THE drift among young adults from country to city living is reversing, with more 25 to 44-year-olds returning to the regional towns they grew up in, the Regional Australia Institute says.
Internal migration data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows, for 2010-11, that eight capital cities lost a net 10,638 people in the 25 to 44 age category while the top eight regional centres gained 8064.
"This trend signifies a big change in lifestyle preferences for this demographic and opens up many opportunities for regions and businesses to consider how to take advantage of this," RAI chief executive Su McCluskey said.
"While the lifestyle might be a natural drawcard, investing in the other factors that play a role in people's decision whether to live in regional areas will be critical to a region's future."
According to a report by the RAI, there is anecdotal evidence many of those moving to the regional areas are returning to where they grew up once they settle down and have families, a group the research group has dubbed "regional returners".
The returners make the move for various reasons, the RAI says, including lifestyle, affordability, and to be close to family and have lower stress.
But some potential returners were held back by negative perceptions of career options, isolation and a lack of infrastructure, the RAI says.
Regional authorities needed to combat these perceptions by emphasising the different career pathways on offer and the "significant drawcard" of housing affordability.
The RAI's analysis of ABS figures shows Sydney is losing the most in the 25 to 44 age group of all the capital cities, at 7753 people, with Perth still gaining 2084 people attributable to the mining boom.
The most popular regional area in the age group to move is the NSW Hunter region, followed by south-west Western Australia and Queensland's Sunshine Coast, The Australian Financial Review reports.
Kiri Farrell, a 26-year-old aspiring teacher, is one of those who has decided to move back from the bright lights of Sydney to Griffith, a regional centre in NSW an hour's drive away from her original home town of Ardlethan.
Her brother made a similar move, returning from a police job in Adelaide to be with his fiancee in Griffith.
After seven years in Sydney completing arts and education degrees, Ms Farrell said she felt she could contribute more as a much-needed regional school teacher.
"I know the struggles in country schools and the need for good teachers," she said.
"I wanted to actually put into the community rather than just do a day's work and go home. To take what I've learnt from the city and take it back to the country."
Ms Farrell said she had not necessarily always considered the prospect of moving back, but had realised as she got older she "really missed the quietness".