Coronavirus is removing employment barriers and will accelerate a population shift away from cities, the Regional Australia Institute says.
The not-for-profit released a report this week which found all capital cities - excluding Canberra and Brisbane - lost more people to regional areas than they gained during the last census.
Chief executive Liz Ritchie said coronavirus had fast-tracked the future of work, presenting an opportunity for continued growth outside of the cities.
"Over the last few months, we've all had to change how we work and this has allowed staff and employers to see that location is no longer a barrier," Ms Ritchie said.
"It's accelerated the adoption of technology, which will most certainly present new opportunities for regional Australia."
REA Group economist Nerida Conisbee said real estate inquiries had spiked since the pandemic, with viewings of listings in regional areas growing more rapidly than in capitals.
"People are potentially sick of their small, cramped apartments. As the way we work changes more permanently the choice of where we live opens up," Ms Conisbee said.
Analysis of realestate.com.au traffic showed house prices in regional areas were also outperforming many capitals, with towns on the fringes of cities performing particularly well, Ms Conisbee said.
Loulou and Dale Moxom moved their family from Dickson to Yass just over two years ago. Ms Moxom commutes to her Braddon florist five days a week.
She said the town was an "untapped little hub of ingenuity" where creative people ran quirky courses and neighbours left bags of fruit on your fence.
"I thought I'd be seen as a massive outsiders because I look different and I'm not your RM Williams-wearing girl, but we were welcomed with open arms," she said.
Ms Moxom said coronavirus had made her and her business partner rethink whether the storefront would be necessary going forward, as they managed more work remotely.
"In today's new normal, with COVID, if you can deliver you have a business," Ms Moxom said.
She said people think a tree-change is just the trendy thing to do but after decades in Canberra, there was no going back.
"It's a little bit daunting and a little bit scary, but it's so doable," she said.
"You can't keep it a secret. You're driving past llamas and ponies and geese and big open spaces and if that doesn't put a smile on your face," she said.
People are clearly looking for the places where they can live their best life. And the affordability of regional places, coupled with good job availability in many regional places makes them very attractive.Regional institute economist Kim Houghton
From 2011 to 2016, Sydney and Melbourne lost more residents to regions than they gained, with the NSW capital losing more than 64,000 people and its Victorian counterpart more than 21,000.
Canberra bucked the trend with an increase of 160 people in the five years, while Brisbane gained more than 15,000.
The report also looked specifically at the movement of 20-to-35-year-olds around the country.
"Sydney also saw a net outflow of millennials. Some 37,000 millennials moved from Sydney to regions, with 32,500 moving the other way," Ms Ritchie said.
The top three regional destinations for millennials to move to during the last census period were the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Sunshine Coast.
Regional institute economist Kim Houghton said Australia was bucking the global urbanisation trend.
"More millennials moved from one regional place to another than moved from a regional place to a greater capital city," he said.
"People are clearly looking for the places where they can live their best life. And the affordability of regional places, coupled with good job availability in many regional places makes them very attractive."
Mr Houghton said there were more than 40,000 jobs vacant in regional Australia before COVID-19, mostly high-skill trades and professional jobs with decent wages.
"The personal benefits of living regionally are clear, and we estimate that there are net gains to the national economy, too, from the increasing spending power that emerges from smaller mortgages, and the reduction in the crippling costs of congestion," he said.
Ms Ritchie said the question now was how to amplify the drivers of this movement toward regional Australia to extend the population settlement even further.
"Now is the time to work together with industry, government and regional communities to ensure regionalisation of the workforce," Ms Ritchie said.
"If location is no longer a barrier for employment, it's possible that the trend line over the next decade could see an even greater swing to regions."