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Continuing strong growth in regional jobs market and the availability and cost of housing in more remote parts of the country is helping fuel the interest in growth hotspots.

City dwellers are continuing to escape the hustle and bustle of metropolitan living, with the latest Regional Movers Index (RMI) for the June 2023 quarter showing migration flows to regional areas are up more than 16 per cent on average compared to 2018 and 2019. 

It reveals a continuing pattern of more people moving to regional areas from cities than the opposite direction. 

Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking Paul Fowler said growth in regional Victoria and Queensland remained strong, with jobs, lifestyle and housing attracting more people. 

The sunshine state of Queensland proved most attractive for city dwellers moving to the regions, accounting for 41 per cent of net capital outflows in the 12 months to June 2023 – up from 33 per cent the previous year. Regional New South Wales and Victoria retained their share of net capital outflows at 33 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.

“Mobility around the country continues to be supported by employment opportunities in the regions,” Mr Fowler said. “Growth in local economies and opportunities in sectors such as wholesale trade, manufacturing, health and education will continue to entice people to regional areas. 

“We expect regional areas to continue to attract city movers as commercial businesses in core sectors and agribusinesses alike step up their push for workers.”

Mr Fowler said while there was a typical seasonal dip in the number of people moving from cities to the regional areas, it remains high compared to pre-pandemic levels. This includes in the top five areas by share of net capital to regional migration; the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast in Queensland, Greater Geelong in Victoria and Lake Macquarie in NSW, which all experienced a decline in quarterly and annual growth.

“Moorabool in Victoria bucked the trend with 88 per cent growth, in the year to June 2023,” Mr Fowler said.

Regional Australia Institute (RAI) CEO Liz Ritchie said further data from a large-scale survey shows the pull of the regions is growing, with people seeing country communities as offering a happier, cheaper and better quality of life.

“In 2020, 67 per cent of people thought regional living would give them more time for themselves. In 2023, this jumped to 74 per cent,” Ms Ritchie said. “At the same time, net dissatisfaction with city life is up, and more people are now worried about cost-of-living pressures in the city.”

The RMI takes a first-time-ever look into the backstory of those who’ve made a move to the regions and found we’re a highly mobile country, with many people relocating every one to three years.

Regional Western Australia is a standout in the June quarter, taking out three of the top five local government areas (LGAs) for annual growth in total net internal migration inflows.

“The Greater Geraldton, Waroona and York regions have experienced some big increases in inflows in the 12 months to June 2023, compared to the year prior,” Ms Ritchie said. “In Greater Geraldton alone, total net internal migration inflows are up 395 per cent in the last 12 months and increased by more than 6 per cent since the March quarter. 

“It clearly shows that the love affair with regional living is far from over and highlights the importance of resourcing the social and physical infrastructure that these growing places urgently need. 

“In June, there were more than 87,000 jobs advertised online in regional Australia. The old myth that there aren’t any jobs in the regions just isn’t true. The inflows we’re seeing into regional areas, particularly in those Western Australia hotspots, shows people know they won’t compromise, and can often advance their careers in a regional context.”

The Regional Movers Index is produced in partnership between the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the RAI and analyses quarterly trends in internal migration in Australia.

Regional Movers Index - June 2023 quarter


Editor’s note

The Regional Movers Index, launched in 2021, tracks movements between Australia’s regions and capital cities, using Commonwealth Bank data from relocations amongst more than 16 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 six months. Greater Capital City/Regional Area based on ABS 1270.0.55.001 GCCSA. At least 50 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.

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