No Need to Force People to Move to Regional Australia – They Already Are!

February 28 2019

Australians are ‘voting with their feet’ and choosing to set up life in regional Australia according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) – more than 400,000 in just 5 years.

Today, the RAI launched its National Population Plan for Regional Australia that delivers five key recommendations to better balance our growth – taking pressure off capital cities and presenting great benefits to the rest of the country.

RAI co-CEO, Dr Kim Houghton, says the paper delivers a plan of action for government and regional communities to ensure regions play a key role in the national framework to manage population growth.

“Last year, we hit the 25 million mark which was two decades earlier than predicted and now is the time to place regional Australia into the mix to help solve our city congestion problems,” Dr Houghton said.

“Australian residents are showing that they want to live in regional areas, but to see further growth, we need to support communities to improve several factors, including liveability,” Dr Houghton said.

Key recommendations in the RAI paper include:

  • Rebalancing of national and state infrastructure spending to enhance liveability in regional centres;
  • The need for further analysis of the economic impacts of increasing urbanisation focusing on cities only;
  • Targeted programs to support economic diversification and jobs in slow growing regional areas;
  • Improvements in education and training to help workers living in regional areas with high workforce demands – ‘fill vacancies from within’; and
  • Removing barriers to secondary migration of international migrants wanting to relocate to regional areas, and funding to support community initiatives to assist with the successful settlement of migrants.

According to the RAI, over the next 40 years, as it stands, future population growth will mainly occur in the outer suburbs, rather than in the inner cities or regions. Outer suburban Sydney, Melbourne and Perth populations will more than double and Brisbane is forecast to triple.

“Yet we know from our research that average incomes of workers in regional cities and outer city suburbs are comparable. However, commute times and housing prices are vastly different.

“If your mortgage is greater, your drive to work is longer but your income isn’t much more than if you lived in a regional centre – you have to ask the question, who is better off?

“Overall, our Plan should challenge the assumption that Australia is best to deal with future population growth through continuing expansion of our major cities.

“This would lock us in to more decades of trying to solve problems retrospectively. Future capital city congestion can be avoided by addressing the influences that make regional living a real and viable alternative,” Dr Houghton concluded.

The RAI’s National Population Plan for Regional Australia is available here. Population will be a major topic at the Regions Rising event in Canberra on 4-5 April 2019. For more information go to