Over the five year period between 1991 and 1996, more than 6.5 million Australians - 43 per cent of the total population - changed their place of usual residence.
This represents one of the highest levels of mobility in the world. While the broad structure of internal migration in Australia remained similar to the 1980s, a number of subtle but important shifts have occurred in the 1990s, both in the characteristics of the migrants and in their patterns of movement. Key changes include:
- a small increase in the proportion of people changing residence;
- an older migrant profile with higher rates of movement especially among people of prime working age;
- dramatically increased outflows from South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria in favour of Queensland, accompanied by reduced losses from New South Wales and the Northern Territory and an abrupt halt to gains in the ACT;
- continued population gains in coastal areas, though at a lower level than in the 1980s; and
- sustained out-migration from much of the inland.
These changes in the level and patterns of movement reflect a combination of long term trends, particularly economic restructuring and population ageing, and the impact of periodic events such as the withdrawal of services from country areas, downsizing of the public sector, the imposition of stringent economic policies, and reduced immigration from overseas.
The report also underlines the central role of internal migration among the overseas-born community in Australia's changing pattern of human settlement.