector.

Investment in education remained the single biggest contribution that government could make in creating better commercial tech outcomes for the nation.

“Obviously long-term for technology, for Sydney and for Australia, education is the biggest thing [for] getting people into science and technology jobs,” he said.

“We have long said that immigration is a short-term fix – to get great talent here and train the next generation – but the long-term benefit is had through having an educated workforce.”

The creation of the Sydney Startup Hub was a good start in building visible community of tech entrepreneurs, the Precinct was going to be ten times as big.

The Atlassian co-founders, who have been on board with the planning for the Precinct since it was first mooted, have consistently argued that the technology sector needs a geographic home – and that scale brings its own rewards.

“If you want to be a judge, you can go to the Supreme Court and see how that works. If you want to be a doctor, you can visit hospitals and see how they work. And here in Sydney, if you want to become part of the technology industry – one of the largest industries in the world – you can come down to Tech Central and see how the technology industry works.”

“We are embarking on this design and this construction [of our HQ] in the middle of COVID when the world economy is depressed, and so it is even more important that Atlassian is investing now to develop jobs and to develop this part of Sydney,” Mr Farquhar said.

“We believe that technology can turbocharge the recovery of our economy.”

The founders said the local of the Precinct adjacent to Central station would make it easily accessible commute to anyone in Sydney.

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes said “the Atlassian building will be an amazing example of the type of smart, green recovery projects that our economy needs as we emerge from the COVID-19 period.”

“The Tech Central precinct will be a place where people can come to build the world’s best technology, from all over Sydney and hopefully from all over Australia and the world [and] bring their ideas, their creativity and their talent to build the technology that we rely on every day.”

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4 Comments
  1. Sarah 4 days ago
    Reply

    Let’s uplift our country and create jobs in Australia! The money stays in Australia and the benefits snowball throughout our economy. These days you can work from anywhere. All you need is a decent laptop, reliable internet connection, good team mates and a great hardworking attitude!

  2. andy 6 days ago
    Reply

    Instead of attracting migrants, Why not have Aussie ICT companies develop ICT traineeships/apprenticeships programs to address the IT Skills Shortage situation (by attracting domestic Talent &/or Career changers). That way we don’t have over supply of grads with Useless Outdated IT degrees who cannot get employed by the ICT industry & be lock with student debt.

  3. Omar 6 days ago
    Reply

    How much sense is there in spending tens of millions more on yet another urban innovation hub in an already choked centre when the regions (and outer rings of Sydney) are crying out for modest support to help them kick-start more entrepreneurship activity to support growing regional populations?

    Silicon Valley is after all not San Francisco (originally it was centred on San Jose). It is now hundreds of square miles of decentralised centres and linked to even more across the state and region. It may be more equivalent of Wollongong to Newcastle to Penrith. If we want to replicate the conditions for innovation, we must first de-couple this outdated strategy of forcing increased concentration in just one city centre, never mind one or two buildings.

    With people now more at ease working from home or in clusters, the government desperately needs to update their thinking. In an era of COVID-19, you’d think they would already be on notice. The recent AFR headline “Businesses give up office space in Sydney CBD” as part of a predicted trend should offer the next inescapable clue – and grounds for concern.

  4. Dennis 6 days ago
    Reply

    People with genuine talent (the Elon Musk types) arrive in Australia, but Australian predudice means that they are unemployable except for end-of-lease cleaning, Uber Eats driving, etc. Not long ago the Australian prime minister promoted Australia as “the Innovation Nation” but was promptly kicked out. Both major Australian political parties maintain a system of mateship, where “discretion” is given as the reason for something that is actually crippling prejudice.

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