Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world – more than 96% of the Australian population (around 24.5 million) live in urban areas and 68% live within the greater metropolitan areas of Australia’s 8 capital cities. Consequently, the livability of the urban environment significantly affects the lives of most Australians. Fortunately, Australian cities are consistently ranked some of the most livable in the world (Economist Intelligence Unit 2018), although this varies by city or urban area, and by location within cities. The concept of ‘livability’ is a subjective and multifaceted concept without a standard definition. For the purposes of this chapter, it is defined as the life quality and satisfaction of people and communities. This includes health, living standards, community and social cohesion, security and safety, freedom, rights, recognition and self-determination, cultural and spiritual fulfilment of people, and their connection to Country and nature. Consistent with this definition, the Australian Urban Observatory (AUO) identifies a livable community as one that is safe, socially cohesive, inclusive and environmentally sustainable. Highly livable areas provide affordable housing that is well serviced by public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure. They have good access to employment, education, shops and services, public open spaces, and social, cultural and recreational facilities. Little research into Indigenous people’s livability markers has been conducted. However, there is a wealth of evidence for disproportionate outcomes for Indigenous people in many of the areas that define livability, such as health, living standards, community and social cohesion, security and safety, freedom, rights, recognition and self-determination, and cultural and spiritual fulfilment (ABS 2018a, PM&C 2020). The ongoing circumstance of colonisation also makes explorations of livability for Indigenous people problematic when viewed through the same lens as livability for non-Indigenous people. Several of the widely used ‘markers’ for livability suppose a level of self-determination, home ownership, employment and mobility, for example, that do not fit well with the lived experience of many urban Indigenous people and, more widely, many sectors of society that are marginalised (Arundel et al. 2017). The livability of our urban environments is an important determinant of our wellbeing. As is the case with livability, there is no universally accepted measure of wellbeing. One approach considers 8 factors (personal security, lifestyle, health care, crime, work–life balance and access to green space) to rank the livability of major urban areas internationally (Knight Frank 2020). On this basis, European cities dominate the highest ranks of overall livability with Oslo first and Zurich and Helsinki tied for second, whereas Sydney ranks 7th and Melbourne 11th. Looking at the access to open space component of this overall score, Sydney ranks 3rd after Oslo and Singapore. The AUO applies 13 measures to assess the livability of Australia’s 21 largest urban areas. Its most recent scorecard concluded that, although Australian cities are livable, the degree varies. It found that older, more established inner-city areas were generally more livable than the fringe areas of many urban areas because of their better access to public transport, employment opportunities and services. Case Study Drawing it all together The complexity of our urban ecosystem means that environmental pressures and built form characteristics combine to influence the livability and wellbeing of our urban environments. For example, urban heat is influenced by the extent of green canopy cover. Collectively, these factors influence the safety and desirability of an urban environment and thereby the degree to which it is considered walkable. The extent to which people walk in an area, as opposed to use other forms of travel, in turn affects community health. The Greater Sydney Commission is drawing together data from across Greater Sydney to understand how a combination of urban factors affects livability indicators such as walkability and access to open space. It finds that, in areas with lower tree canopy cover and higher temperatures, walking as a percentage of all trips is often lower. The Greater Sydney Commission is tracking and monitoring these factors in its annual Pulse of Greater Sydney report to better understand how effective the implementation of management approaches is across the city (see case study: Measuring what matters). Figure 02 Sydney walkability Expand View Figure 02 Sydney walkability Sources: Map from City of Sydney (2021); data from Greater Sydney Commission (2019) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Access to jobs, food, services and digital connectivity Urban accessibility relates to the proximity of citizens to a variety of employment, food and community services, and the ability to travel to them in a safe and cost-effective way. As stated by Arundel et al. (2017), a more-accessible urban environment provides a range of wellbeing and environmental benefits by: reducing the need for and duration of commuting, which reduces stress levels and increases the amount of time that can be spent each day doing recreational activities reducing the cost of private vehicle use and increasing the opportunities for incidental exercise such as walking reducing the environmental implications of traffic congestion and vehicle emissions improving opportunities for obtaining fresh food, which supports healthy eating and reduces the potential for obesity and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and some cancers (NSW Health 2017) improving health, education, early childhood community development, culture, sport and recreation services, all of which promote physical and mental wellbeing improving social equity via digital connections, which support educational attainment, information availability and employment opportunities. Improving access to these services can be achieved in our urban areas by urban densification, which increases the number of people who live close to existing work opportunities, food and services. Alternatively, work, food and services can be brought closer to people through the development of local neighbourhoods and community centres and through urban decentralisation (see Management approaches). Jobs The AUO measured access to employment as the percentage of employees living and working within the same statistical area (Table 7). This measure is often referred to as job containment. On this basis, the AUO found that smaller urban areas such as Mackay, Toowoomba and Townsville scored most favourably in terms of commute times and access to jobs. While job containment is a common method of assessment, it fails to consider the number of jobs, and the type or diversity of employment opportunities provided. For example, commute times may be longer in larger urban areas, but the number and diversity of employment opportunity career and income opportunities are likely to be far greater. For example, in one study, Ballarat had 100% job access and Melbourne had less than 50% access, yet the average Melbourne resident can access 950,000 jobs within 30 minutes, compared to just 45,000 for Ballarat residents (BITRE 2020c). Based on job containment measures alone, Australia’s larger urban areas scored significantly lower than the smaller urban areas – the AUO ranked Perth and Sydney equal 14th, Melbourne 16th, Brisbane 17th and Adelaide 18th. It should also be recognised that these assessments do not factor in recent changes to how we work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – that, is the increasing rates of working from home and the associated livability benefits and challenges (see COVID-19 pandemic). Food To calculate access to food, the AUO measured the average distance to any type of supermarket from individual dwellings using a pedestrian accessible road network (see Public transport; Table 7). It found that Launceston ranked the highest of the 21 largest urban areas in Australia, followed by Canberra and Sydney. However, similar to the jobs measure, this measure fails to consider the quality of the supermarket and its provision of a diversity of fresh foods. For some disadvantaged groups, access to food is about more than the distance to a supermarket. For example, ‘One-fifth of Aboriginal people living in urban areas are food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where the next meal is coming from’ (Miller et al. 2018). Low income, combined with high costs and limited availability of fresh food, can reduce food security even in urban areas. Recent research suggests that food insecurity for many Indigenous communities in both urban and remote communities has been further challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic: Based on our own lived experiences and anecdotal community feedback, we are hearing that food insecurity has increased for some Aboriginal people in response to COVID‐19. People are fearful of going into large shopping centres – fearful of catching COVID‐19. In some rural and remote areas, local shops are pushing up their prices, and people are left with no choice but to buy cheaper (and often less healthy) options to feed their families. Increase in government payments has resulted in the one and only shop in community providing food jamming their prices up. The price of food and water is beyond compare when you are paying $10 for a loaf of bread. (Follent et al. 2021) Services The AUO measured access to 16 different social services and forms of community infrastructure in various urban areas (Table 7). It found that larger urban areas had the best access to services – Sydney and Melbourne were ranked highest, followed by Adelaide. This conclusion is likely to reflect the population size of these urban areas and their ability to support a greater number and range of social services than regional urban environments. Table 7 Selected Australian Urban Observatory livability indicators for Australia’s 21 largest urban areas, 2018 Urban area Access to jobs (proportion of people living and working in the same statistical area, and ranking) Access to food (metres to nearest destination, and ranking) Access to social infrastructure (number of destinations) Adelaide 27% (18) 1,116 (3) 6 Albury–Wodonga 69% (7) 1,648 (17) 6 Ballarat 87% (4) 1,470 (12) 5 Bendigo 85% (5) 2,154 (20) 5 Brisbane 28% (17) 1,403 (9) 6 Cairns 68% (8) 1,578 (14) 4 Canberra 30% (15) 1,058 (2) 5 Darwin 43% (12) 1,419 (10) 5 Gold Coast – Tweed Heads 37% (13) 1,601 (15) 4 Geelong 69% (7) 1,390 (8) 6 Hobart 45% (11) 1,819 (18) 5 Launceston 84% (6) 1,039 (1) 5 Mackay 88% (3) 1,161 (4) 4 Melbourne 29% (16) 1,173 (6) 7 Newcastle–Maitland 52% (9) 1,628 (16) 5 Perth 31% (14) 1,279 (7) 5 Sunshine Coast 48% (10) 1,456 (11) 4 Sydney 31% (14) 1,164 (5) 7 Toowoomba 89% (2) 2,159 (21) 5 Townsville 94% (1) 1,919 (19) 4 Wollongong 48% (10) 1,526 (13) 6 Source: Adapted from AUO (2018) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Digital connectivity The reliability of digital connections is increasingly recognised to be a critical form of urban infrastructure, given the role it plays in providing information, and educational and employment opportunities. Digital connections are in turn influencing the shape of our urban environments by changing our need to travel. The number and range of services provided by communications media continues to evolve because of new technologies, including wireless broadband networks, mobile network extensions for 3G and 4G (and now 5G) mobile services, and the convergence of networks, devices and services. This has resulted in a significant take-up of mobile phones and broadband internet over the past 10 years, and a decline in the number of subscribers to the older technologies of dial-up internet and fixed phones. As of 2018–19, there were 27.5 million mobile internet subscriptions compared with only 7.8 million for fixed phone (BITRE 2020a). The importance of digital infrastructure has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people working and learning at home has significantly increased, including a remarkable estimated increase of 1,000% (Holloway et al. 2020) in the proportion of employees working from home. However, it should be noted that the increase in working from home has been better suited to some jobs (e.g. professional and knowledge jobs) than others (e.g. retail, manufacturing, education and frontline health). As the latter jobs are predominantly taken by lower-income and female workers, this shift has produced inequity in working opportunities. The pandemic has also brought to light inequities in digital access, affecting mostly low-income households. For example, 2.5 million people in Australia still have no internet access (Holloway et al. 2020). There are common clusters within Australia’s capital cities where people tend to work from home. Rates of working from home tend to be higher closer to inner-city areas and major centres, with these areas often correlating with higher socio-economic suburbs (Holloway et al. 2020). Travel Ease of travel and access to a variety of goods, services, employment and education opportunities is a key factor in urban livability and, in turn, wellbeing. As our population grows and urban environments expand, the number of kilometres (km) we travel each year similarly continues to grow (see Population). In fact, the total passenger-kilometres travelled each year has at least doubled in each capital city since 1977, except for Adelaide (Table 8). For Darwin and Brisbane, the distance has near tripled (albeit coming off a lower base). Table 8 Distance travelled by passenger by capital city, 1976–2020 Capital city 1976–77 (passenger km, billion) 2019–20 (passenger km, billion) Net change (passenger km, billion) Net change (%) Adelaide 10.0 14.0 4.0 40 Brisbane 10.0 31.0 21.0 210 Canberra 2.0 5.0 3.0 150 Darwin 0.4 1.5 1.1 275 Hobart 1.5 3.0 1.5 100 Melbourne 27.0 57.0 30.0 111 Perth 10.0 24.0 14.0 140 Sydney 31.0 61.0 30.0 97 km = kilometre Source: BITRE (2020b) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link The complexity of our lifestyles and the increasing frequency of both parents (or carers) working may play a role in this trend. The ability to effectively link work travel with grocery shopping, school runs, medical appointments and other life activities often leads citizens back to car travel because of time constraints as well as challenges with transporting goods and children. Research shows this has a disproportionate impact on women, who are often undertaking these activities more often (Sarmiento 1998). Travel in terms of livability and wellbeing is especially challenging for those who experience financial instability; inequity within transport is sometimes referred to as ‘transport poverty’. Many diverse groups experience transport poverty, including low-income earners, youth, the unemployed, people with disabilities, women, ethnic minorities, Indigenous people and outer-urban dwellers (Lucas et al. 2016). Indigenous communities in smaller urban centres are often far from amenities such as shopping, health care, cultural business, education and social services. Transport is a key enabler for facilitating access to health care, goods and services. It enables Indigenous people and communities to enjoy education and employment outcomes and maintain cultural obligations that require travel. In 2018–19, 13% of Indigenous people aged 15 and over who needed to go to a health provider but did not listed transport/distance as a reason why. And in 2014–15, 75% of Indigenous Australians reported that they could not easily get to the places they needed, with 85% of Indigenous Australians over the age of 15 less likely to have access to a motor vehicle than non-Indigenous Australians (AIHW & NIAA 2021). Public transport Access to reliable and regular public transport is another key factor in the livability of our urban environments. It is a more sustainable form of travel for the environment and is important for various age groups and abilities, given that not all citizens are eligible for drivers licences. Proximity to public transport also encourages more active forms of travel, with associated health and wellbeing benefits. The AUO assessed access to transport based on average distance to the closest public transport stop, the proportion of dwellings within 400 metres (m) of a bus stop, and frequency of services (Table 9). It found that, across Australia’s 21 largest urban areas, access to regular public transport was best for residents living in Canberra, followed by Sydney and Adelaide. In general, the AUO found that the larger the city or urban area, the more available and frequent the public transport. However, there was a notable difference between the quality of services in the inner-city areas and the outer city areas, with regional cities different again – they generally have reduced levels of access to regular public transport. Table 9 Livability indicator (access to transport) in Australia’s 21 largest urban areas, 2018 Urban area Access to transport (percentage of dwellings within 400 metres of public transport with a reasonable service, and ranking) Adelaide 57% (3) Albury–Wodonga 4% (17) Ballarat 43% (6) Bendigo 34% (8) Brisbane 33% (9) Cairns 15% (15) Canberra 65% (1) Darwin 23% (12) Gold Coast – Tweed Heads 25% (11) Geelong 38% (7) Hobart 23% (12) Launceston 13% (16) Mackay 1% (19) Melbourne 48% (4) Newcastle–Maitland 31% (10) Perth 46% (5) Sunshine Coast 22% (13) Sydney 61% (2) Toowoomba 3% (18) Townsville 20% (14) Wollongong 33% (9) Source: Adapted from AUO (2018) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Despite the benefits of public transport, its use as a proportion of total travel across all Australian capital cities (excluding commercial vehicles) between 2015–16 and 2018–19 only changed modestly (+1%). This modest increase was largely driven by the proportional increase in public transport in Greater Sydney (+2%) and Hobart (+1%), with proportions in all other capital cities remaining constant. The exception to this was 2019–20, when the use of public transport decreased significantly in many cities (–2% of all travel excluding commercial vehicles). The most significant declines occurred in Greater Sydney (–5% of total trips) and Darwin (–3%). These changes were driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated rapid increase in working from home, combined with broader travel restrictions (see COVID-19 pandemic). A survey of Australian households conducted during the first wave of the pandemic in Australia (March 2020) found that: … trips for all purposes had fallen, with the greatest drop occurring in travel to work, from an average of 7 per week down to 3. In aggregate, significant falls are also observed for the purposes of childcare and education, social and recreation, general shopping, personal business and for purposes of caring for the sick or elderly. As a proportion of household trips, commuting remained relatively constant at approximately 30% of all household trips, with falls in childcare and education (from 10% to 4%) and social and recreation (18–13%), but food shopping now accounts for 29% of trips (up from 17%). (Beck & Hensher 2020) The reduced capacity of existing forms of transport, and perceptions regarding its safety, also affected how we travelled across our urban environments. For example, during the initial stages of the pandemic in Greater Sydney in 2020, Transport for NSW recorded a decline in trips from 2.0–2.5 million per day to less than 0.5 million (Skatssoon 2020). Bus patronage remained 46% lower than pre-pandemic levels and ferry patronage 71% lower. Conversely, active forms of travel such as walking increased, with one survey finding an increase from 14% to 20% of trips during the early months of the pandemic (Beck & Hensher 2020). According to research by Infrastructure Australia, public transport in most cities fell to 10–30% of normal levels in the initial lockdown but settled at a ‘new norm’ of about 60–70% in the second half of 2020. This reflected people partially returning to work, and working and travelling more flexibly across the day (Infrastructure Australia 2020b) (see Figure 3). The March 2020 survey of Australian households found that 33% and 42% of respondents rated trains and buses as their least comfortable methods of travel, respectively. More than half of respondents (58%) were extremely concerned about levels of hygiene on public transport, up from just 5% before COVID-19. The responses varied little by socio-demographic group, with only middle-aged respondents displaying a greater propensity to rate taxi or ridesharing as their most comfortable option of travel (Beck & Hensher 2020). In keeping with these concerns, the Infrastructure Australia 2020 report found that, following the initial stages of the pandemic, overall road traffic levels were quick to rebound, but with less central business district–focused congestion, as more people worked at home, and more online food deliveries and online shopping increased demand for last-mile deliveries. An increase in second-hand car sales was a possible indication that higher car mode shares would continue (Infrastructure Australia 2020b). There are consequently concerns that the attractiveness of the private vehicle may create worse congestion than was seen before the pandemic (Beck & Hensher 2020), thereby adversely affecting the livability of our urban environment and our wellbeing. Figure 03 Sydney Opal card trips by mode, 2019–20 Expand View Figure 03 Sydney Opal card trips by mode, 2019–20 Source: Infrastructure Australia (2020b) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Walking The structure and layout of our urban areas has a critical influence on their walkability and cyclability. Most of our urban councils are recognising the importance of these factors to our livability, with increasing public spending on improvements to support better outcomes. In a survey of councils across Australia for this report, it was found that of those councils actively working to improve the livability of the urban environment for their citizens, 96% were providing more cycling and walking paths and 65% were improving walkability to shops and services. Walkable and cycle-friendly areas reduce dependence on private vehicles. Walking and cycling are increasingly recognised as proxies for livability, given the many associated lifestyle, health and equity benefits they provide (Ma & Ye 2019). They are considered relatively affordable means of improving access to goods, support services and work opportunities. Furthermore, they reduce carbon emissions, and air and noise pollution (Deakin et al. 2018). Yet, despite these significant benefits, as of 2016 only 3.5% of Australians walked and 1% cycled to work (Table 10). Measuring the walkability of an area is not an exact science – there are several variables. Walkability is defined by the AUO (2020) as the ‘ease of walking in an area’, being the composite of ‘local neighbourhood attributes, including street connectivity, dwelling density and the index of access to services of daily living’. The AUO’s assessment of walkability, as an input to its livability index, concluded that of Australia’s 21 largest urban areas, the more urban and densely developed areas were more walkable (Figure 4) (AUO 2020). Walkability notably declined in all assessed cities towards the city fringe and greenfield development areas. Figure 04 Sample of walkability in 4 of Australia’s 21 largest cities, 2018 Expand View Figure 04 Sample of walkability in 4 of Australia’s 21 largest cities, 2018 Source: Adapted from AUO (2018) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Another measure that is being used to quantify the walkability of an area is a Walk Score. This approach analyses walking routes to services, population density and road metrics to provide a score for walkability out of 100 (Walk Score 2021). For Australian cities with more than 200,000 inhabitants, this approach found results broadly similar to the AUO approach: denser urban environments were more walkable and provided more-accessible services, amenities, jobs and public open green spaces (Table 10). The most walkable major city in Australia is Sydney, but it is only ranked as ‘somewhat walkable’, which means that ‘some errands can be accomplished by foot’. A further 6 cities were identified as somewhat walkable and 14 cities score within the ‘car-dependent’ tier. Table 10 Walk score Australia’s 21 largest cities, 2020 Urban area Walk score (out of 100) Classification Most walkable suburbs Adelaide 54 Somewhat walkable Adelaide, Glenelg and Stepney Albury–Wodonga 58 / 40a Somewhat walkable / car-dependent North Albury, South Albury, Glenroy, West Albury, East Albury / Wodonga, West Wodonga and Bandiana Ballarat 41 Car-dependent Ballarat Central, Lake Wendouree and Soldiers Hill Bendigo 39 Car-dependent Bendigo, Ironbark and Kennington Brisbane 51 Somewhat walkable Brisbane City, Fortitude Valley and Spring Hill Cairns 41 Car-dependent Cairns City, Parramatta Park and Manunda Canberra 40 Car-dependent City, Kingston and Barton Darwin 45 Car-dependent Darwin City, Wagaman and The Gardens Gold Coast –Tweed Heads 48 / 39a Car-dependent Broadbeach, Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta / Tweed Heads, Kingscliff and Tweed Heads South Geelong 53 Somewhat walkable Geelong, Geelong West and South Geelong Hobart 44 Car-dependent Hobart, Battery Point and Glebe Launceston 43 Car-dependent Launceston, East Launceston and Invermay Mackay 36 Car-dependent Mackay, Mount Pleasant and West Mackay Melbourne 57 Somewhat walkable Carlton, Fitzroy and Fitzroy North Newcastle–Maitland 49 / 36a Car-dependent Newcastle, The Hill and Cooks Hill / Lorn, Maitland and South Maitland Perth 50 Somewhat walkable Northbridge, Perth and Highgate Sunshine Coast 44 Car-dependent Caloundra, Kings Beach and Moffat Beach Sydney 63 Somewhat walkable Haymarket, The Rocks and Sydney Toowoomba 46 Car-dependent Toowoomba City, East Toowoomba and South Toowoomba Townsville 40 Car-dependent Townsville City, Mysterton and Thuringowa Central Wollongong 48 Car-dependent Wollongong, Gwynneville and Fairy Meadow One score is for the first city listed, and the second score is for the second city. Source: Walk Score (2021) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Walking Country Walking Country is an essential part of Indigenous people’s ability to connect to Country. This connection takes place on many levels, including physical, emotional and spiritual. Connecting to Country promotes the sense of belonging to their environment that Indigenous people have, whether this environment is urban or regional. Walking Country is also a reminder for Indigenous people of their need to maintain their cultural obligations, such as custodianship and care for Country (see the Indigenous chapter). Walking Country encourages a place-based approach to planning and design that can better incorporate specific or unique aspects of places including identity and language. It can also enhance knowledge and awareness of the environment through observation, thus promoting custodianship. Walking Country has become a key component of many tourism offerings, particularly in urban areas, and such ventures allow opportunities for Indigenous people and communities to share and take pride in their culture and assert their belonging. This also provides significant employment and educational opportunities for Indigenous communities (Carr et al. 2016). Walking trails and paths that seek to include Indigenous heritage, living culture, belonging and ongoing presence are important to educate the wider population. They are also important for Indigenous communities, so they can enjoy the physical, spiritual and emotional benefits of connecting to Country in a culturally appropriate way (Brand et al. 2016). Cycling Cycling is an important form of active transport and continues to be ‘one of the most common forms of physical activity’ (Munro 2019:18). Despite this, between 2011 and 2019, cycling declined as a form of transport for commuting – dropping from 15.5% in 2017 to 13.8% in 2019 according to Austroads. Despite the proportional decline as a form of transport, actual numbers are increasing because of population growth, particularly in capital cities (Munro 2019). As with walking, during 2020 cycling became more popular as a means of travelling and recreational activity during the COVID-19 pandemic (Bromhead 2020). In many cities, footpaths were widened and new cycle paths were created to accommodate this shift. For example, during the pandemic, Brisbane City Council trialled the CityLink Cycleway, a network of dedicated cycling facilities. The Council experienced a strong response to the trial, recording a 16% increase in active travel across Brisbane from January 2020, with more people choosing to walk and ride compared to the same period in 2019. The number of people riding a bike to work in the city more than doubled between 2006 and 2016. Brisbane City Council estimates that, on average, a car in Brisbane only carries 1.1 people, but takes up the same space as 5 people riding bikes (Brisbane City Council 2021a). Safety and security Part of an urban area’s livability relates to its perceived safety and sense of community security. The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Personal Safety Survey found that 1 in 2 women (53%) over the age of 18 had experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime. Research by Plan International found that 90% of young women surveyed across Greater Sydney said they felt unsafe on the city’s streets at night and 92% felt uncomfortable taking public transport alone after dark. This finding was reinforced by research from the City of Sydney on how women travel around Greater Sydney, which found that ‘safety and harassment shapes and limits women’s active transport choice’ (City of Sydney & C40 Cities 2020). Therefore, safety was perceived to be a significant barrier to increasing the number of women walking and cycling around the city. Research by the City of Sydney identified that, although separated cycleways and street lighting were important to helping women feel safe, these measures needed to go hand in hand with well-designed, inclusive public spaces and behaviour change to encourage women to shift from their cars (City of Sydney & C40 Cities 2020). Many cities around the world are actively changing how they design cities to enhance perceived and actual safety. For example, following London’s lead with a Women’s Night Safety Charter, the Greater Sydney Commission designed a Women’s Safety Charter to support the development of a female-friendly city. This concept recognises that a city that is safe for women is safe for everyone. The charter has more than 100 government and industry partners who have committed to designing cities for women; collecting, sharing and reporting relevant data; and taking collective action. Case Study Roads to Home Roads to Home is a planning and infrastructure program designed to address the longstanding infrastructure and servicing inequality experienced by 61 Indigenous communities located on former missions and reserves across New South Wales. While Indigenous community members may move away from reserves or missions for education or work, they retain a deep spiritual and cultural attachment to these lands. When, in the past, ownership of a discrete Indigenous community was transferred to the Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC) under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, the road reserves were often in poor condition. The LALC had limited funding to undertake the required and ongoing maintenance. This issue remains a problem today, as infrastructure deteriorates further, significantly affecting the quality of these urban environments and the wellbeing of the communities that live within them. The substandard condition of the road reserves complicates municipal service provision such as waste management, and contributes to environmental health issues such respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease and skin disease due to dust, flooding and build-up of waste. The Roads to Home program was designed to address these issues. It seeks to deliver essential road reserve infrastructure upgrades to enable land to be subdivided. It also provides the option for road reserves in Indigenous communities to be assigned to local government for ongoing maintenance. The road reserve includes storm water and other drainage, kerb, guttering and footpaths, street and public space lighting, upgraded road surfaces, telecommunications and power. Subdividing the land will enable improved land management, increase economic independence by allowing each household to be on its own individual lot. This will provide different housing management options and improve access to services such as household waste collection, postal delivery, emergency vehicles and community transport. The benefits from the program are expected to be improved chronic health conditions and a positive influence on mental health. The infrastructure upgrades of Roads to Home will also enable Indigenous people to continue to live on Country and stay within their communities, continuing cultural connection to Country and strengthening local connections for overall wellbeing. It is also expected to contribute to broader psychological wellbeing due to receiving equivalent services to residents in the wider local government area. Roads to Home is a pillar of the Solution Brokerage declaration relating to Indigenous community land and infrastructure issues in NSW. It helps the LALCs to better support economic, community and cultural uses of other Indigenous land acquired through the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link The natural environment Our urban spaces can be seen as purely artificial constructions, but every urban environment incorporates – and significantly benefits from – elements of the natural environment. Access to nature, green spaces and biodiversity has also been found to have important livability and wellbeing benefits to urban citizens. Also, urban spaces and the built environment do not erase Indigenous belonging and custodianship of the land, as Yuin man Jade Kennedy explains: Country is ever present. Regardless of the built environment, regardless of the bitumen and asphalt, beneath the concrete, Country always is and always will be. And Country is not just the physical landscape. It absolutely is the natural environment. It is the birds, the bees, the animals, the reptiles, the life in the sea, but it’s also the relationships between people and the relationships between people in their place. It’s the culture of the people and their place. It’s the story and the continuity of that story of a place and its peoples, of its way of being. And it’s the interrelationship of all these things. (Barrow et al. 2020) Green cover While there is a positive trend towards increasing green cover in urban areas, many urban areas are still making up for long-term losses. The Greener Spaces Better Places consortia have been monitoring the extent of green cover (trees of more than 3 m and shrubs typically under 3 m) across 131 local government areas in Australia (Figure 5). It found that: 69% of council areas surveyed experienced an overall loss of green cover between 2013 to 2020 62% increased their green cover between 2016 and 2020 (Greenlife Industry Australia & Hort Innnovation 2020). This result shows a positive shift towards increasing green cover in government policy, with most (88%) of the 131 councils surveyed developing or maintaining a strong management framework to address urban forest cover on public land, together with strong organisational and community support to implement this work. Most councils surveyed identified that these gains mostly relate to public land, with presently limited potential to drive positive outcomes on private land. Figure 05 Percentage of land cover change across 131 local government areas in 2013, 2016 and 2020 Expand View Figure 05 Percentage of land cover change across 131 local government areas in 2013, 2016 and 2020 The percentage of land cover was estimated as the ‘average of percentage of land cover’ across the local government areas. Source: Hurley et al. (2020) Download Go to data.gov Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Aggregating these data to a state and territory level showed that, between 2016 and 2020, Tasmania and Queensland recorded the highest percentage of increase in the urban tree canopy cover (Figure 6). During the same period, all states (except for South Australia) experienced a decrease in the percentage of shrub cover and all (except for Northern Territory) experienced a decrease in the percentage of grass or bare groundcover. Figure 06 Percentage of land cover change across states and territories, 2016–20 Expand View Figure 06 Percentage of land cover change across states and territories, 2016–20 ACT = Australian Capital Territory; NSW = New South Wales; NT = Northern Territory; Qld = Queensland; SA = South Australia; Tas = Tasmania; Vic = Victoria; WA = Western Australia Source: Hurley et al. (2020) Download Go to data.gov Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link The same study found that the top 5 areas for green cover were: Cairns Regional Council, Queensland (82.9%) Yarra Ranges Council, Victoria (78.6%) Hornsby Shire Council, New South Wales (78.6%) Kingborough Council, Tasmania (73.9%) Sutherland Shore Council, New South Wales (+72.6%). Wyndham City Council, Victoria, had Australia’s lowest recorded level of green cover with 5.4%. The top 5 local government areas that increased their green cover between 2016 and 2020 were: Launceston, Tasmania (+9.5%) the Sunshine Coast, Queensland (+8.4%) Sutherland Shire Council, New South Wales (+8.2%) Kwinana, Western Australia (+7.9%) Glenorchy City Council, Tasmania (+7.1%). Areas experiencing a loss in cover included Palmerston, Northern Territory, which lost an estimated 8.5%, partly because of bushfires and their effects (Greenlife Industry Australia & Hort Innnovation 2020). Between 2016 and 2020, 73% of local government areas (LGAs) increased the extent of their hard surfaces. Of interest, many of the LGAs that gained hard surface cover did so at the same time as gaining urban forest cover. These areas also experienced the greatest population growth, indicating that urban greening was being successfully planned and delivered alongside urban development and intensification. Examples of such areas are: Vincent (+2.3% urban forest cover, +2.1% hard surface) Parramatta (+2.8% urban forest cover, +1.2% hard surface) Adelaide (+3.6% urban forest cover, +1.2% hard surface) Cockburn (+4.4% urban forest cover, +2.2% hard surface) (Hurley et al. 2020:19). Despite the positive improvements, the Greener Spaces Better Places research suggested that 67% of our urban places will face moderate to very high challenges to maintain or grow green cover over the next decade. Access to natural places The urban environment includes green spaces (e.g. parks, woodlands, nature conservation areas, gardens and sports fields) (Farahani & Maller 2018) and blue spaces (e.g. creeks, rivers, dams, ponds, estuaries and wetlands). Collectively, these spaces provide an array of livability benefits by: mitigating the adverse effects of urbanisation noise and air pollution (WHO, 2017) cooling the urban environment with green cover (see Urban heat) providing space for physical activity and contact with nature, which provides significant health and wellbeing benefits for citizens (WHO EURO 2017) providing opportunities for social connection and cohesion, which result in improved levels of neighbourhood and community satisfaction (WHO EURO 2017) providing financial benefits through a positive correlation with property values (Tyrväinen 1997, Clayton 2007) enabling Indigenous people to connect on a regular basis to specific spiritual and cultural places for custodial, ceremonial or other cultural obligation reasons. Despite these benefits, the extent and quality of green cover is declining in our urban areas (see Green cover). Furthermore, access to open spaces varies notably between and within urban areas. Research by Farahani et al. (2018) found that green spaces are often inequitably distributed across cities (Shanahan et al. 2014). Often, areas of socio-economic advantage have more tree canopy cover than areas of lower advantage (Shanahan et al. 2014, Schwarz et al. 2015). Also, as Saunders et al. (2020) highlighted from Dobbs et al. (2017): ‘cities with greater levels of inequality have been shown to exhibit more fragmented and lower quality urban vegetation overall’. While green spaces generate notable health and wellbeing benefits and may reduce income deprivation–related health inequalities (Mitchell & Popham 2007), the converse is also true. That is, poor access can be associated with negative health outcomes. Researchers argue that, if left unchecked, this ‘green gentrification’ could exacerbate inequities by limiting the benefits of green spaces to specific groups (Pauli et al. 2020). The AUO measured the proportion of the population of the largest 21 urban areas that had a public open space (urban park greater than or equal to 1.5 hectares) within 400 (or 5 minutes) from their homes. For the purposes of the analysis, public open space was defined as ‘parks, open areas and places where people can congregate for active and passive recreation and enjoyment’. The analysis found the urban area with the greatest proportion of its residents with access to open space within 400 m was Canberra (72%), with most cities achieving between 40% and 50% (Table 11). Access is one consideration; the quality and usability of the space is another. A case study of Stoney Creek in Sunshine North, Melbourne, by Farahani et al. (2018) found ‘that wildlands and unmanicured greenspaces within cities can trigger negative experiences such as fear, disgust or an unpleasant feeling’. Similarly, this study showed that poor maintenance was associated with a sense of unsafety because of perceived natural hazards, such as the presence of snakes. One interviewee referred to the area not being safe for his dogs or himself. Table 11 Livability indicator (access to open spaces) in Australia’s 21 largest urban areas, 2018 Urban area Access to open space (percentage of dwellings within 400 metres, based on a walkable road network distance; ranking) Adelaide 47% (11) Albury–Wodonga 52% (8) Ballarat 58% (2) Bendigo 42% (14) Brisbane 56% (5) Cairns 43% (13) Canberra 72% (1) Darwin 50% (9) Gold Coast – Tweed Heads 57% (4) Geelong 44% (12) Hobart 40% (15) Launceston 37% (16) Mackay 55% (6) Melbourne 49% (10) Newcastle–Maitland 58% (3) Perth 57% (4) Sunshine Coast 53% (7) Sydney 50% (9) Toowoomba 42% (14) Townsville 43% (13) Wollongong 43% (13) Source: Adapted from AUO (2018) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Case Study Kaurna Kardla Parranthi – Kaurna cultural burns – Adelaide, South Australia The cultural burns undertaken in May 2021 on Kaurna Country in Adelaide’s parklands show the importance of recognising and enabling cultural practice in connecting Indigenous peoples to Country and to their ancestors. It also allows groups to fulfil their custodial obligations in caring for Country and provides valuable biodiversity outcomes. The cultural burns on Kaurna Country are part of an ongoing commitment from the City of Adelaide to honour and foreground Kaurna people and their culture and deep knowledge of Country. This is concurrent with programs that have resourced and championed Kaurna language revival and dual naming across the City of Adelaide (Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi 2021d, Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi 2021c, Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi 2021b) (see the Heritage chapter). The cultural burning project is known as Kaurna Kardla Parranthi (‘to light a fire’) (Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi 2021a) and is part of the City of Adelaide stretch reconciliation plan 2018–21 (City of Adelaide 2018), which seeks to more meaningfully incorporate Kaurna people and their knowledges with several projects related to incorporating Indigenous understandings of native biodiversity management. A joint project between Kaurna community, the City of Adelaide and the SA Department for Environment and Water, with the aid of cultural fire practitioner Victor Steffensen and the Firesticks Alliance, the Kaurna Kardla Parranthi has been met with a great deal of excitement by stakeholders and community members. Kaurna and Narungga man Jeffrey Newchurch, the chairperson of the Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation, explains the wider opportunities for connecting to Country offered by the burning program: For me, the significant part of it is camping the night before and the night after. It allows us to sit by a campfire, to share each other’s stories, to share conversations with other people that we get to know. And from my perspective, an Aboriginal perspective, it allows a journey of healing. We’ve been at risk since settlement … what was done to us in the past. To have a position to sit down by camp and share, it’s very important. Healing is something we take for granted. We’re returning to Country and sitting on Country’. (Skujins 2021) Cultural fire practice is increasingly being seen as viable in urban areas to effectively manage Country and empower Indigenous people and Traditional Custodians. As with all cultural fire, fire practice in urban areas is only effective when Traditional Custodians are empowered to lead and are the decision-makers and authorising body, with Indigenous governance structures supported (Freeman et al. 2021) (see the Indigenous chapter). Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Urban biodiversity Far from being ecological deserts, our urban areas play an important role in supporting a diverse range of flora and fauna, including providing critical habitat for endangered species: … urban environments also offer unique prospects for biological conservation, which can in turn provide a range of important benefits for human health and wellbeing. Sustainable cities are cities that work for people and nature together. Recent enthusiasm for ‘nature-based solutions’ to address liveability challenges has seen urban greening become a common inclusion in urban planning. While this is an important advance, biodiversity is rarely considered in these initiatives and even best-practice international examples of nature-based solutions often come without significant biodiversity gains. It is through the green spaces and other green infrastructure of a city that its human inhabitants can interact with nature and receive the many health and wellbeing benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem services. For these benefits to be realised, access to nature must be delivered within the urban fabric of cities, rather than marginalised in large reserves a long way from population centres. (Bekessey & Parris 2020) Urban habitat ranges from street trees, lawns, parks, urban forests, cultivated land, wetlands, lakes and streams and private yards, to less obvious locations such fill and transfer stations, tips, general rubbish and waste treatment plants. Despite this diversity of habitat, most of our urban areas have not been planned to support animal habitat. Rather, they have been largely developed by removing habitat and fragmenting land and green corridors, which has resulted in changes to resource availability. In creating our urban environments, we have also introduced exotic species and altered local climates, which has caused significant habitat loss. For example, 3 of Australia’s largest urban areas – Brisbane, Perth and Sydney – are established within 2 global biodiversity hotspots (Mittermeier et al. 2011). These cities have at least 1,500 species of endemic plants, yet they have lost more than 70% of native vegetation cover through development (Pauli et al. 2020). Other threats to biodiversity in urban areas are: fragmentation from urban sprawl, and logging and agricultural expansion vehicle strikes and dog attacks the impacts of climate change, including more intense bushfires, droughts and extreme heat events (ACF 2020). Many cities and governments are incorporating aspects of ‘biophilic’ (connecting people and nature) design as the importance of nature in our cities and urban spaces is becoming better understood and supported. (Mata et al. 2020). Case Study The importance of remnant grasslands in urban areas for maintaining and reinvigorating Indigenous knowledge and agricultural practice The potential of Indigenous agricultural knowledge and practices in addressing the challenges of climate change is well recognised internationally (IPCC 2020). Although it is only recently coming to be widely recognised, Australia’s Indigenous people have a long and complex tradition of agriculture, which has been significantly undermined through colonisation (Pascoe 2014). Root crops such as murnong, and native grains such as kangaroo grass, were commonly cultivated, for example, in and around Melbourne in the early 1800s, and were particularly abundant in native grasslands (Gott 1983). Only small remnants of native grasslands remain in peri-urban Melbourne and they are at extreme risk of urban development (Perkins 2021): Less than 5% of the original extent of both communities remains, although patches in good condition are likely to constitute less than 1%. Most known remnants are small – under 10 hectares in size. Many patches of these ecological communities require recovery efforts because they are so degraded, due to weed and feral animal invasion and loss of native biodiversity, that their capacity to maintain ecosystem function is impaired. These ecological communities provide habitat to several nationally and state-listed threatened species. (DSEWPaC 2011) Remaining areas of native grasslands in the region should be recognised not only for their contribution to biodiversity, but also for their importance as Indigenous food sources. Remnant grasslands are fundamental to the potential contribution of Indigenous knowledge and practices to climate-resilient food production in Melbourne’s food bowl (Allam & Moore 2020, Crivellaro 2020, Epa 2020). Traditional foods are suited to the Australian environment and have the potential to be an important consideration in the many challenges of climate change and food security (Mathew et al. 2016). Many Traditional Owner groups across Australia are beginning to re-awaken and reinvigorate food knowledge and agricultural practice (Black Duck Foods 2021, FNBBAA 2021). Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Threatened species A report by the Nature Conservation Council 2020 found that 25% of all nationally listed threatened plants and 46% of nationally listed threatened animals can be found in 99 of Australia’s largest towns and cities. The same report identified that Australian cities have a disproportionately high number of threatened species and are home to, on average, 3 times as many threatened species per hectare as rural environments. More than 370 threatened species listed in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 are found in Australian cities and towns (Soanes & Parris 2020), and more than 30 of Australia’s threatened species can only be found in urban areas (Table 12). This highlights the critical importance of our urban environments to biodiversity imperatives. National conservation policy should adapt to recognise the important role cities play in planning for and managing threatened species (Ives et al. 2016). Table 12 Sample of threatened species by major urban area City Number of threatened species Brisbane 30 Central Coast 39 Gold Coast – Tweed Heads 39 Hobart 29 Melbourne 46 Newcastle–Maitland 33 Perth 35 Sydney 80 Sunshine Coast 26 Wollongong 29 Source: ACF (2020) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Threatened species in urban areas are under increasing threat, mainly because of habitat destruction. While the new approaches to urban sustainability and regeneration, supported by citizen science, are being trialled to address this (see Urban planning and collaboration), between 2000 and 2017, habitat loss continued to be significant in urban areas. The 5 urban areas that experienced the most significant habitat loss (urban forest and woodland) were Brisbane, Gold Coast – Tweed Heads, Townsville, Sunshine Coast and Sydney. In these 5 areas combined, at least 20,212 hectares (ha) of forested urban threatened species habitat was destroyed. More forested urban habitat was destroyed in Queensland (12,923 hectares) than in any other state or territory (Table 13). The 5 species most affected by habitat destruction were the red goshawk (14,877 ha), the grey-headed flying fox (13,522 ha), the koala (13,053 ha), the Australasian bittern (12,274 ha) and the regent honeyeater (9,242 ha). Empowering Indigenous perspectives and aspirations within urban environments, especially in terms of custodial responsibilities to Country, empowers actions to protect endangered and threatened plants and animals (Barrow et al. 2020). Ranger projects and Working on Country projects that empower Indigenous communities are not just viable in remote areas, but can also bring great value to urban areas, especially when we consider the proven wellbeing outcomes of working on Country for Indigenous communities and the environment (see case study: Kaurna cultural burns). Table 13 Total urban threatened species habitat cleared in each state and territory, 2000–17 State Hectares of habitat destroyed Percentage of total loss Qld 12,923 64 NSW and ACT 3,960 20 WA 1,789 9 Tas 673 3 Vic 372 2 SA 300 1 NT 195 1 ACT = Australian Capital Territory; NSW = New South Wales; NT = Northern Territory; Qld = Queensland; SA = South Australia; Tas = Tasmania; Vic = Victoria; WA = Western Australia Source: ACF (2020) Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Biodiversity benefits While urban areas can threaten species, their communities can also play a key role in the solution (ACF 2020) (see Management approaches). A 2019 survey of 55,000 people by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation found that an ‘appreciation of the natural environment’ was the second-most important aspect of ‘being Australian’ (Crabb 2019). Because of this value, a growing number of Australians are actively working to protect and reintroduce wildlife into our urban areas. Biodiverse urban areas are not only considered valuable for the ecology that lives within them, but the identity, health and wellbeing of urban citizens. For example, it has been found that views of trees and grass from apartment buildings help to enhance adult residents’ ability to cope with major life issues and mental fatigue. Such views also improve a child’s capacity to concentrate (Tzoulas et al. 2007). Studies also show that the integration of nature with workplace design – for example, by providing a view of nature from a workplace – can reduce sick leave and increase productivity (by 6%) compared with workers without a view (Garrard et al. 2015). Air quality The urban environment can significantly affect the quality of our air through emissions from human activities such as vehicle traffic, wood combustion heaters and industry. Air quality can in turn have a significant impact on the quality of our urban environments and our wellbeing, as well as urban and marine biodiversity wellbeing. Internationally, indoor and outdoor air pollution is considered one of the worst environmental risk factors for human health, causing 7 million premature deaths every year (Lelieveld et al. 2015). Air quality can be heavily influenced by the topography of our urban environment; variables include ventilation (e.g. access to sea breeze or air being trapped in a basin), tree canopy cover and biogenic emissions (e.g. pollen and eucalyptus oils). Comparatively, air quality in Australia’s urban areas is considered good (see the Air Quality chapter). The air pollutants of most concern in Australia are particles suspended in the air that are less than 2.5 microns across (PM2.5) and ozone. In Europe, concentrations of PM2.5 vary from 8.5 to 29.3 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3). By comparison, in Sydney they average 7.5 mg/m3 and in Perth 4.4 mg/m3 (Pauli et al. 2020). This overall good result can be affected by extreme events such as bushfires and dust storms. For example, during the 2019–20 bushfires, Canberra experienced the worst air quality measurements of anywhere in the world (Filkov et al. 2020). Conversely, events such as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in periods of improved air quality because of travel restrictions.