Sydney’s Northern beaches ranks as the highest in the nation for wellbeing, with only one Queensland city making it to the top 10, the annual index revealed today.

The Australian Capital Territory came in second due to its low gender wage gaps, climate change risks and the division of wealth.

Australia’s capital city, Canberra, ranked highly on account of its low gender wage gaps, climate change risks and the division of wealth.(ABC News: Tahlia Roy)

Public policy adviser SGS Economics and Planning has today published its analysis of 518 local government areas (LGAs), assessing them on seven indicators:

  • economy
  • income and wealth
  • employment, knowledge and skills
  • housing
  • health
  • equality, community and work-life balance
  • environment

The seven sectors that make up the SGS Cities & Regions Wellbeing Index.(Supplied)

The only Queensland city that made the top 10 was Brisbane, which came in 10th place.

It was commended for its “large, productive and diverse economy”, relatively high levels of education and limited climate change risks.

Yarrabah and Palm Island in north Queensland and West Daly in Northern Territory were the lowest-performing areas of the assessed LGAs.

SGS principal Julian Szafraniec hoped the results would start a broader conversation on strategies to improve local communities.

“It’s not a scorecard for your local area, it’s a tool to inform a debate about where investment should go, and the choices we all need to make in the future,” he said.

Gender pay gaps

The largest gender pay gaps, in excess of $400 a week, were found in regional Western Australia in areas such as Karratha and Ashburton.

Perth and regional Queensland also performed poorly.

Sydney’s Northern Beaches, famous for its surf and sand, came in at the top of the index.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Mr Szafraniec said the data was influenced by low female participation in male-dominated industries.

“This [data] was particularly associated with mining communities but also places in the outskirts of Perth where we’ve got fly-in, fly-out workers,” he said.

“What we see is that that industry has quite high pay, and often the men in the families have quite demanding jobs associated with that type of work.”

In comparison, the top-performing regions in gender pay equality were Yarra in Victoria, Hobart, and Streaky Bay in South Australia.

Yarra in Victoria was one of the better performers in terms of gender pay equality.( ABC News: Scott Jewell )


The highest-ranking areas in housing affordability were Lockhart in south-western New South Wales, Bogan in the Orana region and Esperance in Western Australia.

In most states and territories, housing and rent were more expensive in metro cities compared to regional areas.

Greater Brisbane scored tenth on the wellbeing index.(Supplied: Vince McLachlan)

Brisbane ranked 387 out of 518, whilst the Gold Coast ranked 455 and Noosa at 459.

Mr Szafraniec said because of the dispersed nature of the economy in Queensland, there were a number of very unaffordable places outside of Brisbane, “which is quite different to some of the other states”.

Health and environment

Australia’s lowest-performing regions for health were in regional New South Wales and Western Australia, due to life expectancy.

Brisbane ranked 17th, with life expectancy at 86 years — according to the data, 85 per cent of the population had one or fewer health conditions.

Port Douglas took out first place thanks to the region’s picturesque protected landscapes.(Supplied: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)

Victoria, Tasmania, Western and South Australia were the highest-performing regions in the environment indicator, which is measured by climate change risks and the number of protected areas.

Despite Queensland not cracking the top four in environment, Port Douglas in north Queensland ranked number one due to the area’s government-protected lands.

Julian Szafraniec said the data indicated a gap in gender participation in some industries, such as mining.(Supplied)

Mr Szafraniec hoped the findings would inform governments on how to prioritise investment to improve quality of life across Australia.

“Traditional measures of growth and success, such as GDP, don’t make sense anymore,” he said.

“You can have a high-paying job yet can’t afford a home, business could be booming then be stripped away by a major climate event, we need to focus on measuring what matters.”

Capital city regions (in alphabetical order)

Top-performing local government areas within capital cities (for overall wellbeing)

Greater Adelaide

Mitcham, Burnside, Unley

Greater Brisbane

Brisbane, Redland, Moreton Bay

Greater Darwin

Litchfield, Darwin, Palmerston

Greater Hobart

Hobart, Kingborough, Clarence

Greater Melbourne

Melbourne, Nillumbik, Yarra

Greater Perth

Cambridge, Perth, Cottesloe

Greater Sydney

Northern Beaches, North Sydney, Ku-ring-gai

Posted , updated