Great small cities

great-small-citiesAustralia has a ‘hidden metropolis’. Home to 4.5 million Australians, we have the opportunity to grow a network of great small cities alongside our great big cities.

The Regional Australia Institute will work with city leaders, governments and the Australian community to take action on the regional city opportunity.

Growing trends

When we talk about Australia’s urbanisation we are usually thinking of the big five cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

But a closer look at the numbers reveals that the share of the Australian population in our big five cities has been fairly stable since the late 1960’s.

Australia’s major urbanisation trend since the 1970’s has in fact been the rise of regional cities. Since 1971 regional city populations have grown at a rate of 8 per cent, four times the rate of growth for our major cities during the same period.

Australia’s network of regional cities

Regional Cities4.5 million Australians live in a network of 31 regional cities across Australia.

Regional cities are crucial to our economy. In 2013 the economic output in our Regional Cities in 2013 was on par with that of Finland.

We also know regional city economies are diverse and resilient. These cities offer the benefits of urban living without the downsides of congestion, pollution and extreme property prices.

Our work

Connecting our Great Small Cities_AgendaPageButton

Connecting Our Great Small Cities: 

The Regional Australia Institute and LinkedIn have teamed up to shine a spotlight on eight regional cities and their emerging skills trends.



Blueprint_AgendaPageButtonBlueprint for Investing in City Deals: Are You Ready to Deal?  

Is your city ready to deal? The Blueprint for Investing in City Deals report is a guide to help regional cities and key City Deal players prepare to leverage their economic potential.


Misconceptions_AgendaPageButtonLighting Up our Great Small Cities: Challenging Misconceptions: 

Our Great Small Cities are widely misunderstood. View the analysis report challenging the common negative misconceptions about regional Australia’s great small cities, and see their strong economic performance.


Great Small Cities Agenda Page BannerDeal or No Deal?: 

Australia has a thriving and diverse network of 31 smaller cities that make a significant and growing contribution to national prosperityThe Deal or No Deal? report makes the case for small cities in a national cities agenda.


For more agenda related publications, visit our Library.

Work in 2017

Work on our Great Small Cities program is well underway for 2017. Already, the RAI has provided ideas and feedback through two submissions to the Federal Government on Smart Suburbs and Cities Guidelines and the Federal Governments’ Value Capture report.

This year, the RAI will be looking to provide new knowledge, networks and ideas for growing Australia’s regional cities, by:

Analysing trends and opportunities to enhance the evidence base, create new knowledge and solutions for growing regional cities;

Networking with regional city leaders to understand their challenges and help find solutions; and


Providing new ideas for policy and local leadership, based on independent research and ongoing dialogue with regions.


The 2017 program will target policy makers and city leaders focused on growing their cities. The program will deliver a range of events and reports throughout the year in collaboration with our partners.

We are always looking to connect with regional city leaders on these and other key issues, such as policy opportunities, attracting investment, targeting regional city specialisation and dealing with inequality.
To learn more or get involved call us on 02 6260 3733
or reach out by email at [email protected]

Dr Leonie Pearson, Leader – Great Small Cities Program

Share your story

What makes your regional city great? Share your story and contribute to our new Great Small Cities agenda.

Learn more about regional cities

Developed in partnership with LinkedIn, see how eight of our cities are connected.

Understand about City Deals and how important regional cities are to the national economy.

Check out the RAI’s contribution to the Regional Capitals Senate Inquiry.

Understand the contribution of regional cities to the Australian economy via the RAI publication Economic Contribution of Regional Australia.

Foundations of Regional Australia describes the RAI’s approach to defining Australia’s network of regional cities.

Understand the competitiveness of regional cities via our [In]Sight theme analysis and browse data on each regional city via the [In]Sight online tool.

Understand the role that leadership plays in the development of regional cities via case studies by the RAI on the development of Orange and Goulburn.

Look at the opportunity for the emergence of a network of cities in Western Australia in Cities Beyond Perth.