The story of Perth over the last few decades has been one of a maturing city. The city best known for being “the most isolated city in the world” was put on the map for many Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers thanks to the America’s Cup triumph and subsequent hosting of the event in the 1980s, triggering a flurry of government infrastructure investment and transformation across Fremantle and Perth.
The mining boom of the 2000s provided a similar boost for a city that had started to lose some of that earlier lustre. This sentiment was reflected in Lonely Planet’s frank assessment of Perth in the year 2000 as “Dullsville”. But as the resources industry boomed, the population soon followed and successive governments undertook significant long-term infrastructure investments that have forever changed the face of the city and helped Perth cope with an explosion of population growth and urban sprawl.
A renewed Perth
Visitors to Perth bring a perspective that can be lost on more seasoned sandgropers. Our new arrivals are greeted by a stunning natural landscape with world-class beaches and a city boasting internationally-recognised infrastructure (Perth Arena, Optus Stadium, Elizabeth Quay and a revitalised Northbridge, to name a few). The refreshed cultural infrastructure has been put to good use in recent years, with Perth’s annual FRINGE festival now the third largest in the world providing an economic boost to the state of $100 million annually.
We’re a nation obsessed with the sea, and it seems this is truer of West Aussies more than anyone else. While some may be familiar with the stat that 85% of Australians live within 50km of the coast, a national comparison shows that Western Australia has the highest proportion of its population living in the capital city. Perth is home to a staggering 79% of all West Aussies, much higher than the proportion of New South Welshmen (and women) who live in Sydney (65%) or Taswegians who live in Hobart (44%). This underscores the significance of Perth not only for the state but also our nation.
The future of Perth
So what does the future hold for Perth as we consider what the city could look like in 2030 and even 2050? The COVID-19 experience has so far highlighted the location of Western Australia – which has often been a tyranny of distance – has served as a strength. WA’s ability to manage the COVID-19 health situation has so far been exemplary within Australia and indeed globally, aided by our location and the unique ability to tightly manage our borders.
As we lift our eyes to the horizon and contemplate “the Asian Century”, Perth is strategically positioned as the only Australian capital sharing a time zone with China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan. Combined with the close geographic proximity, this is significant.
In an increasingly connected global society, the establishment of direct flights to Europe have already changed travel patterns for business and leisure alike. This maturing city still has much more development left in it, and with Australia’s population growth primarily driven by overseas migration, Perth can expect to continue to attract attention on the global stage for years to come.
We’re delighted to have recently launched a McCrindle office in Perth. As social researchers and demographers, we create a clearer picture of the trends that inform strategic thinking. For a snapshot of the demographic trends shaping the development of Perth now and into the future, download our free report The Future of Perth.