This paper draws upon the 2001 census to examine the impact of national economic reform on the growth of regional cities. The paper argues that regional cities in Australia have taken on new roles within both their region and the national economy. It argues that deregulation of the economy has contributed to the growth of some regional cities and especially those that have been able to deepen their economies. Through the use of regression analysis, the paper suggests that regional centres that have witnessed an increase in the level of specialisation within their economy have, on average, grown more quickly than other cities. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for our understanding of the evolution of urban systems.