Happy little boy having fun in a wheelbarrow pushing by dad in domestic garden on warm sunny day.

Living in a regional town: What it's like to move out of the big smoke

Making the move into the regional towns of Australia might be a scary prospect for seasoned city-dwellers, especially if they're unfamiliar with job prospects outside of the suburban sprawl.

However, in the last 12 months, at least 46% of regional areas outside of capital cities reported a decline in the unemployment rate. As of March 2019, ABS data indicates that at least 70% of regions have an unemployment rate of less than 5%. Just 9.5% of regional areas report an unemployment rate of more than 10%. 

The recent growth in employment signals a healthy future for jobs in regional areas. According to the Department of Jobs and Small Business, at least 26% of the 13 million Australian jobs to be created to the year 2023 will be found in regional areas. In particular, the health and social assistance industry is expected to enjoy a boom in regional towns, with 85,000 more jobs expected in the next few years according to the Regional Australia Institute report ‘The Future of Regional Jobs’.

Still, many people hold legitimate fears about finding work. Unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 living in regional Australia can be as high as 25% according to the charity The Brotherhood of St Laurence.

But should job prospects be a barrier to life in the country? The data suggests that Millennials making the move to a small town also crave affordable living, enjoying new experiences and being part of a community.

The 2015 Regional Wellbeing Survey found 70% of rural and regional Australians felt highly satisfied with their life.

In fact, according to Deloitte's Global Millennial Survey 2019 many millennials (46%) are more concerned about living a meaningful and fulfilling life focused on making an impact in their community. 

Along with the growing job prospects in health and social assistance sector, regional cities score highly on community and volunteering efforts, according to Bond University’s Happiness Project.

In addition, the HILDA survey, a 14-year long longitudinal study of Australian households, found that people who live in towns with a population up to 99,000 tend to have higher life satisfaction than people living in major urban areas.

Similarly, the 2015 Regional Wellbeing Survey found 70% of rural and regional Australians felt highly satisfied with their life, while 73% would recommend their community as a good place to live. 

For a first person perspective, we spoke to 26-year-old Natasha to share her personal journey leaving the big smoke for the allure of life in a smaller town. 

Natasha's Story

One of my biggest concerns when moving out of Sydney was about work. I know a lot of people who leave the city struggle to get jobs.

For instance, where we live, there are only three architecture firms. So I was super lucky to find a job as an architect - I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

My workplace is pretty relaxed. There’s not as much as work as I had Sydney. People don’t seem to be as stressed or as highly strung. It's a good work-life balance.

There isn’t a commute for me. We live a 10 minute drive from the beach and work. It’s completely stress-free.

Everywhere I want to go is within a 20 minute drive. I only fill up my car every 3-4 weeks with petrol since everything is so close.

One problem though is that there is not much public transport. If you're not in a big city like Sydney or Melbourne, it's tough to get around without a car.

Food and petrol costs are pretty much the same in Sydney but rent is way cheaper.

I’m paying $450 a week for a four bedroom house with a garden in a nice area that’s only 10 minutes from work.

I was paying $520 a week for a two bedroom house in Lewisham in Sydney. 

Making Friends

I didn’t know anybody apart from my partner. That was a bit of an adjustment at first.

Because my partner is in the army, there was a network for us here when we first arrived and there are barbecues to meet new people happening regularly.

That's how I met is my painting class buddy. There are quite a few creative hubs that do workshops. They are always super popular and booked out. 

There's more of a balanced lifestyle here - people have more time to do creative things and be more active. It’s a slower pace of life so people are way, way friendlier. The average person in the coffee shop will have a 20 minute conversation with you if you get chatting to them. Everybody's got time.

We’re really good friends with our neighbours. We go to dinner at their place and they come over here. We know quite a few people in our street. It also seems like it’s really affordable to bring up a family here.

I go to yoga when I finish work. One of my friends lives around the corner from the studio and invited me to told me to come try it out.

It was only a five minute drive from work. I’ve been going to the studio since I moved here. The classes are pretty big because they aren’t as many studios here.

Things To Do 

The Sunday markets are a pretty big thing. I love them for the fresh fruit and veggies; great coffee and listening to the bands perform. It’s good to support local businesses and talent.

Community initiatives are really well supported. The council puts on a lot of events and a lot of them are free. There’s now a food truck event every month. There is the Heritage Day and the council invited a lot of Scottish and Irish bands to perform.

When you live in a smaller town, you have more time in the day and more opportunities to do what you want to do and share it with people you love and the community you live in.

The sense of community you get here isn’t something you get in Sydney. If something is on, everyone knows about it. Everyone goes, “Are you guys going ?” 

People do go out on Friday and Saturday nights and there’s always people out on the weekends. 

We find ourselves outdoors a lot more so than when we were in Sydney. My partner and I go for day trips pretty frequently on the weekend and there's so much to do. Regularly we are swimming, hiking, scuba diving and snorkelling. There’s beautiful mountains, creeks and ocean all around us. 

When you live in a smaller town, you have more time in the day and more opportunities to do what you want to do and share it with people you love and the community you live in. I would be more than happy to stay here forever.