The Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water ‘State of the Environment 2021’ report paints a powerful picture of the impact of unsustainable development on our natural and lived environments.

The RMITAUO, alongside other important research by our RMIT Centre for Urban Research colleagues, has been used throughout the Urban Environments chapter to support understanding of liveability including:

• jobs
• food
• services
• public transport
• walking
• access to natural places

To read more about how urban environments influence our quality of life and affect the state of our natural environment access the ‘State of the Environment 2021’ Urban chapter here –

We are delighted to share that the final report for our Bangkok Liveability Project – Measuring, monitoring and translating urban liveability in Bangkok – is now available for download.

Through this project, our team was able to develop knowledge of placed-based liveability in a rapidly urbanising low-to-middle income city. We were able to create a suite of 65 liveability indicators, all aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, that can be applied across a range of contexts. We also created and shared capacity building resources and tools to support ongoing use of these indicators for other communities.

The project demonstrated that open source data can be used to create liveability indicators for Bangkok when local spatial data is not available, and a Spatial Urban Indicators Framework was developed enabling indicators to be updated over time.

To learn more about this project and read the final report click here.

This work was supported by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) under a Sustainable
Development Goals Partnership Grant

Project partners were RMIT University’s Centre for Urban Research, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, VicHealth, Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services, and the United Nations Global Compact – Cities Programme.

The average distance to the nearest doctor is more than 9km in some metropolitan areas, according to new data from the Australian Urban Observatory.

Often found on city fringes, these areas also tend to have worse access to other social infrastructure, such as education, transport, community and sporting facilities, and emergency services.

Associate Prof Melanie Davern, the director of the Australian Urban Observatory, says the issue is at least partly to do with how we plan our cities.

“We don’t have planners working with the health system – this is the major problem. We don’t think about an urban system. We just have a planning department, a health department and a transport department. But they are not really connected,” she says.

“Because [planning is] population based, [those outer areas] are never going to see improved access to things like GPs.”

Tamborine Mountain lies to the south of Brisbane and its residents have an average distance to a doctor of almost 8km. It scores 0 out of 16 on the Urban Observatory’s “social infrastructure index”, which counts many of the services above.

Read full article and view interactive map here.

Public participation in planning and urban design has a long history that can be traced back over the past century to seminal figures in planning, including Sir Patrick Geddes and Ebenezer Howard. 


  • Associate Professor Melanie Davern
  • Associate Professor Verity Cleland
  • Dr Kim Jose
  • Dr Yvonne Laird
  • Dr Samantha Rowbotham
  • Professor Anna Timperio
  • Lynden Leppard
  • Kate Garvey
  • Dr Subhash Koirala

Today, the most basic models of participatory planning seek community input in decision making and, in Victoria, legislation ensures community engagement in local government strategic planning.

One of the main aims of participatory planning is for decision makers and residents to work together to identify priority issues of concern that can be addressed through policy and planning. 

However, despite global technological developments over the past 30 years, most governments continue to rely on traditional methods like surveys and town hall meetings to get resident input in decision making. 

The online resident survey is often the most advanced use of technology with low levels of participation. 

New methods of engagement that allow for meaningful participation are needed to support resident involvement in effective decision making, and we argue that citizen science provides new opportunities to support resident and government partnership in planning. 

Although it has been used for over a century, it has great potential as a participatory planning method that supports community and government collaboration to improve urban design and health outcomes.

Read full article here.

The Australian Urban Observatory and our Director Associate Professor Melanie Davern are so pleased to be part of the research team to win the Planning Institute of Australia National Research Excellence Award for our project Measuring Health Impacts of Transport Modelling received by Lucy Gunn in Hobart last night. The tool is freely available in the Australian Urban Observatory at RMIT and a great tool measuring the health impacts of more walking and cycling for short local trips.

To access the Transport Health Assessment Tool, click here.

We are proud to announce that the Australia Urban Observatory’s Director, Associate Professor Melanie Davern, was a part of the winning team of researchers to recieve the Excellence in Planning Research Award from the Planning Institute of Australia for the Transport Health Assessment Tool for Melbourne included in the Australian Urban Observatory @ RMIT University. Thanks to a wonderful team of colleagues led by Lucy GunnBelen Zapata Diomedi, Alan Both, Chris De GruyterAnnette Kroen and colleagues Hugh Batrouney, Morteza Chalak and Anh Nguyen and team at the Department of Transport.

Click here to view the Transport Health Assessment Tool for Melbourne.

The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre
RMIT Centre for Urban Research
RMIT University

A suite of new free online courses is set to equip urban professionals with the skills needed to tackle the unprecedented challenges facing cities across the world for the healthy liveable cities we need.

RMIT Europe and the European Institute of Technology (EIT) Urban Mobility have joined forces to launch a suite of online courses on making cities more healthier, more attractive and sustainable, in partnership with EIT Climate-KIC and EIT Food. 

RMIT Europe Executive Director Marta Fernandez said the online courses – which are freely accessible on FutureLearn – are a vital step forward in delivering training for urban professionals to shape the cities of tomorrow. 

“The world is undergoing a surge of urban population growth, with more than half of all people now living in towns and cities,” she said. 

“With few exceptions, cities are expected to become bigger and more numerous, and as urbanisation accelerates, cities around the world are facing unprecedented challenges to maintain basic liveability.

“Urban professionals working in government, industry and community organisations face complex and urgent problems posed by climate change, unsustainable development and the global pandemic,” Fernandez said. 

“How we collaborate and learn from each other in meeting these challenges will determine how sustainable and fair our future cities will be.”

The online courses are free to join and run from two to five weeks, enabling learners to understand the urban interventions that can make an immediate impact in their own cities. View Full Details Here.

Both, A.; Gunn, L.; Higgs, C.; Davern, M.; Jafari, A.; Boulange, C.; Giles-Corti, B. Achieving ‘Active’ 30 Minute Cities: How Feasible Is It to Reach Work within 30 Minutes Using Active Transport Modes? ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf.202211, 58.

Confronted with rapid urbanization, population growth, traffic congestion, and climate change, there is growing interest in creating cities that support active transport modes including walking, cycling, or public transport. The ‘30 minute city’, where employment is accessible within 30 min by active transport, is being pursued in some cities to reduce congestion and foster local living. This paper examines the spatial relationship between employment, the skills of residents, and transport opportunities, to answer three questions about Australia’s 21 largest cities: (1) What percentage of workers currently commute to their workplace within 30 min? (2) If workers were to shift to an active transport mode, what percent could reach their current workplace within 30 min? and (3) If it were possible to relocate workers closer to their employment or relocate employment closer to their home, what percentage could reach work within 30 min by each mode? Active transport usage in Australia is low, with public transport, walking, and cycling making up 16.8%, 2.8%, and 1.1% respectively of workers’ commutes. Cycling was found to have the most potential for achieving the 30 min city, with an estimated 29.5% of workers able to reach their current workplace were they to shift to cycling. This increased to 69.1% if workers were also willing and able to find a similar job closer to home, potentially reducing commuting by private motor vehicle from 79.3% to 30.9%. View Full-Text Here

Want to understand how we can better support walkability, physical activity and community health in rural and regional Australia?

Communities for Walkability is a citizen science project that will identify environmental characteristics that influence walkability and physical activity in rural Tasmania.

Keen to learn more? Our newly launched website – – has loads of information about the project and our partner towns including pilot study reports in Dover (pop 850), Smithton (3,300) and Ouse (300).

Communities for Walkability is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund, Australian Department of Health, the Department of Health, Tasmania and Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT). And is a collaboration between the University of Tasmania, Deakin University, RMIT University, and the University of Sydney.

Two projects out of the Centre for Urban Research were recognised at last week’s 2021 PIA Victoria Awards for Planning Excellence.

Winning the prize for Excellence in Planning Research was the project “Measuring the health impacts of transport modelling” and the Transport Health Assessment Tool for Melbourne (THAT-Melbourne), led by Dr Lucy Gunn.

Launched in April 2021, and developed as part of a partnership project between the Centre for Urban Research and the Victorian Department of Transport, the project was funded by RMIT University’s Enabling Capability Fund. THAT-Melbourne builds on work initially funded through the Australian Partnership Prevention Centre, which developed maps and indicators of liveability across 21 Australian cities that are now being disseminated through the Australian Urban Observatory, led by A/Prof Melanie Davern. The researchers are from the RMIT Centre of Urban Research and include members from the Healthy Liveable Cities Lab, and the Health, Place and Society teams.

The project team included Dr Belen Zapata-Diomedi, a RMIT Vice Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow whose modelling work forms the basis for the tool, Dr Alan Both, A/Prof Melanie Davern, Dr Chris De Gruyter, Dr Annette Kroen and Ms Mahsa Abdollahyar.

The tool is a freely accessible web-based simulation model and tool that presents data on the health benefits from walking and cycling when undertaken in place of driving. With more than 2000 visits to the THAT-Melbourne site since April this year, it is hoped the tool will support planning and policy practitioners justify active transport infrastructure investment.

Receiving a commendation in the same field of Planning Research was the “Urban Liveability Index indicators framework” project from Mr Carl Higgs, Dr Koen Simons, Professor Hannah Badland, and Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti. The ULI project uses liveability domains, including transport, social infrastructure, employment, walkability, housing and green infrastructure, to map address-level liveability, which in turn can be used to assess how “liveable” cities might enhance health and wellbeing and reduce spatial inequities. The ULI, similarly to THAT-Melbourne, will help planners and policy-makers support the case for more healthy and liveable cities.

THAT-Melbourne will progress to the PIA National Awards, to be announced in 2022.