Regional Australia is home to some 8.8 million residents. Yet, despite this massive population, certain prevailing misconceptions regarding regional Australia remain. These ‘myths’ sound believable, and are often assumed to be the truth. Yet, many of the myths about regional Australia are, in fact, untrue and can be dispelled through plain and simple facts. And usually, the realities are more nuanced than you might think. Today, we tackle four of the most common myths and show the truth about regional Australia.
MYTH #1: Australia’s regional cities are shrinking, or growing at a snail’s pace.REALITY: The growth of regional cities has generally kept pace with the nation as a whole.
There is a frequent misconception regarding the trends of growth in regional cities. While many people mistakenly believe that regional areas are dwindling or barely growing, this is untrue. Before 2007, the growth of regional cities was more rapid than the growth rates of Australia’s biggest cities. While it has slowed in the past 10 years, the medium-term economic performance of regional cities is shown to be comparable to that of the Australian economy as a whole.
In terms of population, the myth is that regional areas are losing residents. This is only somewhat true, and largely depends upon the location and opportunities of a given regional area. For instance, Torquay, Victoria grew by approximately 5% per annum between the years 2006 and 2016. That growth rate made Torquay the fastest growing regional town during that period. Other towns and cities in that same area showed similar patterns.
Regional Australia is not only attracting citizens, it is attracting visitors as well. Tourism has grown throughout regional areas for the last five years by around 4.1% per year. This contributes to economic growth for these regional locations.
More statistics support the reality that regional Australia is growing:
Though misconceptions would have you believe otherwise, more Australians aged 25-44 are moving from cities to regional areas than are moving from regional areas to cities.
For every dollar spent in Australia by international or local visitors, 45 cents of it is spent in regional areas
From 2018 to 2027, the Australian Government plans to invest an estimated $57.5 billion in recurrent funding for regional and remote schools.
MYTH #2: The ‘new economy’ is leaving Regional Australia behind.REALITY: Regional Australia is already adapting to the new economy---and doing it well.
As Australia transitions to a ‘new economy,’ increasingly leaving behind industries such as mining, agriculture, and manufacturing, it has been suggested that only major urban centres will be able to ‘keep up.’
However, this is patently untrue. Again, the numbers show that not only are cities and towns in Regional Australia not falling behind, they are doing very well at growing new industries such as education, finance, health and professional services. In particular, regional areas that are exploding with new industry growth include Hobart, Greater Newcastle, Gold Coast-Tweed, Sunshine Coast-Noosa, Wollongong-Shellharbour and Geelong.
More and more jobs are emerging in these fresh industries. Data shows major growth over the last decade. The area of Health grew by 41% across Australia. This was responsible for the creation of an additional 389,063 jobs, 38% of which were created in regional areas. Additionally, the changing job profile overall reflects that of major Australian cities, rendering Myth #2 completely untrue.
MYTH #3: Size matters: Only the biggest cities provide the benefits associated with growth and value.REALITY: Big and small regional cities display the same statistical averages.
There’s a notion that regional cities only become ‘important’ (or worth investing in) when they’ve reached an impressive size. This potentially damaging misconception is that the growth in population is what is necessary to bring certain advantages to a city. The Regional Australia Institute writes that “when it comes to participation, historical growth or projected growth in output, there is no statistical difference between big or small regional cities.”
The truth is, size isn’t everything, and a great many small, medium, and large cities in Regional Australia are performing exceptionally in a variety of ways.
MYTH #4: We can predict a city’s future by looking at its past.REALITY: This is a simplistic idea. A city’s destiny is not shaped by its past.
There’s truth to the idea that we can learn a great deal from the patterns of history. However, it’s far too simplified to think that history always repeats itself, especially with regards to cities. Cities are living, growing, vibrant entities, and the influences on their growth and transformation are endlessly multifaceted. Instead of adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for regional Australia, the key for cities is to generate smart strategies that respond to continually changing trajectories. This is what will be successful for cities in the long run.
What’s one myth about regional Australia you know is untrue? Share with us!