A new report has found that underfunding, a lack of vision and institutional silos are hampering Australia’s cities and regions’ sustainable transformation.
The report, authored by Future Earth Australia (a program of the Australian Academy of Science) was developed through a consultation process and overseen by urban research, practice and policy experts from around Australia.
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.
It responds in part to the CSIRO National Outlook 2019 report which identified cities and regions as critical sites for change.
Professor Jago Dodson, Director of the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University, chaired the report’s Expert Reference Group.
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He 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, he said the groups felt disconnected from each other across multiple sectors and disciplines.
“The report recommends that Australia sets a national vision for cities and establishes a national network of knowledge hubs to empower local innovation.”
The establishment of new partnerships across urban sectors and capacity building among researchers, practitioners and policy makers is also recommended.
“Implementing this strategy would set Australian cities on track for future prosperity and sustainability,” Dodson said.
The report sets out eight recommendations to address barriers preventing Australia’s urban and regional areas from achieving sustainable development.
The first two focus on building coherent visions through enabling a national framework to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and embedding stakeholder and civil society participation in urban knowledge, policy and practice.
Others include establishing a national network of innovation hubs, supporting new capacity to connect diverse knowledge across sectors and the establishment of a national program to expand knowledge exchange across urban and regional research, policy and practice communities.
The last suggests funding a national program to embed researchers and practitioners within relevant organisations linked to knowledge production for the Sustainable Development Goals.
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.
“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,” O’Donnell says.
“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.”