The big movers: understanding population mobility in regional Australia

Population growth Regional economics Regional planning Australia

Current population debates are considering how to balance population growth across Australia better, and what mechanisms might work to encourage people to live in regional Australia. But Australia’s population is already highly mobile; we move more often than 80 per cent of other OECD countries. More than 39 per cent of Australians change their address every five years, compared to an international average of 21 per cent.

This report shows that people are already ‘voting with their feet’, and many are already choosing to live in regional Australia. Between 2011 and 2016 more than 1.2 million people either moved to regional Australia or moved around regional Australia from one location to another. So the policy questions are more about how can we understand and amplify the drivers of these movements towards regional Australia, rather than how to make people move.

These mobility movements are similar by scale and direction of trend over time. For both the most recent (2011 to 2016) and earlier (2006 to 2011) Census periods, data show more people are moving to regions from capital cities than the other way. Over the 2011-16 period, 65,204 more people moved to regions, and in 2006-11 this number was 70,493 people.

As well as analysing the flow of people of all ages to and from regional Australia, this report takes a closer look at the way that millennials (20-35-year-olds) moved to and between regional communities. The focus on this age group is of particular interest to policymakers, as it consists of families as well as early-to-mid career professionals and tradespersons, all of whom can boost the human and social capital of regional communities. People in this age group are highly desired regional residents and have the potential to become long-term community members.

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