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Unpacking Australia’s tree-change trend

Unpacking Australia’s tree-change trend

New data shows Aussies are embracing regional living more than ever. But how can you ensure your escape to the country is a smooth move?

The Regional Movers Index Report has found regional migration is at its highest level since 2018, with net migration to the regions up 66 per cent.

The areas that saw the largest growth in inland migration was Noosa at 49 per cent, closely followed by Queenland’s Southern Downs at 44 per cent.

Other destinations attracting people moving out of cities included the Gold Coast (up 11 per cent), the Sunshine Coast (six per cent), Greater Geelong (four per cent), Wollongong (three per cent) and Newcastle (two per cent).

A long time coming

The tree-change trend hasn’t come as a surprise to demography experts – in fact, they say it’s been a long time coming.

Dr Aude Bernard, a demographer from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Earth and Environmental Sciences says, “A lot of the migration trends we’re seeing now are actually longer trends that precede the start of COVID-19 – the pandemic has just amplified existing trends.

“This index shows the net, which is the sum of people moving in, minus people moving out. In reality, we know from ABS data that was published a few weeks ago that the increase in the net is not due to more people moving to the region – but it’s actually less people leaving the regions.”

Big on community connection

If getting neighbourly is on your agenda, urban planning expert from UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences Dr Laurel Johnson said small towns were big on community connection.

“There tends to be higher levels of social capital (or community connectedness) in regional and rural areas, and this has benefits for individuals and families moving to the area and feeling welcome.”

“So, your skills are highly regarded and you can contribute to the local community in diverse ways, including volunteering in the many sports, local arts and recreation organisations.”

Important factors to consider

Whether your tree-change dreams are new-found or long-held, Johnson said there were some important factors to consider before taking the leap to small-town living.

Digital Connectivity

To ensure a smooth move, check out the digital connectivity as there are still many places in Australia where internet and telephone coverage has limits.

Education and Social Experiences

If you have young children, consider their needs as teenagers – what will they do? Regional and rural areas suffer from a drift of youth to the city for education and social experiences, and many don’t return to regional and rural areas.

Mobility and Transport

Also consider transport, as travel in many regional and rural areas is predominantly car-based. Young people and others without licences find mobility is an issue for them.

Join and contribute to organisations and activities outside of your work. Buy into the social capital in the area and build your networks through volunteering.

Good Coffee Shops!

The best advice for tree-changes is simple.

Try to move to a town with a good coffee shop. The absence of good coffee will make you homesick quicker than anything.

(This article first appeared in The University of Queensland, Contact Magazine, ‘Unpacking Australia’s tree-change trend’ by Rachel Westbury)