Scott Morrison has indicated Australians stuck overseas will be able to return and quarantine at home later this year.
The prime minister used a pre-recorded video message to acknowledge the frustration of citizens and permanent residents blocked from returning because of border closures.
"We are looking forward to welcoming many people back home soon. We can get there this year," Mr Morrison told an awards ceremony for high-achieving Australians working overseas.
"I thank you once again for your patience and enduring what has been a very frustrating and very difficult time for you."
Home quarantine is expected to become the norm for returning Australians as vaccination rates increase at home and abroad.
A 50-person trial in South Australia used facial recognition and location technology to ensure people were at home during three random checks each day.
Mr Morrison has declared home quarantine is the way forward when Australia hits an over-16 vaccination coverage target of 80 per cent.
"I know for Australians overseas it has been a very difficult and frustrating time," the prime minister said.
"It's tough living through a pandemic and being separated from your family and that's brought its own heartbreak, life's moments missed that you will never get back."
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese argues the prime minister made commitments in the lead up to last Christmas to clear a backlog of people registered to return home.
"It's now September 2021 and he's now saying you'll be home some time in the future," Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.
Australia is preparing to roll out vaccine passports from October to pave the way for international travel to resume.
The opposition leader said there was nothing new in countries requiring immunisation against other infectious diseases.
"This will be a fact of life for people to undertake activities such as international travel," Mr Albanese said.
Australian Associated Press