The surprising lack of immigrants in regional Australia

Australia is a population of migrants. In the 2011 census, thirty per cent of usual residents reported they were born outside of Australia and its external territories. But disproportionately Australia’s immigrants live in the capital cities.  In New South Wales, 40% of Sydney’s sprawling population had been born in another country but outside of the Greater Sydney boundaries the figure was only 16%.  Perth, the commercial hub of the nation’s resource boom, migrants also made up 40% of usual residents.  Beyond the city, where the mines, farms and whale sharks can be found, only 26% were born overseas.

Drilling down further, I looked more closely at two archetypical regions: Western Australia’s Outback which includes the bulk of the state’s mining activity, and the Wheatbelt, a swath of grain and sheep growing farms.  The Outback, as you would expect, has a higher percentage of foreign born: 29% compared to 23%.  Both lower than what you would find in Australia’s large cities. Western Australia’s resource boom is not having much effect on regional population diversity.

In the next posts I will explore and explode some of the myths, including the role of immigrants in mining and agriculture and in the often stated reliance of foreign-born health professionals in the bush. More importantly I will discuss how the regions are missing opportunities by failing to attract immigrants.

Data come from the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s 2011 Census generated with the excellent TableBuilders Pro program on the ABS website.

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