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Northern Territory-raised Dr Tanzil Rahman surprised friends and family when he gave up a high-flying life in Europe to return to Darwin.

He was making a big name for himself following the completion of his doctorate at the University of Oxford and continuing as a research fellow when he made the momentous decision to fly home.

“People keep asking me, ‘Did something go wrong in England?’ And I laugh and say, ‘No, I just wanted to finally come home and try to make a contribution in the community where I was brought up, in the place I love most.

“The Territory is filled with promise and potential. As good as my life was in Oxford, I wanted to return here to work with others to help realise that potential. I’m hoping I can do more good in Darwin than by being an academic in England.

“It’s about what you do in life to improve the journey for those you share the journey with.”

He spent more than decade, on and off, based in Oxford, and working across the globe.

Tanzil is delighted to be home in Darwin, which he describes as a “remarkable” city.

“There’s so much activity, so much going on, right across the board. We have a unique lifestyle – one that’s worth nurturing and sharing.”

Tanzil is an expert in something close to the Territory’s economic heart: migration.

While at the English-speaking world’s oldest university, he researched how governments maintain competitiveness in the global market for skilled migrants, and new models for advancing migration policy.

His ideas have been presented at assemblies, including the UN Global Forum for Migration and Development, Metropolis International, and to policymakers and private sector stakeholders widely.

The NT is in desperate need of newcomers to support its population and workforce – there are job vacancies across all industries and sectors. Meanwhile, population growth has slowed considerably in the past decade, as has overseas migration to the NT.

Tanzil says competition for skilled migrants is increasingly fierce around the world.

“The Territory is on the cusp of economic opportunity and we must find new ways to grow our population in a sustainable way,” he says. “There’s no shortage of skilled workers in the world. It’s all about matching the supply and demand, and harnessing facilitation mechanisms.”

Tanzil was born in Canberra but moved to Darwin at the age of two after his mother Nasreen visited relatives in the Territory, loved the multiculturalism of the place, and announced: “We’re moving.”

His grandfather, Mohammad Nurul Huq OAM, had migrated to Australia from Bangladesh after the 1971 civil war between East and West Pakistan, known by Bangladeshis as the Liberation War.

He helped build the first mosque in Darwin.

His father Jillur is a retired mathematics teacher and still lives in the Territory.

Tanzil grew up in Karama and went to Sanderson primary and high schools.

“I had amazing, dedicated teachers,” he says. “I enjoyed a happy childhood and access to fantastic educational and extracurricular opportunities.”

His passion outside of research work is music.

Tanzil is a fine saxophonist and was the first Territorian to gain entry into the elite jazz performance program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

He later became prominent in the Oxford University big band, orchestral and jazz scene as a musical director, principal saxophonist and concerto soloist, leading ensemble tours to several international festivals.

Not surprisingly, he has joined the Darwin Chorale since returning home.

“I can’t imagine not having music in my life. Some people need to run every day. I need to play music.”

Before moving to England on a Commonwealth scholarship, Tanzil gained a law degree with first class honours and an economics degree with first class honours from the University of Sydney. He was awarded the University Medal for a thesis on Welfare Reform in North Australia.

He has previously worked as a management consultant, government executive, project manager, and political advisor.

Tanzil has another love: cricket. He was a junior cricketer for PINT in Darwin and a wicketkeeper for Oxford University’s Authentics and the Hertford College first Xl.

“Truthfully though, I was only ever a journeyman cricketer,” he says. “My sporting ambition always far outstripped my ability.”