Skip navigation

Custom Search

Archived content

Rural and regional youth on the move

More than one-third of young Australians from non-metropolitan areas relocate to a major city in the years immediately after leaving school and, although some return, non-metropolitan areas experience a net loss of a quarter of their young people, according to a report recently released by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

The report, Movement of non-metropolitan youth towards the cities, is the first Australian national longitudinal study of young people's geographic mobility. It focuses on the experiences of 5,112 young Australians who lived in non-metropolitan areas during their final years of school. These young people were tracked from 1997, when most were in Year 11, until 2004, when most were 23 years old.

A total of 36% of young people who had lived in non-metropolitan areas in 1997 experienced at least one year living in a metropolitan area between 1998 and 2004. By 2004, 26% were living in a metropolitan area. Over the study's seven-year period, approximately 40% of the non-metropolitan youth who had moved to major cities were studying either at a university or a TAFE institution or were undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Full-time employment was a major factor influencing young people's decisions about where to live. Those who were able to secure full-time employment in non-metropolitan areas were more likely to remain in those areas, while those who gained full-time employment in metropolitan areas after completing their studies were more likely to stay in metropolitan areas.

No significant differences were recorded in employment rates, average income, work hours and measures of life satisfaction among young people who stayed in non-metropolitan areas, those who left non-metropolitan areas but subsequently returned and those who left non-metropolitan areas and had not returned. Rates of home ownership were slightly higher among those who stayed in or returned to non-metropolitan areas.

This research report is the fiftieth in the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), a program conducted jointly by ACER and the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training (now the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations). ACER website:

Source: Australian Council for Educational Research, 2007, One quarter of non-metropolitan youth leave for the cities, media release, 22 February, Australian Council for Educational Research, Camberwell, Victoria,, viewed 22/02/07.
Hillman, K. & Rothman, S. 2007, Movement of non-metropolitan youth towards the cities, Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth Research Report n.50, Australian Council for Educational Research, Camberwell, Victoria (viewed 22/02/07).
West Australian, 24/02/07, p.55.

Youth homelessness in rural Australia, 2006

Two projects of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI): 70020, Evaluating the Miller Foyer pilot project and 40160, Developing models of good practice in meeting the needs of homeless young people in rural areas, have examined the issues faced by young people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness in Australia.

Some key points:

  • Young people (aged 16–25 years) in rural areas experience homelessness very differently to their urban peers, due to limited employment and education options and inadequate formal support networks.
  • Young people in regional centres prefer to stay in the region rather than access accommodation and emergency services in larger cities or towns, indicating that family and friendship support was essential to their wellbeing – connections that would be lost by relocation to urban services.
  • Gender is particularly significant in the pathway into and experience of homelessness affecting the reasons why young people are at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness and their ability to access services and accommodation. Also affecting young people's access to services and accommodation are:
    • race
    • sexuality
    • the presence of children and/or pets
    • employment status
    • disability
  • Children and youth who had been placed into the care system are very likely to experience homelessness, particularly in the context of insufficient foster places for vulnerable teenagers.
  • Young people from low-income families who have previously experienced homelessness are more likely to become homeless themselves.
  • Young people are generally not aware of the services, variety of benefits and assistance available to support them before they become homeless, and generally only access assistance through pre-established connections. This is particularly true of young men.


  • Young people living in rural areas face many of the challenges confronting urban youth, but are also distinguished by a number of factors that make their experiences of homelessness distinctive including:
    • difficulties in finding employment
    • often expensive, rental housing markets that offer sub-standard housing and often discriminate against youth.

The research shows that there are limited support services in rural areas for young people and those that exist tend to be concentrated in the larger regional centres.

There is a strongly developed sense of community amongst many homeless young people, valuing friendship and support networks and placing considerable priority on staying within a familiar physical environment rather than relocating to metropolitan regions that are perceived by the young people as 'dangerous'.

Source: AHURI Research & Policy Bulletin, Issue 82, August 2006.
Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI)

Alcohol-related death and injury, 1993–2002

National Drug Research Institute research:
2,643 Australians aged 15–24 died between 1993 and 2002 from alcohol-related injury and disease (about 15% of all deaths in that age group).
Rural youth were:
1.7 times more likely to die from alcohol consumption than urban youths,
1.9 times as likely to be admitted to hospital as a result of an alcohol-fuelled assault, and
1.5 times as likely to be the victim of alcohol-caused violence than urban youths.

Causes of death due to high-risk drinking included car crashes, violent assaults, falls and suicide.

Source: The Canberra Times, 11/8/2005, p.8, The Daily Telegraph, 11/8/2005, p.5, NT News, 11/8/2005, p.5.
National Drug Research Institute:

Back to top

Some facts, September 2004

  • Number of young people aged 15 to 24 living in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia: 79,685 (approx. 30%).
  • Percentage of rural young people aged 15 to 24 in each area:
Inner regional: 61%
Outer regional: 30%
Remote: 5%
  • Among 16-year-olds, secondary school attendance ranges from 84% in urban areas to 41% in very remote areas.
  • Hospitalisation rates for pregnancy and childbirth are much higher in regional and remote areas compared to those living in major cities.
Regional: 9.36%
Remote: 14.7%
Major cities: 6.46%
  • Youth suicide rates are higher in rural and remote areas compared to metropolitan:
Rural: 8.8 per 100,000
Remote: 24.1 per 100,000
Metropolitan: 6.4 per 100,000
  • Among people living in remote areas, there are higher rates of:
physical inactivity during leisure time,
regular smoking,
drinking at hazardous levels, and
using illicit substances.
  • For the majority of rural young people, the rural lifestyle offers a unique and strong sense of community connectedness and intergenerational relationships.
  • Generally, young people in regional areas of Australia have high-level aspirations for their futures.
  • Around 70% of young people in regional or remote areas say they are pleased or mostly satisfied with their quality of life.

Source: Revolve, September 2004, no.7, published by Youth For Christ, Australia. Revolve is a quarterly document that provides updates on the current trends and issues pertinent to young people in Australia and can be downloaded in pdf version from the YFC Australia web site.

Back to top

Health of young people living in rural and remote areas, 2003

Young people living in rural and remote areas tend to have poorer health than young people living in metropolitan areas. People from rural and remote areas also have high rates of regular smoking, drinking at hazardous levels and using illicit substances – often higher than young people in metropolitan areas.

Hospitalisations comparison:

Rate of hospitalisations for pregnancy and childbirth among young women: (per 100,000)
inner regional: 9,363
outer regional and remote areas: 14,173
major cities: 6,466

Rate of hospitalisations for external causes of injury: (per 100,000)
inner regional: 5,716
outer regional and remote areas: 8,780
major cities: 4,198

Mortality comparison:

Death rates due to external causes of injury and poisoning: (per 100,000)
rural areas: 57.4
remote areas: 99.4
metropolitan: 37.6

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Australia's young people: their health and well being, 2003. AIHW Cat. No. PHE 50. Canberra: AIHW. PDF version available on line [viewed 25/01/2007].

Back to top

Some numbers from 2001

Population changes in young people between 1996 and 2001:

  • In remote areas: -6.6%
  • In populated inland areas: -2.4%
  • In populated coastal areas: -0.5%
  • In regional cities: +1.3%
  • In non-metropolitan areas Australia-wide: -1.3%
  • In metropolitan areas Australia-wide: +0.4%
  • In Australia as a whole: -0.2%

16-year-olds in full-time education in 2001:

  • In remote areas: 62.1%
  • In populated inland areas: 85%
  • In populated coastal areas: 83%
  • In regional cities: 84%
  • In non-metropolitan areas Australia-wide: 82.7%
  • In metropolitan areas Australia-wide: 87.4%
  • In Australia as a whole: 84.2%

Youth labour force participation in 2001:

  • In remote areas: 61.9%
  • In populated inland areas: 61.8%
  • In populated coastal areas: 61.1%
  • In regional cities: 66%
  • In non-metropolitan areas Australia-wide: 62.6%
  • In metropolitan areas Australia-wide: 63.1%
  • In Australia as a whole: 63%

Change in youth unemployment between 1996 and 2001:

  • In remote areas: -2.2%
  • In populated inland areas: -3.0%
  • In populated coastal areas: -2.2%
  • In regional cities: -2.5%
  • In non-metropolitan areas Australia-wide: -2.5%
  • In metropolitan areas Australia-wide: -1.6%
  • In Australia as a whole: -1.9%

Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences [online edition n.d.], Country matters – Social atlas of rural and regional Australia, Summary Booklet, BRS, available online [25/01/2007] from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries web site.

Back to top

Rural youth in Australia, 2001

Percent of young people who plan to leave small towns: 75-90%
...girls: 85%
...boys: 71%
Percent of rural youth planning to go on to university: girls: 62%; boys: 39%
Participation rate in tertiary studies of rural students, 1997: 17.4% (1992: 18.7%)

Source: Alston, M & Kent, J. 2001, Generation X-pendable: Young, Rural and Looking for Work. An examination of young people's perceptions of employment opportunities in rural areas, Centre for Rural Social Research, Charles Sturt University, Queensland. Available  as pdf [viewed 25/01/2007].

Back to top