Millennial movers seeking tree change

Tania Wallace loves the quality of life she’s found in Tumut, where the lower cost of living means she can be a full time stay-at-home mum to Ashton, Miriam and Lydia.

Covid-19 has changed the world, especially for tech-savvy millennials who are increasingly looking for a tree change. A new study from the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) predicts there will be “significant population growth” in regional areas, now that more people are working and learning from home.
Paul and Tania Wallace recently moved to the Snowy Valleys from the Blue Mountains. Paul works as a teacher in the Snowy Valleys and said the move has given them more time to focus on their family, with three young children and a fourth on the way.
“We were looking for a more affordable lifestyle that would enable Tania to stay at home with the children,” he explained.
“A job opportunity came up in a nearby town however we chose to live in Tumut due to its larger size, infrastructure and for the wonderful range of activities and facilities to suit our young family.”
The Wallaces plan to stay in Tumut “long term” and are not in the minority.
The RAI report, titled ‘The Big Movers’ confirms that regional Australia has been attracting more people than its been losing over the past five years.
“From 2011 to 2016, our two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, lost more residents to regions than they gained – and this was well before Covid-19. 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,” said RAI CEO Liz Ritchie.
In the five years to 2016, Sydney saw a net loss of 64,756 people to regional Australia, Melbourne 21,609 and Adelaide recorded a small net loss of around 1,000 residents. Brisbane bucked the trend with a net gain of 15,597 people.
Between 2011 and 2016, more than 1.2 million people either moved to regional Australia or moved around regional Australia from one location to another.
“We enjoy living here,” said Mrs Wallace.
“The move has dramatically reduced our cost of living, the people are friendly, most things we need in an average week can be found in town reducing travel time and costs, there are many activities for children, wonderful childcare centres and an excellent community pre school, a good variety of outdoor recreational activities and stunning scenery.”
The Wallaces said they wouldn’t hesitate to encourage other friends to move to Tumut.
Their perspective is reflected in the Census figures, which showed that regional Australia attracted 65,204 more people than it lost over the last five years. For the decade 2006-2016 more than 135,000 more people moved from capital cities to regions than the other way around.
The RAI is now looking at ways to encourage regional growth and “extend the population settlement even further and supercharge the regions.”
“Now is the time to work together with industry, government and regional communities to ensure regionalisation of the workforce,” Ms Ritchie said.
“As a country, we are an extremely mobile nation, and we have a propensity to change our address at twice the rate of people in most OECD countries. If location is no longer a barrier for employment, it’s possible that the trend line over the next decade could see an even greater swing to regions – and this is the RAI’s ambition,” MS Ritchie said.
One of the key trends uncovered in the research was that most people who left a city for a move to the region, stayed in their respective state. Regional NSW drew the most people from capitals with a total of 159,328 moving between 2011 and 2016.
“Understanding the way the population moves around regional Australia is an important first step in identifying the reasons people are attracted to some places instead of others. This understanding can help to shape a population policy for regional communities,” Ms Ritchie said.
The study found that the ‘tree change’ trend was especially strong in the millennial age bracket, those aged 20-35. While 178,961 millennials moved to capital cities from regional Australia, more than 200,000 moved between regions.
“Sydney also saw a net outflow of millennials. Some 37,000 millennials moved from Sydney to regions, with 32,500 moving the other way,” Ms Ritchie said.
The top three regional destinations for millennials to move to during the last Census period were the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Sunshine Coast. Greater Geelong, Cairns, Toowoomba, Ballarat, Maitland, Greater Bendigo and Lake Macquarie were also popular.