Millennials Making Big Move to Regions


Regional Australia attracted more people than it lost to capital cities during the last census, reveals a new report, which also found Sydney lost more millennials to the regions than it gained between 2011 and 2016.

Regional Australia Institute’s “Big Movers” report examines how Covid-19’s aftershocks may affect regional population trends, as a growing number of millennials look to regional areas over capital city living.

“While 178,961 millennials moved to capital cities from regional Australia, more than 200,000 moved between regions,” Regional Australia Institute chief executive Liz Ritchie said.

Top 12 regions for millennials

LGAStateNumber of millennials moving inLGA population, 2016
Gold CoastQLD24,714555,724
Sunshine CoastQLD13,359294,365
Lake MacquarieNSW8,742197,373
Greater GeelongVIC7,454233,426
Greater BendigoVIC5,190110,479

^2011- 2016. Source: Regional Australia Institute

The report unpacks population trends around the country, taking in national census data from between 2011 and 2016.

The research places an emphasis on millennials—people aged between 20 and 35 years at the 2016 census date—because the cohort is likely to have young families, be working at early-mid career levels or in trades, and is also increasingly likely to purchase residential property in regional areas.

“Like all Australians who moved between 2011 and 2016, the mobility of millennials reflects a ‘voting with their feet’ to find the mix of work and lifestyle that they value,” Ritchie said.

“Some 37,000 millennials moved from Sydney to regions, with 32,500 moving the other way.”

Sydney was the only city to see a net outflow of millennials between 2011 and 2016. All other cities saw net inflows of millennials, with Brisbane and Melbourne each seeing the largest inflows, more than 10,000.

The top three regional destinations for millennials to move to during the last census period were the Gold Coast, Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast.

The top 12 destinations—all large regional centres—also include Greater Geelong, Cairns, Toowoomba, Ballarat, Maitland, Greater Bendigo and Lake Macquarie.

Movement between capital cities and regions

CityFrom city to regionalFrom regional to cityDifference

^ 2011-2016. Source: Regional Australia Institute

How’s the serenity?

Figures show 501,643 people moved from capital cities into regional Australia between 2011 and 2016, while 436,439 people moved from regions to the capital cities for the period.

“From 2011 to 2016, our two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, lost more residents to regions than they gained—and this was well before Covid-19,” Ritchie said.

“Over the last few months, we’ve all had to change how we work and this has allowed staff and employers to see that location is no longer a barrier for where we choose to work.

Over the five years to 2016, Australia’s regions attracted a net inflow of 65,204 people from Australia and state capital cities, meaning the regions attracted more people than those who left for capital cities.

“As a country, we are an extremely mobile nation, and we have a propensity to change our address at twice the rate of people in most OECD countries.

“If location is no longer a barrier for employment, it’s possible that the trend line over the next decade could see an even greater swing to regions,” she said.

The research also reveals that 690,216 people moved between communities—moving from one place in regional Australia to live in another part of regional Australia—rather than to a capital city.

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