City policies typically focus on managing urban systems and functions, like transport networks and housing markets, or pursue outcomes, measured in social, environmental or economic terms. Cities also have a cultural dimension that is harder to quantify and integrate into policy frameworks and governance arrangements. Ultimately, cities exist as physical places that are imbued with layers of meaning, only some of which are addressed in the traditional domains of urban policy.
Cities are the main contributor to Australia’s economy generating around 80 per cent of the nation’s GDP. Facilitating economic growth is the most prominent rationale in urban policies to shape the development of Australia’s cities. Visions for economic transition and future growth are captured in the 2016 Smart Cities Plan focusing on investment, policy coordination and new technology.
In-depth considerations of Indigenous perspectives are notably absent in Australian urban policies beyond acknowledging the traditional owners of the land. The Federal Government’s flagship Smart Cities Plan does not mention the term Indigenous or Aboriginal throughout the entire document.
This Brief investigates urban policies that have used place-based approaches with liveability, community wellbeing and healthy places as stated objectives, and reinforce the role of active community engagement.
Australia is a highly urbanised nation with around two-thirds of the population living in a city. Population growth is concentrated in Australia’s major capital cities, with growth rates of 1.8 per cent between 2018 and 2019 being significantly higher in capital cities than in the rest of the nation (which grew by 1.0 per cent on average and had some areas experiencing population decline in 2018).