The author challenges the myth that non-metropolitan areas in Australia are less dynamic and less differentiated than metropolitan areas. He seeks to dispel this myth by considering population shifts in the non-metropolitan sector and summarising trends in their size, composition and spatial distribution. He shows that by comparison with the major cities or the dispersed rural population, country towns have the fastest rate of population increase. However, the growth of some rural towns is counter-balanced by the severe decline of others. The author concludes that if the policies and programs formulated to overcome problems in nonmetropolitan areas are to be effective, they must be designed around accurate demographic information about the area rather than stereotypical assumptions.