Top Australian city for CAs?

australian city
Chris Sheedy By Chris Sheedy, CA Today

15 December 2015

Never let it be said that we avoid the big topics at ICAS. Here we debate the contenders for the best Australian city for CAs.

Of course, the true answer may be ‘horses for courses’, but it is fascinating to compare and contrast.

Australia is often said to be beautiful one day and perfect the next. When speaking with the  ICAS members that currently call Australia home, it is difficult to argue with their unanimous love of the lifestyle. But how do the major cities really measure up?

It could be an important question to answer as an expected boom in member numbers takes place Down Under over the next decade. Our professionals are based mainly in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, so let’s check out the pros and cons of each.

All of these cities contain offices of the Big Four firms. The four main banks have head offices in Sydney and Melbourne, which are the obvious choices for sheer number of jobs, but also experience the most competition for those jobs. Lifestyle-wise, it truly depends on what you’re after. Australia has something for everybody.


One of Australia’s two biggest cities, Sydney is known as the brash and bold one, the city that is unafraid to flaunt its beauty. Considered slightly less cultured and classy than Melbourne, Sydney is all about the harbour and the beaches. It is also the financial capital of the nation.

A Grattan Institute study from 2014, entitled Mapping Australia’s Economy, revealed that in 2011/12 the Sydney Central Business District (CBD) produced $64.1bn of goods and services, so it is a city that works hard. At the same time, the stunning landscape in which it sits also allows its inhabitants to play hard, too.

  • Population in 2013: 4.37m
  • Average summer temperature: 25.9 degrees celsius
  • Average winter temperature: 18.6 degrees celsius
  • Rainfall last summer: 398mm


If Sydney is about the outdoors, Melbourne’s claim to fame is its culture - particularly food, drink, art and fashion. But with Port Phillip Bay, the Dandenong Ranges, Mornington Peninsula and more, it also has its fair share of outdoor beauty. A fast-growing population, predicted to overtake Sydney’s by 2053, brings both blessings and curses familiar to all large cities.

Melbourne’s CBD (including Docklands and Southbank) produced $53.9bn in products and services in 2011/12, so it is not far behind Sydney. Its top-level sporting events, including the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix and the Melbourne Cup, hint at the city’s absolute athletic obsession. Many feel that Melbourne, with its numerous cafes and laneways and bars, is Australia’s most European city. Just be prepared for European weather every now and then!

  • Population in 2013: 4.18m
  • Average summer temperature: 26.1 degrees celsius
  • Average winter temperature: 15.2 degrees celsius
  • Rainfall last summer: 135mm


Probably Australia’s most transformed city over the last decade, the world’s most remote capital city has been completely reshaped by the mining boom which brought riches beyond belief and real estate prices to match. And property is not the only thing for which you’ll pay more - a cappuccino in Perth, on average, will cost you more than in any other Australian city. Endless sandy beaches and kilometres of parks and river frontage flank an already attractive and wonderfully compact CBD.

The Perth CBD, according to Grattan Institute, punched well above its weight by generating $40.7bn of economic activity in 2011/12. It houses more than a third of all Western Australian mining jobs. This may not remain the case as the mining industry goes through a post-boom reset, but the economic activity encouraged by the boom has turned Perth into a thriving, modern metropolis.

  • Population in 2013: 1.9m
  • Average summer temperature: 30.1 degrees celsius
  • Average winter temperature: 19.1 degrees celsius
  • Rainfall last summer: 42mm


If sunshine, humidity and year-round warmth is what you’re after, Brisbane could be for you. Smaller than Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s third city has shaken off its image from decades ago of a business backwater to become a proudly cosmopolitan centre, albeit one where short sleeves and open-necked shirts are more popular than suits and ties.

In 2011/12 the Brisbane CBD produced $23.7bn, so it is no slouch in the business game. Just as important is the fact that the city is a gateway to Queensland’s many tropical delights, from the glamour of the Gold Coast to the marine playgrounds of Cairns in the far north, and beyond.

  • Population in 2013: 2.14m
  • Average summer temperature: 29.2 degrees celsius
  • Average winter temperature: 22.3 degrees celsius
  • Rainfall last summer: 721mm


A recent ‘city performance’ study by research and data firm ipData, which looked at such issues as liveability, crime, homelessness, road accident rates, community generosity and more, placed Adelaide as Australia’s number one city for community and safety.

Often compared to Canberra (which came a close second in the study) in terms of liveability, Adelaide is a surprisingly beautiful, family-friendly choice. It’s a smaller, quieter city surrounded by parks, mountains, beaches and world-class wine regions. What Adelaide lacks in big-city features, it more than makes up for in charm and ease of living.

  • Population in 2013: 1.26m
  • Average summer temperature: 28.7 degrees celsius
  • Average winter temperature: 16.2 degrees celsius
  • Rainfall last summer: 48mm..

And finally...

Based on the evidence, we'll now leave it up you to decide which is the top Australian city.


  • CA life
  • Accountancy
  • Australia

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