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Regional living: why it’s getting much easier

Why are many people shifting further out?

There was once a time when living in the country, or even a regional centre, meant missing out on many of the advantages of big city life.

Want to buy some new threads on a Sunday? Forget it.  Prefer to stay in your hometown for your university studies? Try again.

However these traditional problems are becoming a thing of the past. A rapid uptake of online shopping, coupled with the availability of the internet has now removed the feeling of remoteness for many non-city dwellers, says Professor Richard Reed, Chair in Property and Real Estate in Deakin’s Faculty of Business and Law.

It’s easier than ever to live outside the city

Those old enough will remember STD phone calls and a lack of options on the small screen outside the city. Now there are countless free ways to communicate – think WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime – and plenty to watch thanks to the likes of Netflix and Stan.

‘Previously, city dwellers had an advantage over regional households with access to information, television channels and communication in general. Nowadays there is a large degree of similarity between the two,’ Prof. Reed says.

Then there’s the fact you can study many university courses online, and possibly eventually start your own business remotely – reaching the rest of Australia and the world from your laptop.

Australia on the move: the stats

While major Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne are still booming, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest many people are opting to move further out to avoid increasing traffic congestion and sky-high property prices.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 2015-2016 show that Sydney had the highest net population loss of all Australian cities, with more than 23,000 departing that year. Many of those people moved to other parts of New South Wales, or Melbourne.

Brisbane was the most popular city for new arrivals from other parts of Australia, while regional centres including the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Geelong were also magnets for new residents.

Why are many people shifting further out?

Professor Louise Johnson, Professor of Australian Studies in Deakin’s Faculty of Arts and Education, says affordable housing is often a major drawcard.

‘Most housing in regional areas is much less expensive and often of better quality than what is available in metropolitan areas for the same price,’ Prof. Johnson says.

What many regional centres also have – at least in theory – is a well-connected, welcoming and sustainable community, she says.

About five years ago, Deakin researched how migrants moving to Geelong to work at the TAC fared, along with a separate group of refugees.

Prof. Johnson said it goes without saying that their backgrounds and experiences were very different. But what was common amongst those happy to stay on was that they had formed friendships and connections both within their immediate groups, and outside of work, for example.

‘So attention to the development of bridging social capital is important for migrants to feel settled and have a reality of being connected in a host of practical ways into their new communities,’ she says.

The challenges of fitting into a new community

Prof. Reed says integrating into a new community can be one of the largest challenges for anyone moving to a new town or regional city. However if you stay long enough, you’ll likely eventually become part of the furniture.

‘Many regional towns and cities have well-established communities and are not able to easily adapt,’ he says. ‘Households need to appreciate the difference between major cities and regional cities and towns as it requires a long-term commitment.’

Of course, by their very nature smaller towns are unlikely to offer exactly the same services as those in the city.

So you might have to plan a little more when it comes to supermarket shopping, ordering takeaway (Uber Eats may not always be available, for instance) or finding an available doctor, particularly if you need to see a specialist.

But pick the right town or smaller city – and perhaps the right uni course you can study online – and you might find yourself thriving amid a lack of traffic lights, more affordable housing and a close-knit community of friendly locals.

Originally published on this.

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