A new report reveals that many Australian millennials are shunning the bright lights of the big cities for life in regional towns.
New Regional Australia Institute research released shows regional Australia attracted more people aged 20-35 than it lost to the capital cities during the last two Census periods.
The Gold Coast, Newcastle and Sunshine Coast were among the hot spots attracting young Australians.
Other regional cities with facilities such as airports and universities also reported higher inflows, with Greater Geelong, Cairns, Toowoomba, Ballarat, Maitland, Greater Bendigo and Lake Macquarie also popular.
With more people working remotely than ever before, RAI chief executive Liz Ritchie said the recent experience of the COVID-19 pandemic had wiped out one of the largest barriers to an even more substantial population shift.
"Over the last few months, we've all had to change how we work and this has allowed staff and employers to see that location is no longer a barrier for where we choose to work," she said.
"Now is the time to work together with industry, government and regional communities to ensure regionalisation of the workforce."
The Big Movers: Understanding Population Mobility in Regional Australia shows that 1.2 million people moved to and around areas outside the capital cities between 2011 and 2016.
While nearly 180,000 millennials moved to capital cities in the five years to 2016, more than 207,000 moved between the regions, resulting in a net inflow of 65,204 people.
From 2006-2011, this number was 70,493 people.
Regional NSW drew the most people from capitals, with a total of 159,328 moving between 2011 and 2016.
Housing affordability, rapid career advancement and lifestyle choices were among the other factors drawing young people to regional areas.
The report found that many millennials were being attracted to mining areas.
Ms Ritchie said if location was no longer a barrier for employment, it's possible that the trend could lead to an even larger swing to regions over the next decade.
"This is the RAI's ambition."
Ms Ritchie said understanding the way the population was moving around regional Australia was an important first step in identifying the reasons people are attracted to some places.
"This understanding can help to shape a population policy for regional communities," she said.
Overall, the population of regional cities with more than 50,000 people grew 7.8 per cent. Connected lifestyle regions close to major metro areas increased 9.3 per cent, while industry and service hubs with more than 15,000 residents grew at 3.3 per cent. Smaller regional areas, defined as heartland regions, increased 1.6 per cent.
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