Net migration to the regions highest on record

Media Release

A net 43,000 Australians moved to regional areas from capital cities in 2020, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today. This was the largest net inflow to the regions since the beginning of the series in 2001.

ABS Director of Demography Phil Browning said that in recent decades, more people moved from Australia's capital cities to the regions than from the regions to the capitals, resulting in a net internal migration gain for regional areas.

"There are still many residential moves occurring within Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020 calendar year, 233,100 people arrived to live in regional areas and 190,200 people departed for the capitals. This resulted in a net gain of 43,000 people for the regions, up from 18,900 in 2019."

"In 2020, regional Queensland had the biggest net inflow (17,000 people) of all the states. The regional areas of Victoria (13,400) and New South Wales (12,700) had the next largest net gains." 

Net internal migrationRegional areasCapital citiesTotal state/territory
New South Wales6,02112,691-28,468-31,564-22,447-18,873
South Australia-3741,306-3,487-1,208-3,86198
Western Australia-4,720-2,1335963,518-4,1241,385
Northern Territory-1,056-845-2,938-497-3,994-1,342
Australian Capital Territory (a)---589287-589287
Total net gain or loss18,90442,971-18,904-42,971--
  1. The entire Australian Capital Territory is defined as a capital city.

Capital cities

Greater Sydney had the largest net loss (-31,600 people) of all the capitals from internal migration in 2020. Melbourne lost a net 26,100 internal migrants, the largest annual net loss for Victoria's capital on record.  

Brisbane (13,000 people), Perth (3,500) and Canberra (300) were the only capital cities to record net gains over 2020.

States and territories

In 2020, Victoria had its first net interstate loss (-12,700 people) for a calendar year since 2008. South Australia had its first net interstate migration gain (100) in almost 30 years, while Western Australia (1,400) recorded its first annual net gain since 2013. Queensland (30,000) had its highest net gain since 2004.

This release includes quarterly statistics up to December 2020.

Media notes

  • Internal migration is only one of the components that determines overall population change in areas, the other parts are overseas migration, births, and deaths.
  • Capital cities in this release refer to greater capital cities as defined in the 2016 Australian Statistical Geography Standard, and regional areas refer to non-greater capital city areas.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via (8.30am-5pm Canberra time Mon-Fri).
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