Regional relocation reignited: Why millennials are leading the charge

Internal migration across the nation has soared in the first three months of the year, according to the latest Regional Movers Index.

A partnership between the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), the index tracks quarterly and annual trends in people moving to and from Australia’s regional areas.

The latest figures show that after a lull in 2023, regional moving is back on Australians’ bingo cards, with the number of city dwellers choosing to leave major metropolitan centres the highest it has been in 12 months.

And while the index hit a peak in the immediate months following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2024 is rivalling that level of interest, with the regions having recorded their fifth biggest quarter of influx from city slickers in the last six years.

And even though there’s some flow in the opposite direction, overall there are 24 per cent more people moving from the city to regions than vice versa.

“People are voting with their feet and making a very conscious decision to live in regional Australia,” RAI CEO Liz Ritchie commented on the latest figures.

“While the pandemic supercharged this movement, the regional lifestyle is continuing to prove highly desirable for thousands of people, especially those from cities,” she noted.

With a severe shortage in housing across the country and prices in capitals increasing at a faster pace than in non-metro areas, much of the latest wave in regional relocations can be attributed to Australians seeking out more affordable lifestyles.

Analysis of the quarter’s data reveals which cohort is driving this trend, with Millennials reportedly fleeing the major capitals in greatest numbers.

Paul Fowler, regional executive general manager at the Commonwealth Bank, said that movers in this age group are showing a clear preference for larger regional centres where the cost of living is lower but that also offer ample employment opportunities.

“This quarter’s report paints the picture of younger individuals or younger families looking for somewhere that’s more affordable,” he noted.

Ritchie agreed that “with high house prices and cost-of-living pressures biting, many people are realising the regions can offer the lifestyle they want and the jobs they’re after, minus big city problems – like long commute times, tolls and traffic”.

“People living in ‘commuter belts’, on the outskirts of major metropolitan cities, are relocating within a few years of moving there. Often, they’re leaving the outer suburbs for big regional centres like the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Wollongong, Newcastle, Geelong, Busselton, the Alexandrina region and Launceston,” she noted.

According to the RAI, the data from this last quarter should serve as a call to action for policymakers and anyone that has attributed interest in the regions as a temporary blip.

“This movement in population can no longer be seen as a quirky flow-on effect from the lockdown years. A societal shift is underway. This sustained trend provides tangible evidence regarding the importance of investing in and supporting the regions, to ensure communities have the services, skills and infrastructure they need for their growing populations,” Richie said.


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