A man and woman smiling, each holding a child in their arms.

Millennials say the Australian dream is ‘actually a reality’ as migration from capital cities hits highest level in five years

Regional growth across Australia is being driven by a mass exodus from capital cities, with people aged 24 to 40 leading the tree shift, new data shows.

The Regional Movers Index report, a collaboration between the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) and the Commonwealth Bank, tracks movement between regional areas and capital cities across Australia.

Migration from capitals to regional Australia has increased by 16.6% in the past 12 months, the highest level to date.

During the last quarter, the number of people leaving the capitals was 9% higher than the post-pandemic average and 26.7% higher than the average of the two years preceding the pandemic.

In the 12 months to March this year, 61% of total net outflows came from Sydney, while 45% came from Melbourne.

Daniel Fletcher was born and raised in Melbourne, but a cheaper, bigger job and home in Dalby. two hours west of Brisbane, were too beautiful to pass up by her young family.

“We colloquially use the term ‘the Australian dream’ of having a garden where children can grow up, and it’s actually a reality – it exists here.”

But it wasn’t just affordability that drew Fletcher to regional life.

“Here it takes a village to raise children and be part of a family and it is much easier, I think, to be in a welcoming community than trying to navigate your way through the rat race in one in a big city.”

Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said it was no surprise people were arriving in the area.

“We are attracting this next generation and they have great career opportunities and they are getting jobs that would have taken years in much larger areas,” he said.

Chris Bateman, Courtney Johnson and their daughter Vada moved to Western NSW in 2021.(Provided: Courtney Johnson)

Without looking back

Courtney Johnson moved to Dubbo in western New South Wales from Hornsby, Sydney, with partner Chris Bateman in October last year.

“We traveled to work an hour and back every day, so most of our lives were taken up with work and travel,” Ms Johnson said.

His new employer was so desperate for staff that he waited three months for her to arrive, and Mr Bateman arranged to work from home.

For now, they are not planning to return to town.

“We are already thinking about school for our three-year-old,” Ms Johnson said.

The couple bought a house, believing it was the better option than renting.

“We put offers on 10 or 12 houses and kept getting beaten up, so we ended up buying something we didn’t really want.

“But it’s cheaper than rent and we can use it for an investment property later.”

A "sold" sticker on a sale sign the front of a house.
Regional real estate agents say they are seeing younger buyers successfully entering the real estate market.(ABC News: Liz Pickering)

Young buyers are entering the market

South Australian estate agent Daniel Eramiha said young people have been able to break into the housing market in smaller communities.

“We have a lot of young people in Ceduna… finally entering the market with financing options available to them in the last six to 18 months,” he said.

Mr Eramiha said there appeared to be a mix of newcomers and long-time residents in the area

Port Augusta estate agent Michael Rowbottom said an increasing number of people were looking to buy investment property to gain access to the market.

“Cheaper or mid-size properties under $150,000 are bought up pretty quickly,” he said.

The Regional Australia Institute’s chief economist, Kim Houghton, said the youth movement was good for families and local economies.

“These are the people who are learning the desperately needed skills that many of these cities and regional centers need,” he said.

Commonwealth Bank’s executive managing director of regional and agribusiness banking, Paul Fowler, said with nearly 85,000 vacancies, regional Australia was becoming even more attractive.

“I think it reflects the appeal and vitality of regional Australia,” he said.

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