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There has been ongoing interest in the population flows within Australia, which will become more critical for government policy makers and service planning as large regional or coastal centres continue to grow. It is useful for planners to understand the numbers and characteristics of people who are moving to these areas in order to better plan for the appropriate infrastructure and services that may be required.
The Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia (SEWPC, 2011) examines the likely impact of population change from the perspective of three key dimensions, including environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and sustainable communities. In light of the objectives of the strategy, there is a need for better data on regional population trends such as population mobility. The data would further inform planning and managing changes to the population.
Our Cities, Our Future - A national urban policy for a productive, sustainable and liveable future (DIT, 2011) outlines the Australian Government's objectives and directions for its cities in preparation for the decades ahead. The National Urban Policy, which establishes the first long-term national framework to guide policy development and public and private investment in cities, sets a vision for Australian cities to deliver future prosperity and wellbeing for its communities. While focusing on capital cities, the policy recognises the important role that major regional centres also play, and the substantial challenges that they face in dealing with the complexities of the modern economy.
Regional programs may benefit from a series of regional internal migration estimates, for example, the regional programs outlined by the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government <http://www.regional.gov.au>, established in September 2010. The 2011-12 Budget committed $4.3 billion to areas including transport, water, energy, health, education, and communication infrastructure for regional Australia.
The potential of regional internal migration estimates
There are many reasons why people may move between regions, including employment or educational opportunities, retirement from employment, moving into a retirement village or nursing home, health-related reasons, destination-related (e.g. "sea change" or "tree change"), adult children moving out of home, building a home in a new development and family-related reasons. The characteristics of people living within a region may also determine their likelihood to stay within the same region, for example, young adults tend to be more mobile.
Potentially, a new series of regular regional internal migration estimates would provide better information on movement patterns of Australia's population at a regional level and fill an information gap in Australia's demographic data series. There are many aspects of internal migration that could be analysed much further if a more regular and timely series of regional migration data were available, including:
Population estimates and components of population change
In accordance with legislative requirements, the ABS provides quarterly estimates of the population of Australia and each of the states and territories.
Once every five years, the Census of Population and Housing provides the base for calculating population estimates. Population estimates for Australia and the states and territories are updated by adding to the estimated population the components of natural increase (births minus deaths) and net overseas migration. For the states and territories, account is also taken of estimated interstate migration.
Overseas migration is calculated using data collected from passenger cards, visas and passports for those persons travelling into and out of Australia. Data on interstate migration, however, are not directly estimated. This is because there is no specific centralised requirement for a person who changes their state or territory of usual residence to register their move for statistical purposes. Interstate migration is estimated using a model based on Medicare and Defence administrative by-product data.
To estimate population below the state level, the ABS relies on a regression model to estimate regional population change since the previous Census using SLAs as the base geographic level. The regression model uses change in population indicator data to estimate total population change, i.e. to estimate the combined effect of natural increase and internal migration at the regional level. The ABS uses this approach to estimate regional population due to difficulties in preparing reliable, regular and timely estimates of internal migration below state level (ABS 2009a). From 2012 these estimates will be prepared based on SA2s.
Regional migration in context
Despite Australia having a long-established series on numbers of interstate moves, migration between states and territories constitutes a small proportion of total moves within Australia.
The 2006 Census recorded that 2.81 million people changed their place of usual residence in the previous year, with just 10.1 per cent (283,500 people) moving between states/territories.
In the 2006 Census, 1.78 million people reported that they resided in a different SLA one year previously. The vast majority (84.1%) of these people moved between different SLAs within the same state/territory.
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