More Australians are choosing to live in regional areas, a shift accelerated by COVID-19, according to a new report released by Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

The inaugural RAI-CBA Regional Movers Index* shows population movements from Australian capital cities to regional areas rose by seven per cent from March 2020 to March 2021 – helping to drive net regional migration in the latest quarter 66 per cent higher than a year earlier.


The Index reveals the regional areas with the largest annual share of capital city migration are coastal centres close to capital cities: Queensland’s Gold Coast (11 per cent) and Sunshine Coast (6 per cent), Victoria’s Greater Geelong (4 per cent), and NSW’s Wollongong (3 per cent) and Newcastle (2 per cent).

The Index also reveals that the 5 local government areas with the largest annual growth in capital city migration are Queensland’s Noosa (49 per cent) and Southern Downs (44 per cent), NSW’s Port Macquarie-Hastings (38 per cent), Tasmania’s Launceston (34 per cent) and Queensland’s Fraser Coast (26 per cent).

Notable migration patterns by state:

  • Capital cities in NSW and Victoria experienced the largest net migration outflows at 49.5 per cent and 46.4 per cent respectively.
  • Regional NSW and Regional Queensland are the main beneficiaries of the Sydney-Melbourne migration, followed by regional Victoria.
  • The Greater Geelong area experienced 10 per cent annual growth, and 9 per cent quarterly growth to March 2021.
  • The regional areas of Wollongong and Newcastle in NSW experienced 8 per cent and 7 per cent year-on-year growth respectively.
  • Launceston’s migration almost doubled in the March quarter, with migration increasing by 88 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank’s Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking, and Regional Australia Institute 2031 Council member, Grant Cairns said: “These figures show the strength and appeal of regional Australia and the important role it will continue to play in Australia’s economic recovery.

“The Index demonstrates how Australians formerly living in capital cities have embraced remote ways of working as an opportunity to experience what these areas have to offer, while those already in regional areas are finding reasons to stay.”

“I’m optimistic about what this growth means for regional Australia, as more people experience the liveability of our regional areas and embrace the associated work-life balance and affordability,” Mr Cairns said.

Regional Australia Institute CEO, Liz Ritchie, said: “This new Regional Movers Index will provide vital and timely data intelligence on emerging growth hotspots around the country, allowing government, industry and communities to act more quickly on issues such as housing and infrastructure.”

“The index shows it’s not just people in our major cities who are realising the opportunities and value provided by regional living. People already living in our regions are increasingly choosing to stay, rather than head for the bright city lights,” Ms Ritchie said.

A copy of the full report can be found here.

*Based on CBA customer address changes over the past 5 years, and addresses resided in for at least 6 months. Greater Capital City/Regional Area based on ABS 1270.0.55.001 GCCSA. At least 100 persons must have migrated to LGA to be counted.