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Young Aussies abandon Sydney, Melbourne in major ‘societal shift’

The Sunshine Coast is the most popular destination for those ditching the capitals, followed by the Gold Coast.

Millennials are giving pricey capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne the flick and leading the exodus to regional areas. The trend, which gained momentum during the pandemic, is continuing to be fuelled by high house prices and cost-of-living pressures.

The number of city-dwellers moving to the regions has hit a 12-month high, the latest Regional Movers Index from Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) found. Relocations surged in the first quarter of this year and are now sitting 20 per cent above the pre-pandemic average.

Sydney is losing the most people, accounting for 67 per cent of those who moved from the capitals to the regions over the year to March. This was followed by Melbourne, which made up 30 per cent.

Sydney people and moving index
Millennials are leading the charge out of pricey capital cities and into regional areas. (Source: AAP/Regional Movers Index)

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Out of all seven capital cities, Millennials were the demographic on the move the most. In the Sydney local government area, for example, they accounted for 7.3 per cent of movers, ahead of Gen Z and Alpha at 1.3 per cent, Gen X at 1.2 per cent and Baby Boomers at just 0.8 per cent


RAI CEO Liz Ritchie said the figures showed the nation’s “regional renaissance” was far from over, with 24 per cent more people moving from the city to regions, than the other way.

“People are voting with their feet and making a very conscious decision to live in regional Australia,” Ritchie said.


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

“This movement in population can no longer be seen as a quirky flow-on affect from the lockdown years. A societal shift is underway.”

Primary school teacher Courtney McCrone moved back to her hometown of Temora in the Riverina area of New South Wales during the COVID lockdowns after previously living in Manchester, Wollongong and Canberra.

The mum of three said the travel restrictions, along with the cheaper living costs and better work-life balance regional areas can offer, played into her and her partner’s decision.

“It’s definitely a lot cheaper to live here compared to other places, with rent and general living expenses,” McCrone previously told Yahoo Finance.

Courtney McCrone and Steven Wright
Courtney McCrone and Steven Wright are among those who have moved to regional areas in recent years. (Source: Supplied)

Lawyer Steven Wright also made the move to Broken Hill with his partner five years ago, after previously practicing in Sydney.

He said regional living offered a bigger sense of community, better work-life balance, along with job opportunities.

“I think you make connections really quickly, and they're really strong connections. And I really liked that sense of community,” he told Yahoo Finance.

The Sunshine Coast is the most popular destination for Aussies moving from the capitals, accounting for nearly 12 per cent of inflows. This was followed by the Gold Coast, Moorabool, Lake Macquarie and greater Geelong.

For Millennial movers, the Gold Coast emerged as the favourite destination to move to across the nation.

“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,” Ritchie said.

The data also found people living in “commuter belts”, on the outskirts of major cities, were relocating within a few years and flocking to big regional centres within commuting distance to the capitals.

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