Millennials continue to make up the biggest proportion of people moving to regional areas from capital cities, although the overall number of those relocating from metropolitan areas has declined 16.5 per cent compared to the previous quarter, according to the latest quarterly Regional Movers Index published today.

Figures for the June quarter reveal that regional people have resumed their migration back to the capital cities, with net migration to regional areas of Australia dropping 35 per cent since the March quarter. Notwithstanding this latest quarterly decline, net migration to regions remains 30.2 per cent higher than two years prior to Covid-19.

According to the index, Millennials made up the largest age cohort of people moving to the regions pre-pandemic, and they have increased their share since Covid-19. 

Figures also show movers are getting younger. In NSW, the median age of the average regional mover fell from 37 years to 33 years pre-pandemic compared to during Covid-19, and from 38 years to 34 years in South Australia, and from 35 years to 33 years in Queensland.

The Regional Movers Index, which is a partnership between Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), analyses the quarterly and annual trends in people moving to Australia’s regions.

Commonwealth Bank Regional and Agribusiness Executive General Manager Paul Fowler said despite the latest fall, the level of net migration still significantly outstripped the two years before the pandemic.

“Regional economies are booming, many businesses are investing and innovating to strengthen their capabilities and grow, and this is creating new employment options for jobseekers in many regional towns and cities across the country,” Mr Fowler said. “This is particularly in key sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing where there continues to be strong production and revenue growth.”

Regional Australia Institute Chief Executive Officer Liz Ritchie said people are still voting with their feet and looking for the good life in regional Australia. But the recent easing of movement to the regions should take the pressure off housing demand and provide breathing space for regions to plan for the future.

“We know people are happier when they choose a life in the regions, but investment in creating a sustainable model for Regional Australia to accommodate the changing nature of our populations trends is needed,” Ms Ritchie said.

“Now is the time for a new National Population Plan at the Federal level, that considers future settlement patterns to ensure regional communities have the services and infrastructure they need to help them grow.”

Downloadable assets

The major coastal cities close to the east coast capitals are the main destinations for city-dwellers making a regional move – Gold Coast welcomed 11 per cent of all capital-city movers , Sunshine Coast 6 per cent, Greater Geelong 4 per cent, Wollongong 2 per cent, and Lake Macquarie 2 per cent.

Three of the top 5 highest-growth local government areas in the 12 months to June 2022 were in South Australia with young people making up the largest proportion of movers from cities.

Mount Gambier experienced a 90 per cent increase in regional movement over the year, while capital-city people moving to Port Augusta rose 63 per cent and the Yorke Peninsula 50 per cent. Other LGAs such as Moorabool in Victoria grew significantly, while Bathurst in NSW also featured in the top 5 highest growth LGAs for the first time.

Mr Fowler said Bathurst saw a 39 per cent increase in annual growth. It is a rapidly growing inland centre with a diverse range of thriving industries including agriculture, education, healthcare, manufacturing, and construction.

“Bathurst is a renowned for its innovation. There are a growing number of businesses in the region and many exciting projects that are driving employment and growth, benefiting the entire region over the longer term,” Mr Fowler said.

Read the full Regional Movers Index – June Quarter.

Notes for Editors

The Regional Movers Index, launched in 2021, tracks movements between Australia’s regions and capital cities, using Commonwealth Bank data from relocations amongst its 10 million customers. This enables early identification of growth trends and flags places emerging as hot spots needing fresh thinking on housing and infrastructure.

Data based on CBA customer address changes over the past 5 years, with prior 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 an LGA from a capital city in the previous 12 months for an LGA to be include in the report.

Demographic breakdown

  • Gen Alpha and Z: Younger than 24 years
  • Millennials: 24-40 years
  • Gen X: 40-56 years
  • Baby Boomers: 56-75 years
  • World War II: Older than 75 years