UC research: youth leaving Murray-Darling Basin

UC research: youth leaving Murray-Darling Basin

Claudia Doman

31 May 2013: Young people are leaving the Murray-Darling Basin at higher rates than elsewhere in Australia, a University of Canberra-led research project shows.

The Murray-Darling Basin (excluding Canberra) has seen a 10 percent decrease in young people aged 15-24 years between 2006 and 2011 due to internal migration. This is much higher than young people living elsewhere in regional Australia, with around a six percent decrease.

Professor Helen Berry, associate dean (research) at the University’s Faculty of Health and chief investigator of the research program that includes the study, said a high dollar, low commodity prices, droughts and floods have impacted many farming communities.

“Many farming communities are unsure as to what effect new water reforms may have on their livelihoods. Whether to stay where they are, move elsewhere in the Basin or leave the Basin completely are choices facing many,” she said.

“We are trying to map the reasons behind these choices and gain a greater insight into the decision processes underlying whether to stay or go.

“This is particularly important given that migration is a key to understanding the potential impact of water policy and broader adjustment pressures in the Basin.”


Pipeline near Morgan, SA. Image courtesy of John Baker & the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Through innovative economic and social modelling and using data from the latest census together with a specially designed database, the researchers are looking at whether age, education, access to services or land and water use may be keeping people in the Basin or driving them away.

Rebecca Cassells, principal research fellow from the University’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), who is leading this research project, added:

“Learning about migration trends will help us understand and manage – and perhaps even predict – impacts on communities as well as on employment, investment and agriculture.

“Our goal is to extend our understanding of migration decisions beyond purely economic reasons by finding out about the personal pressures on householders that might make them decide to leave,” Ms Cassells said.

The three-year project is part of the Murray-Darling Basin Futures Collaborative Research Network, led by the University of Canberra. This $13.6 million collaboration between four Australian universities and key government partners is focused on the challenges of the Murray-Darling Basin.