Millennials drive regional growth as migration from capital cities hits five-year high

Regional growth across Australia is being driven by a mass exodus from capital cities, with people aged 24-40 leading the tree change, new data shows.

The Regional Movers Index report, a collaboration between the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) and the Commonwealth Bank, tracks movements between regional areas and capital cities Australia wide.

Migration from capital cities to regional Australia increased by 16.6 per cent in the past 12 months, the highest level yet.

In the past quarter the number of people moving from capitals was nine per cent higher than the post-pandemic average and 26.7 per cent higher than the average during the two years prior to the pandemic.

In the 12 months to March this year, 61 per cent of total net outflows were from Sydney, while 45 per cent flowed from Melbourne.

Daniel Fletcher was born and bred in Melbourne, but a job and a cheaper, larger house in Dalby. two hours west of Brisbane, were too good to pass up for his young family.

“We colloquially use the term ‘the Australian dream’ of getting a backyard where the kids can grow up in, and that’s actually a reality — it exists here.”

But it was not just affordability that drew Mr Fletcher to regional life.

“Out here, it takes a village to raise kids and be a part of a family and it’s a lot easier, I think, to be in a welcoming community than it is to try and navigate your way through the rat race in a in a big city.”

Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said it was no surprise people were arriving in the region.

“We are attracting that next generation and they’ve got great career opportunities and they’re getting jobs that would have taken years in much bigger regions,” he said.

Chris Bateman, Courtney Johnson and their daughter Vada moved to Western NSW in 2021.(Supplied: Courtney Johnson)

No looking back

Courtney Johnson moved to Dubbo in Western New South Wales from Hornsby, Sydney, with her partner Chris Bateman in October last year.

“We were traveling to work an hour and back every day, so most of our life was taken up by work and travel,” Ms Johnson said.

Her new employer was so desperate for staff they waited three months for her to arrive, and Mr Bateman arranged to work from home.

For now they have no plans to move back to the city.

“We are already thinking about school for our three-year-old,” Ms Johnson said.

The couple bought a house, feeling it was the better option than renting.

“We put offers on 10 or 12 houses and kept getting beat out, so we ended up buying something we didn’t really want.

“But it’s cheaper than rent and we can use it for an investment property later.”

HAS "sold out" sticker on a sale sign out the front of a house.
Regional real estate agents say they’re seeing younger buyers managing to enter the property market.(ABC News: Liz Pickering)

Younger buyers entering market

South Australian real estate agent Daniel Eramiha said young people had been able to break into the housing market in smaller communities.

“We’ve got a lot of young people in Ceduna … who are now finally getting into the market with finance options available to them in the last six to 18 months,” he said.

Mr Eramiha said there seemed to be a mix of newcomers and lifelong locals in the area

Port Augusta realtor Michael Rowbottom said a growing number of people were looking to buy investment properties as a way into the market.

“Cheaper or mid-section properties costing below $150,000 are being snapped up fairly quickly,” he said.

Regional Australia Institute chief economist Kim Houghton said the movement of young people was beneficial for families and local economies.

“These are the people that build the desperately needed skills that a lot of these towns and regional centers need,” he said.

Commonwealth Bank regional and agribusiness banking executive general manager Paul Fowler said with nearly 85,000 job vacancies regional Australia was becoming even more attractive.

“I think that’s a reflection of the appeal and vitality of regional Australia,” he said.

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