This article explores the characteristics of commuting between small towns and regional centres located beyond the sphere of metropolitan influence in an Australian context. In regional Australia there are a number of economic, social and demographic trends affecting small towns and regional areas. In respect to commuting, the majority of analysis has occurred within a metropolitan setting, despite the prevalence of commuting in rural and regional areas. This research used census data to explore socio-economic characteristics of commuters in rural and peri-urban regions in Victoria, Australia.
It is suggested that those small towns located within the commuter field or sphere of influence of the nearest regional centre have become part of an economic network and that the role of these small towns is integrated within these functional regions. Within these functional regions it is suggested that mobility has filled a void in employment created by the economic and demographic trends that have affected regional Australia. The research identifies unique characteristics in respect to gender and socio-economic status of commuters from small rural towns. These results demonstrate that commuting is a distinctive phenomenon within regions beyond metropolitan influence, revealing differences to patterns within metropolitan regions.