More Australian families are moving away from cities and into regional and coastal centres, according to a comprehensive study of the nation’s rural and regional communities.

The 2008 Country Matters: Social Atlas of Rural and Regional Australia reveals that at the 2006 Census, more than 7.5 million Australians lived outside capital cities – an increase of 472,700 since 2001 – with the largest growth in coastal Queensland. However, it also confirms that people have been leaving smaller rural communities, especially young families.

A key finding of the report is that home ownership rates are higher in rural areas than in major urban centres. More than three quarters of homes in rural areas (76.2%) and more than two thirds of homes in small towns (69.4%) are owned or being purchased. This is higher than the rate of home ownership in major urban centres (63.6%).