Research on Australia’s cities and regions: siloed, lacking vision and underfunded

December 04, 2019

The sustainable transformation of Australia’s cities and regions is being hampered by institutional silos, perennial underfunding and lack of a national vision according to a new report by Future Earth Australia, a program of the Australian Academy of Science.

The report, developed through an extensive consultation process and overseen by leading urban research, practice and policy experts from around Australia, is being launched today at the State of Australian Cities conference in Perth.

It lays out a 10-year plan to transform Australia’s cities and regions and to address urban problems including transport congestion, inflated housing markets, the loneliness crisis, inequity in opportunities and biodiversity loss.

The report responds in part to the CSIRO National Outlook 2019 report, which identified cities and regions as critical sites for change.

Director of the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University, Professor Jago Dodson, chaired the report’s Expert Reference Group.

Professor Dodson said that conversations with stakeholders highlighted the rich variety of local transformation and innovation taking place in suburbs and cities around Australia that is driven by individuals, small businesses, community groups and local government.

“However, these groups felt disconnected from each other across sectors and disciplines,” Professor Dodson said.

“Meanwhile Australia’s urban researchers are stifled by institutional silos and disciplinary or sector-specific remits.

“The report recommends that Australia sets a national vision for cities and establishes a national network of knowledge hubs to empower local innovation."

It also recommends the establishment of new partnerships across urban sectors and capacity building among researchers, practitioners and policy makers.

“Implementing this strategy would set Australian cities on track for future prosperity and sustainability, Professor Dodson said.

The report makes eight recommendations (see page nine of the report) for addressing the barriers preventing Australia’s urban and regional areas from achieving sustainable development.

Project lead and Director of Future Earth Australia, Dr Tayanah O’Donnell, said each Australian city and region has a distinct character, as well as strengths and challenges when it comes to delivering wellbeing for its inhabitants.

“These distinct qualities help us understand what drives sustainable development in different urban contexts. Future Earth Australia held workshops around the country to make sure the plan reflects Australia’s diversity and innovation,” Dr O’Donnell said.

“The report is a bottom-up, cross-sectoral plan for achieving sustainable cities and communities across Australia by 2030. Government, industry, the research sector, peak bodies, the philanthropic sector and civil society all have parts to play in driving this change.

“We're clever enough, there's enough science and enough knowledge to say: ‘We can have green spaces and affordable, plentiful housing, and thriving cities and regions’ so that everybody benefits from that.”

Read the report.

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science