The SeaChange Effect and Counter-Urbanism

Julian Fadini | October 30, 2018

Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

- Shakespeare, The Tempest 

When Shakespeare wrote the term ‘sea-change’, he was clearly referring to the dramatic transformation of one of his characters by the sea. Stemming from this, we have adopted this same term into our vocabulary to mean a deep transformation caused by any agency. We have all grown up consuming popular media like television shows, movies, magazines and blogs. These give us a chance to explore different values and ideals and in a subtle way, end up influencing our life choices.

A great example of the media’s influence on consumers is the effect the show SeaChange had on Australian migration ever since it ended in 2000. For those who don’t know, the premise of this show is the protagonist’s search for her SeaChange from urban life. After witnessing her life crumble around her in the city, she moves her family to a small fictional seaside town to start anew. This inspired many Australians to follow suit and is still seen as a common occurrence, now more than ever.

The SeaChangers

Increasingly, the SeaChange phenomenon, which was once linked to retirees, now includes the younger generation. Since coastal regions are popular with local and international visitors, the tourism industry in these areas is thriving. The working population is attracted to the jobs created by this and are happy to leave behind their stressful lives in the city for a peaceful and well-balanced life by the coast. Other migrators include alternate lifestylers, specialised service providers and more.

The reason for the change

"I think the notion of SeaChange is more relevant now than it was 20 years ago,"

 - David Mott, ITV.

The concept of counter-urbanism has been explored globally for decades. Most Australians live in an urban setting, but many seem to crave the great escape from concrete and glass to blue skies and the sea. Thus, SeaChangers are choosing the lifestyle afforded by small coastal settlements over stressful city life. This may be because of a number of economic, aesthetic, and environmental factors like:

  • Better housing
  • Debt via mortgage
  • Work-life balance
  • Shorter commutes
  • Lesser crime rate and risks
  • Enhanced family life
  • Safe environment for raising children
  • Pleasant climatic conditions
Case Study: Bellarine Peninsula

The TV show had an enormous effect on putting coastal townships in the Bellarine Peninsula on the map. Although the location in the show was fictional, it was filmed in these small villages which have resulted in SeaChangers seeking to settle down here.

This has greatly affected the real estate prices and the values have shot up tremendously. This happened gradually during the length of the show, doubling up between the 3 years it was on the air. But this rise did not end with the show. The real estate prices have been going up steadily ever since, and today, the median prices have increased by 484% in the 18 years to $900,000.

Although the towns retain their original charm, the migration has added a modern culture to this area, claim the local real estate agents. By keeping the SeaChange dream alive, the rise in property prices hasn’t stopped people from flocking to these idyllic seaside towns.

The SeaChange Effect