Internet-Savvy Families Desert Cities For Coast

Worth A Look, Urbanization, Frontier Centre

More families are moving away from cities and into regional and coastal centres, according to a comprehensive study of rural Australia.

The Government study also found rural Australians are just as likely as city dwellers to have the internet at home, more likely to be working and are older than people in the city.

More than 7.5 million Australians live outside capital cities, an increase of 472,700 since 2001. The largest growth is in coastal Queensland. The study also reveals people have been leaving smaller rural communities, especially young families.

The largest population growth outside capital cities occurred in Queensland with an increase of 271,300 people, mainly due to significant growth in coastal areas. The non-capital city population growth in Queensland was three times the non-capital city growth in NSW (85,900) and five times the non-capital city growth in Victoria (50,800).

The 2008 Country Matters: Social Atlas of Rural and Regional Australia, to be published today, is a comprehensive snapshot of social and economic trends in rural and regional centres.

It will be issued by the Bureau of Rural Sciences in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke will announce the findings at the Primary Industries Ministerial Council meeting in Melbourne today.

Across Australia, the largest increase in the number of people who got vocational qualifications – including certificates or diplomas – was in small towns, at 25.2 per cent, and regional centres, 22.7 per cent. National growth was 18.2 per cent between 2001 and 2006.

People in country areas were more likely to take on voluntary work. In 2006, more than a quarter of people in rural areas, 27.9 per cent, and small towns, 26.6 per cent, volunteered their time. This was considerably higher than the national average of 19.8 per cent.

The highest levels of workforce participation were in rural areas, 67.5 per cent, and more rural people continued to work into older age than their urban counterparts.

And home ownership rates were higher in rural areas than in major urban centres. More than three-quarters, 76.2 per cent, of homes in rural areas and more than two-thirds, 69.4 per cent, of homes in small towns were owned or being purchased. This was higher than the rate of home ownership in major urban centres, 63.6 per cent.

Mothers with dependants in rural areas have the highest level of participation in the workforce, 71 per cent, much higher than in any of the major urban centres, at 67.3 per cent.

And rural Australians are overcoming the digital divide. All areas have experienced more than 25 per cent growth in the number of households connected to the internet since 2001, but the largest growth has occurred in rural areas, 28.5per cent.

Access to computers and the internet in rural centres had almost caught up to the city, with 63.5 per cent having internet access compared with 66.1 per cent in urban areas.