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Australia’s Latest Population Patterns

Australia’s Latest Population Patterns
May 5, 2023 Propertyology Head of Research and REIA Hall of Famer, Simon Pressley

On the back of the pandemic period producing the lowest population growth for more than 100-years, the re-opening of the international border has put Australia on track to bursting through new record-high volumes of population growth.

The recent release of ABS population data for the 12-month period ending June 2022 confirms the number of residents living in Australia had increased by 1.2 percent to 25,996,144.

This Great Southern Land has long been admired around the globe, but demand from people all over the world to holiday, work, study and live here is now set to reach new heights.

While overseas migration contributed 183,705 of last year’s 308,065 total population increase, it is worth noting that the international border was technically only open for 5-months of the data reporting period.

A booming economy and our biggest ever shortage of skilled labour is driving overseas migration.

This segment could contribute more than 300,000 to the 2022/23 population. That is on top of the roughly 120,000 from organic growth.

76 percent of last year’s net overseas intake (or 139,642) took up residency in capital cities.

It meant that 2021’s total population declines in Sydney (minus 25,116) and Melbourne (minus 81,418) returned to relatively modest growth in 2022, of 37,309 and 52,294, respectively.

Over the last 3-years, the growth rate of Australia’s two largest cities remains well behind most of Australia’s 400 individual townships.

As quick as foreigners came through the front door, existing Australian residents continued to exit our biggest cities through the back door.

For each of the last 16 years that the ABS has published detailed internal migration figures, more people relocated away from the combined eight capital cities to regional locations than going the other way.

During the 12-months to June 2022, capital cities produced a net population decline of 50,548 from internal migration.

That is only marginally less than the all-time annual record of 51,565 in 2021.

There is no question that the pandemic years helped Australians to further explore and fall deeper in love with the many incredible locations across regional Australia.

More flexible working arrangements has enabled plenty of people to live where their heart truly is.


Related article: The best asset on the planet


The official statistician of Australian provides undeniable proof that select regional locations have always been more popular than capital cities.

Over the 16-years since July 2006, an extraordinary 318,104 people relocated away from Sydney. That’s enough people to fill the entire Sunshine Coast which, coincidentally, has produced a staggering 31 percent increase in population just from internal migration over the same period.

Adelaide (minus 56,068), Melbourne (minus 32,068) and Darwin (minus 13,889) have also seen a net population decline from internal migration over the last 16-years.

To appreciate the diversity of locations across this beautiful country that Australians are most drawn to move to, the below list (in alphabetical order) are a sample of some of the biggest beneficiaries of internal migration:

Albany WA, Albury-Wodonga NSW, Bairnsdale VIC, Ballarat VIC, Ballina NSW, Beaudesert QLD, Bendigo VIC, Bowral NSW, Bundaberg QLD, Busselton WA, Byron NSW, Cessnock NSW, Fraser Coast QLD, Geelong VIC, Gold Coast QLD, Goulburn NSW, Gympie QLD, Huon Valley TAS, Inverloch VIC, Kiama NSW, Kingscliff NSW, Kyneton VIC, Latrobe TAS, Lorne VIC, Maitland NSW, Mandurah WA, Margaret River WA, Port Macquarie NSW, Seymour VIC, Shellharbour NSW, St Helens TAS, Torque VIC, Townsville QLD, Victor Harbor SA, Warragul VIC, Yass Valley NSW, Yeppoon QLD.

Better quality lifestyles, housing affordability, a diverse range of employment opportunities and work-from-home benefits are the main attractions of regional relocations.

While there are countless factors that affect change in real estate values, the contribution that internal migration makes to capital growth rates is not to be underestimated.

Australia’s biggest ever year for population growth was 442,000 in 2009.

It is conceivable that this current financial year will surpass the current national population record.

What’s utterly impossible to imagine is where everyone will live. Property markets will be under incredible pressure.

When will the plonkers that run each of Australia’s 8 states and territories and their colleagues in Capital Hill arrest the multiple errors of their ways from the last 7-years?

I stopped holding my breath for sanity to prevail quite some time ago, but I have not wavered one iota from my view that another property boom is inevitable. Here’s why.


Fascinating Population Facts

  • Canberra ACT’s net decline in internal migration of 3,318 last year was a record. This was offset by a net gain of 3,200 from overseas migration.
  • The total population of Brisbane QLD increased by 57,679 in 2021-22, including a net 26,990 from internal migration. Most of the population growth is in the outer ring areas of Moreton Bay and Ipswich.
  • Over the last decade, the population increased by a whopping 39 percent in Margaret River WA – more than double Australia’s capital city growth rate and the national average (14 percent). The median house price in Margaret River over the same period increased by 55 percent while Albury NSW, which also had population growth of 14 percent, produced an 85 percent increase in real estate values.
  • After 5-consecutive years of net growth, Hobart TAS produced a mild decline in internal migration in each of the last 2-years.
  • Last year’s population growth in Australia’s 13th and 16th largest cities, Townsville QLD and Cairns QLD, was their highest in 10-years. A record-high year also occurred in the municipalities of Barossa SA (5-years), Port Stephens NSW (15-years) and Fraser Coast QLD (16-years).
  • On the back of 14-consecutive years of declining internal migration in Adelaide SA, that demographic produced population growth of 3,328 over the last 2-years.
  • Australia’s 41st largest city, Mildura VIC, produced mild population growth of 9 percent over the last decade, however Mildura’s property market performed spectacularly well with 93 percent growth.
  • There were 275 fewer people living in Darwin NT in June 2022 than 5-years earlier.

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