Leaving the metropolis: A new generation of seachangers

Dr Lisa Denny1, Dr Nick  Osbaldiston2, Dr Felicity  Picken3

1Institute for the Study of Social Change, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

2College of Arts, Society and Education, James Cook University , Cairns, Australia

3School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Western Sydney University , Sydney, Australia


In recent times there has been an upsurge in public interest in counter-urban trends in Australia. This specifically revolves around the two major capital cities of Melbourne and Sydney. In the past, demographers and geographers have identified this type of counter-urbanisation as amenity migration or ‘seachange’. Often these trends identify older migrants who, following narratives of escape and retirement idylls, leave their metropolitan environments for homes and lifestyles in places of high environmental amenity. Analysis of the most recent ABS Census of Population and Housing and migration data shows a new trend in counter-urbanisation; a shift to younger seachangers. In this paper, key attributes and values that are associated with this shift to younger generations are identified through survey data to better inform this emerging trend. Underpinned by a theoretical framing entitled ‘lifestyle migration’, or the quest for a more authentic or fulfilling life, the factors influencing counter-urbanisation range from everyday metropolitan failings such as traffic congestion and housing affordability through to deeper affiliations with slower, amenity rich landscapes. Seeking to add substance to the wealth of anecdotal evidence, this paper presents our preliminary findings on why younger people are seeking to leave big city life.


Drs Lisa Denny, Nick Osbaldiston and Felicity Picken bring divergent skills and interests to bare on their collaborative work that aims to identify Australia’s changing relations to work, migration, urban and amenity lifestyles. Informed by the disciplines of demography, sociology, geography and urban studies, they are currently aiming to better understand the choices of people to move, how these movements effect internal migration origins and destinations and how these connect to international migration and Australia.

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