The most popular places for intra-Aussie migration in 2021

New data shows that net migration from capital cities to Australia’s regional areas has doubled since the start of the pandemic, even if the tide is now starting to ebb.

Mt Gambier suburbs aerial spi

The latest Regional Movers Index showed that overall, since the onset of COVID, the number of capital to regional movers has been 15 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The index is created through a partnership between the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) and Commonwealth Bank (CBA), which uses data on the bank’s 10 million customers to identify migration trends.

A 10 per cent drop in the number of relocations during the December 2021 quarter may show that the great regionalisation is slowing down, though RAI chief economist and acting chief executive Dr Kim Houghton said that a lull in the last quarter was not unexpected.

He credits seasonal factors as the main reason for the decline. He noted, however, that increasingly tight housing conditions had likely also contributed to putting people off their plans for a country relocation. 


But overall, the past two years of data reveal a behavioural shift in the types of locations Australians are choosing to move to.

“It is particularly exciting that many of the smaller regions showing high rates of growth are inland towns. It looks like the pandemic is changing some long-established movement paths, which is a good sign for more balanced population growth across Australia in future,” Dr Houghton said.

It’s particularly helping to spread population out of the country’s largest states – NSW and Victoria.

The local government areas that experienced the strongest annual growth in migration from capital cities during 2021 were all in South Australia and Queensland: 

  • Port Augusta, SA (+54 per cent from 2020) 
  • Douglas, Qld (+49 per cent) 
  • Western Downs, Qld (+48 per cent) 
  • Mount Gambier, SA (+44 per cent) 
  • Banana, Qld (+40 per cent)

But even with inland locales gaining attention, proximity to water still proved to be a popular factor attracting erstwhile metropolitan dwellers.

The most popular LGAs for metro-movers during 2021 were large coastal centres, close to capital cities: 

  • Gold Coast, Qld (11 per cent share of regional migration) 
  • Sunshine Coast, Qld (5 per cent share) 
  • Greater Geelong, Vic (4 per cent) 
  • Wollongong, NSW (3 per cent) 
  • Lake Macquarie, NSW (2 per cent) 

Commonwealth Bank’s executive general manager for regional and agribusiness banking Paul Fowler said that even with the December quarter lull, he expected the attraction of the regions to remain elevated well into the future.

“City-siders have really embraced Australia’s regions over the past two years and, as we see flexible working arrangements continue and Australia’s domestic and international borders opening up, it’s likely we will continue to see this movement as people recognise the benefits of a regional lifestyle,” Mr Fowler said.

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