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Internal migration

Internal migration is the movement of people from one defined area to another within a country. Information on internal migration within Australia is available from the Census.

The Census asks a series of questions relating to each person's usual address, and data from these questions are recorded as the Usual Address Indicator Census Night (UAICP), Usual Address One Year Ago Indicator (UAI1P) and Usual Address Five Years Ago Indicator (UAI5P).

Using the following variables, it is possible to identify a person's change of address for one year prior to the Census date, and for five years prior to the Census date:
  • Place of Usual Residence (PURP)
  • Place of Usual Residence One Year Ago (PUR1P)
  • Place of Usual Residence Five Years Ago (PUR5P).

Data collected in the Census only reflect movements which coincide with these particular points in time (i.e. one year ago and five years ago), even though there may have been multiple movements during this period.

Household mobility indicators are also derived using this information. Note that persons temporarily absent, visitors, and households containing only visitors, are excluded from these variables. The following two indicators are available for Census data:
  • Household One Year Mobility Indicator (MV1D), where: all residents (aged one year or more) have changed address during the last year; or some residents have changed address during the last year; or no residents have changed address during the last year; or not stated (including households in which one or more residents did not state his/her usual residence one year ago).
  • Household Five Year Mobility Indicator (MV5D), where: all residents (aged 5 years and over) have changed address during the last five years; or some residents have changed address during the last five years; or no residents have changed address in the last five years; or not stated (including households in which one or more residents did not state his/her usual residence of five years ago).

The data for place of usual residence are used, mainly in conjunction with household mobility indicators, for detailed studies of internal migration.

Such studies must be undertaken carefully, and the points illustrated in the following cases should be noted.

Since the indicators are derived from usual residence at certain dates, only the net effects of any multiple movements between these dates can be derived. For example, John A Citizen was living in a South Australian rural area at the time of the 2006 Census. Six months later he moved to Melbourne for two years, and then to Adelaide where he was living at the time of the 2011 Census. Census data would only show the South Australian country to city movement.

No movement is shown in the internal migration data for 'out and back' movements – for example, where a family moves away from their place of usual residence to live elsewhere, then returns before the end of the reference period to live at their previous address.

2011 Internal Migration data

The following tables include data from the 2011 Census to show people whose place of usual residence was different one year ago or five years ago from their state or territory of usual residence on Census Night.

State/territory of usual residence for persons who responded that they had moved in the last year

Analysis of those with a different place of residence one year ago shows that movement predominantly occurs within the state or territory in which people usually reside. The next largest movements for most states can be attributed to persons migrating to Australia or returning from overseas.

Fact sheets

  • Internal migration

Geography

Enumeration procedures

2006 fact sheets

Place of Usual Residence 1 Year Ago by State/Territory of Usual Residence 2011 (for those who had moved)
Place of Usual Residence 1 Year Ago State/Territory of Usual Residence 2011
New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Tasmania Northern Territory Australian Capital Territory Other Territories Total
New South Wales 771,843 20,075 35,107 4,578 8,058 2,117 2,822 9,667 64 854,331
Victoria 17,523 595,782 16,172 5,023 7,485 2,573 2,370 2,440 13 649,381
Queensland 28,953 16,657 616,281 4,363 9,348 2,963 3,834 2,727 34 685,160
South Australia 4,292 5,907 5,363 174,941 2,983 734 1,567 764 14 196,565
Western Australia 6,273 7,339 7,589 2,258 286,941 1,351 1,572 699 90 314,112
Tasmania 1,859 2,842 2,809 628 1,590 53,427 268 295 0 63,718
Northern Territory 2,832 2,619 5,253 2,664 2,469 444 23,045 478 11 39,815
Australian Capital Territory 8,389 2,471 2,852 548 700 221 376 36,373 37 51,967
Other Territories 118 99 93 45 144 9 25 34 80 647
Overseas 11,077 7,106 9,989 2,437 3,659 685 574 461 0 35,988
Not stated 92,847 78,563 63,184 17,545 45,823 3,368 3,364 7,471 38 312,203
Total 946,006 739,460 764,692 215,030 369,200 67,892 39,817 61,409 381 3,203,887

Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may appear between sums of the component items and totals across tables.

State/territory of usual residence for persons who responded that they had moved in the last five years

Analysis of those with a different place of residence five years ago shows that movement predominantly occurs within states and territories. The next largest movements for most states can be attributed persons migrating to Australia or returning from overseas.
Place of Usual Residence 5 Years Ago by State/Territory of Usual Residence 2011 (for those who had moved)
Place of Usual Residence 5 Years Ago State/Territory of Usual Residence 2011
New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Tasmania Northern Territory Australian Capital Territory Other Territories Total
New South Wales 1,832,679 54,244 110,733 12,312 22,074 6,714 6,909 26,910 118 2,072,693
Victoria 42,333 1,373,495 45,071 13,440 19,518 6,956 5,632 6,169 27 1,512,641
Queensland 70,253 39,060 1,331,607 10,153 19,563 8,701 8,712 6,424 51 1,494,524
South Australia 11,281 16,016 15,640 409,361 7,813 2,117 4,148 2,203 29 468,608
Western Australia 14,107 18,536 18,503 5,607 619,338 4,417 3,746 1,964 234 686,452
Tasmania 5,334 8,198 7,916 1,731 3,696 124,738 796 871 5 153,285
Northern Territory 5,564 5,195 12,448 5,408 4,939 943 38,383 1,096 23 73,999
Australian Capital Territory 22,157 6,470 8,349 1,509 1,827 644 851 72,494 33 114,334
Other Territories 115 28 79 18 300 3 17 29 144 733
Overseas 349,110 312,606 238,590 74,496 179,450 11,653 11,485 22,954 94 1,200,438
Not stated 27,747 19,398 26,198 6,563 8,911 1,682 1,244 1,242 7 92,992
Total 2,380,680 1,853,246 1,815,134 540,598 887,429 168,568 81,923 142,356 765 7,870,699

Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may appear between sums of the component items and totals across tables.

Other data on interstate migration

The ABS produces quarterly estimates of interstate migration in the publication Australian Demographic Statistics(cat. no. 3101.0). Census internal migration data are used as a starting point for calculating the quarterly estimates; and then adjustments are made according to unidentified information on interstate changes of address, as advised by Medicare Australia, in conjunction with information on the distribution of defence force personnel, provided by the Department of Defence. Each Census, the accuracy of the quarterly estimates is assessed against, and potentially replaced by, interstate migration estimates derived from Census questions relating to a person's place of usual residence one year ago and five years ago. This process is known as re-basing the estimates. Once the estimates have been re-based and recalculated, a new cycle of the quarterly estimates begins.

For further information see Information Paper: Review of Interstate Migration Method, March 2009 (cat. no. 3106.0.55.001).

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