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Higher rates of population growth in our big cities are not driven by Australians moving from the regions to the city. Regional Australia has lower population growth than the cities because it does not attract its share of international migrants.

Overall, the migration of Australians is generally in balance, with young people leaving regions for the city and working age and older people moving out. International immigration is responsible for over half the population growth in Australia. If more international migrants settled in regional Australia, our regional population would grow at the same pace or even faster than the capital cities.

International migrants make their most important contribution in small rural towns that are most at risk of population decline. For more than 100 mostly small rural areas, international migration was their only source of population growth. These places include Naracoorte and Lucindale (SA), Banana (Qld), Circular Head (Tas) and Carnarvon (WA).

These are mostly ageing places and migrants are often young and ambitious. They not only provide population stability, they also build diversity in the local community and create new jobs. Regional communities can increase migration to their areas if they are proactive. Dalwallinu (WA) and Nhill (Vic) have achieved significant population growth through community led international migration strategies. Others can follow their lead.

International migrants are missing from our vision of a successful regional Australia. A better balance of regional and metropolitan migration will help to reduce the congestion issues in our big cities. It can also result in much better outcomes for migrants. Often international migrants are seen as an option of last resort for regional communities that need more people.

This Talking Point suggests they should be the top priority.

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