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A record number of Australians moved to another state or territory through the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with tens of thousands fleeing lockdowns and high infection rates in a demographic earthquake that could reverberate for years.
Almost 500,000 people moved interstate in 2021, a 20 per cent increase on the previous record set in 2002, with Victoria suffering its biggest net loss of residents to other parts of the country since the state was enduring 12 per cent unemployment during the early-1990s recession.
Sarah and Gideon van Zyl enjoying the Wallaman Falls near Townsville after moving to Queensland from Mildura.
Despite border restrictions, people moved en masse to Queensland and Western Australia while regional centres across the country also welcomed new residents from far-flung parts of the nation. NSW also suffered its biggest net loss of residents to other parts of the country in more than three decades.
Sarah van Zyl and her husband Gideon moved to the north Queensland city of Townsville from Mildura in Victoria’s north in a three-day road trip over the new year.
She said the main reason for the move was so her husband could take an entry course to study veterinary medicine. But having grown up in Mildura, van Zyl was also just keen for something new.
“Being locked down so much [during the pandemic], that kind of spurred me to really want a change,” she said.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a surge in the number of people prepared to move interstate through the second half of 2021 as NSW, Victoria and the ACT emerged from their lockdowns.
Victoria’s overall population through the pandemic has fallen by almost 50,000 to less than 6.6 million. Interstate migration out of the state, on top of the closed international border, drove the drop.
Through the two years of COVID-19, Victoria lost a net 31,700 people to other parts of the country. In 2018 and 2019, it had gained 23,858 residents as people moved to the state, which was enjoying one of the strongest jobs markets in the country.
Through the final six months of 2021, Victoria lost 335 people a day to other parts of the country compared with 275 who moved in. More than 60,000 people left Victoria, the biggest outflow over a six-month history in records dating back to 1981.
Queensland was the go-to state for Victorians, with a net 23,299 moving north through 2020 and 2021. Three-quarters of those moved last year.
The sunshine state received a record net 80,056 interstate migrants through the two COVID years, almost double the number who moved there in 2018 and 2019. Through the final three months of 2021 it gained a record 191,147 residents from other parts of the country.
Many of those also came from NSW, 460 people a day left the state through the final six months of 2021 compared to 303 who moved in. More than 83,100 people left NSW, the biggest outflow over a six-month period in records dating back to 1981.
Western Australia had its largest inflow in a three-month period on record as more than 13,000 people crossed the Nullarbor in the final three months of 2021. South Australia, which lost a net 8535 people in 2018 and 2019 through interstate migration, gained more than 1100 residents during the COVID-19 years.
Australian National University demographer Dr Liz Allen said it appeared the pandemic, and its associated lockdowns, had contributed to the surge in people moving about the country.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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