Is there a rush of tree changers on the way?

Is there a rush of tree changers on the way?

Australians have long idolised packing it all in for a simpler life in the country.

The urge to move out of the cities has proven especially strong during the ongoing pandemic.

As a recent ABC program attests, with Zoom and the newfound ease of working from home during COVID, there is a new wave of young and old urbanites who have started to consider the bush an attractive option.

This urge to go "back to the land" is not a new one, nor is it unfamiliar to many already living in regional and remote parts of Australia.

They have watched waves of ex-urban migrants look for a piece of "the good life" outside the "unhealthy" cities.

Way back before the hippies of the 1970s, there were anarchists, suffragists, and Catholic Agrarians seeking out a simple alternative - these often made their move in response to broader political, economic and social challenges.

Ever since we turned decisively modern, there have also been a renegade few who saw through the promise of progress and industrialisation and chose the quieter alternative.

However, the Millennial move has proven to be far more utilitarian than radical.

Today's retirees, families and singles look for a tree or sea change for lifestyle reasons.

The dream of "living tiny" with a few chooks and a veggie garden has moved well into the mainstream.

This new wave is looking less for an ideological cause than for cheaper rent or affordable land, a better work life balance, a more environmentally attuned lifestyle and a slice of rural community life.

Regional areas have long despaired at the ever-present drain to the big cities for education and work - but the move the other way also comes at a cost.

Often this influx of urban professionals finds small communities already struggling with a lack of transport options, fewer amenities, sparing job opportunities, and housing shortages - particularly when it comes to rental accommodation.

While some communities welcome the new residents, others strain at having to compete for already stretched local resources and services.

But without this internal migration, as geographers and planners note, there will be less spending in regional areas, and vice versa, as the chicken and egg analogy continues to affect the fortunes of rural and regional Australia.

Rachel Goldlust is a historian at La Trobe University.

This story Is there a rush of tree changers on the way? first appeared on The Canberra Times.