Friends and colleagues, it is our pleasure to welcome you to the Fifth State of Australian Cities Conference.
Australian cities are highly ranked internationally for their liveability, and have continued to grow strongly through a global financial crisis. Yet we are confronted with significant challenges.
More than 80% of Australians and over half of the world’s population now live in cities – cities that are responsible, directly or indirectly, for nearly 75% of the world’s greenhouse gasses. Climate change is happening now and will influence the way we live for the foreseeable future. Peak oil may exacerbate already existing disparities in access to affordable housing, jobs, education, and social services. Collectively, urban Australians are getting less healthy and are using public space less. These health, social, and economic inequalities are exacerbated by continuing power differentials in terms of age (with children and older people at greatest risk of isolation from public life), gender, aboriginality, ethnicity, and disability.
Urban challenges should not blind us to opportunities. For the first time in two decades, the federal government is talking about the need to address the infrastructure gap in cities. A growing body of urban researchers are engaging with policy-makers to develop evidence-based interventions. Coalitions are springing up to address intertwined social, economic, environmental, governance, and infrastructure issues.
Since 2003, the biennial State of Australian Cities conferences, under the aegis of the Australian Sustainable Cities and Regions Network, have supported interdisciplinary policy-related urban research. This year in Melbourne, a comprehensive and hard-working local organizing committee - from Melbourne, RMIT, Monash, Swinburne and Latrobe Universities, the Australian Housing and Urban Research and the Grattan Institutes, the State government and the City of Melbourne - has brought you a very strong program. Three plenary panels bring researchers from across the country to address ‘big issues’: place-based disadvantage, the design and form of Australian cities, and metropolitan governance. Over 175 papers, in 46 themed sessions, cover topics ranging from planning and governance for environmental sustainability, to housing affordability and adequacy in the context of an aging population. Healthy communities, better public transport, high quality open space, participatory planning, and issues affecting the peri-urban fringe are also strong sub-themes within this conference. Fifty of our best and brightest PhD students have a special training day, and field trips, morning bicycle rides and our famous conference dinner round out the program.
We invite you to reconnect with your peers, meet new potential friends and colleagues, learn from one another, and generate ideas about better Australian cities.
Thank you for joining us,
Carolyn Whitzman and Ruth Fincher, University of Melbourne
Co-Chairs, 5th State of Australian Cities Conference
On behalf of the Melbourne Organizing Committee and the Australian Sustainable Cities and Regions Network