Australia is moving to the regions…or are we just shifting the cities?

by | Sep 30, 2021

By now, it should be no surprise to you that regional Australia is having a purple patch. Families and young singles are heading for the regions. Regional house prices have jumped 22 per cent in just one year. The last ABS statistics are for 2019 – 2020, but there is plenty of up-to-date research documenting what is happening.

Australians are departing the major cities (primarily Sydney and Melbourne) for a variety of reasons, all of which are not difficult to guess and make perfect sense:

  • lockdowns
  • cost of living
  • housing costs
  • lifestyle and pace of living.

But is that the full story?

As a regional Australian with a vested and emotional interest in seeing regional Australia flourish, I heartily welcome this trend. In fact, one of the first blog posts I wrote when COVID-19 started making its presence felt was about the opportunity it presented for the regions. I still believe that those opportunities exist and I continue to do everything I can to encourage more new friends and neighbours.

However, the headline figures on internal migration may not be telling the full story. We need to drill a little further into the data.

If we examine the movement statistics in more detail, we can see where the movers are going. The people moving from the big cities are moving to other big cities that are near the big cities they just left – just not quite as big.

The people moving from the big cities are moving to … other big cities

  • Gold Coast Queensland
  • Sunshine Coast Queensland
  • Greater Geelong Victoria
  • Wollongong New South Wales
  • Newcastle New South Wales
  • Launceston Tasmania.

Between March 2020 and March 2021, just five local government areas have attracted the lion’s share of capital city escapees:

  • Noosa, Queensland (49 per cent)
  • Southern Downs, Queensland (44  per cent)
  • Port Macquarie-Hastings, NSW (38  per cent)
  • Launceston, Tasmaina (34  per cent)
  • Fraser Coast, Queensland (26  per cent).

Regional – with a sea view …

Note, that with the exception of Southern Downs, all those Local Government Areas are located by the ocean. So, it seems that our movers are overwhelmingly heading to coastal cities that aren’t Sydney or Melbourne.

That observation begs the obvious question. How long will it be before the lifestyle factors that prompted a move to, say, the Sunshine Coast, are replicated in the new location? Given my recent visit to the Sunshine Coast, I would answer “Not long”!

What’s the barrier?

What is stopping the city escapees from moving more than 1.5 hours away from their former homes? A lack of adventurous spirit? Fear of the outback?

From my reading of the research, the problem is mostly a lack of knowledge and understanding. Our potential new regional citizens are worried about a lack of:

  • entertainment
  • infrastructure
  • community
  • career growth prospects, and
  • employment prospects.

I could go through that list and address each item individually – in fact I most probably will do that in other posts and blog articles.

Suffice to say that there are communities in regional Australia that don’t have a sea view, but offer pretty much everything on that list – and more. It is our responsibility to make a convincing pitch that will attract new people to our regions, but I implore those of you considering a move to please consider breaking that ‘1.5 hour from the CBD’ barrier.

What matters now is “connectography”, not geography. COVID-19 has given us about 10 years of digital innovation in under 18 months. Yes, you can move inland without fear!

This post first appeared on on September 28, 2021.