This thesis has two major aims. The first is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the level of population mobility, and of the patterns and processes of internal migration in Australia in the mid-1980s. The second is to help systematise knowledge about Australian population mobility, as a basis for the further development of migration theory relevant to Australia, as well as more generally.
A detailed comparative review of the Australian and international literatures on migration and population mobility is undertaken in order to position Australian research in its wider context and to identify its strengths and weaknesses. It is argued that the strengths lie (i) in analysis of spatial patterns of migration and (ii) in placing these movements in a historical framework. Weaknesses are identified with respect to (i) establishing how, and why, the propensity to migrate varies between sub-groups of the population, (ii) drawing out functional linkages between various spatial domains of migration, and (iii) identifying how individual mobility varies over the life course. The thesis aims to contribute in each of these areas.
Matrix data from the 1986 Census are used to trace patterns of population redistribution between states, between capital cities and their nonmetropolitan hinterlands, and within the major metropolitan areas. The increasing northwards drift of population which has occurred since the 1970s is attributed to transformation of the Australian economy from a manufacturing to a service base, and to the changing demographic composition of the population. Similar factors are found to be responsible for counterurbanisation. Migration linkages between these spatial domains, and to intra-urban movements, are explored.
Variations between sub-groups of the population in the propensity to move are considered with respect to their demographic characteristics (age, sex and marital status), birthplace and labour force characteristics. The extent and nature of such differences are documented and explanation sought by reference to models of the femily life cycle, the career cycle, and the process of spatial adjustment. Findings in some areas confirm and update earlier observations while others extend existing knowledge of these relationships. However, in a number of areas, it is shown that inter-group differences have changed compared with previous findings, necessitating adjustments to the conventional wisdom.
While structural factors fundamentally determine the redistribution of population at all levels of scale, it is argued that further progress in migration studies will require understanding of the spatial dimension of individual migration careers, and of how such movements intersect with these wider structural determinants of mobility. In the Australian context, the absence of longitudinal data sets on migration over the life course is seen as a fundamental constraint to further development in this key area.