Except for a few short periods of sustained growth, demographic records since the 1840s reflect that the island of Tasmania has suffered a population loss often in excess of natural and migratory increase. Today on the Australian mainland the number of expatriate Tasmanians, and particularly descendants of ex-Tasmanians, account for a sizeable portion of the nation's population. To a much lesser extent, expatriate Tasmanians and their descendants are to be found in many other parts of the world.
Until the late 1840s the population of the island, with the arrival of convicts and free settlers, rose dramatically. The first expatriates left Tasmania to settle Victoria in the 1830s for new opportunities and possibly to escape the convict stain. In the early 1850s the gold rush in Victoria and New South Wales ushered in a long and serious period of loss of population, and many of those who left did not return. In 1853 there was an exodus of nearly 18,000 people, and during the 1850s about 45,000 people, including about 10,000 convict passholders and ex-convicts, left Tasmania. The trend has continued in a lesser way almost to the present day, with brief periods of growth, first in the mining boom of the 1880s and 1890s, and then after the two world wars.
Most expatriates left for economic reasons, to find work and better themselves on the mainland. Some were attracted by warmer climates. Currently there is a growing trend for expatriates to return, to retire at home. For people with talent and ambition to progress in their disciplines, lack of opportunity has been cited as the main reason for leaving Tasmania. Of the many thousands who have left over the years, most proudly acknowledge their origins. A few have made their mark nationally and internationally, achieving fame and recognition. They include: politician: Sir William Lyne, premier of New South Wales 1899–1901 before joining the first federal ministry; diplomats: Ralph Harry, Stephen FitzGerald, Ashton Calvert; artists: WG Piguenit, Jean Bellette, Oliffe Richmond; musicians: Amy Sherwin, Eileen Joyce, Peter Sculthorpe, Stuart Challender; actors: Errol Flynn, Merle Oberon (at least by reputation), Max Oldaker, John Clark, Robyn Nevin, Essie Davis; dancers: Kenneth Gillespie, Graeme Murphy; writers: Christopher Koch; journalists: Neil Davis, Tim Bowden; photographer: Frank Hurley; academics: Lloyd Robson, Marilyn Lake, Peter Conrad; financier: Roland Wilson, governor of the Commonwealth Bank; economist; LF Giblin; businessmen: Hudson Fysh, Ivan Holyman; health innovator: F Matthias Alexander; sportsmen: many footballers in particular, including Peter Hudson, Royce Hart; and most recently, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.