Global Indigeneity and Reconciliation

Posted on: July 31st, 2012 by melissa

These 15 and 16 year old boys are men. All but one of them has been through an initiation ceremony. This status makes it more difficult for them to attend school. Here they are pictured in front of a mural which says 'Youth Outreach Team. Incite Youth Arts and CAAC AHYS Gap Youth Centre'. The Youth Outreach bus operates three nights a week and drives home 3,000 boys and youths per year. Alice Springs, Australia, July 2011.

How can we collaboratively understand and enact forms of meaningful engagement across cultural difference?

Based upon a foundational ethic of reciprocity, this program investigates global and local indigeneity in the context of a worldwide movement for social change.

Research focus

Our research is provoked by the narrow politicization of indigeneity and reconciliation, and the violence it affects on customary cultures. We seek to unsettle dominant social praxis derived from extant Western ideological preconceptions about Indigenous cultures and difference. Through critically addressing contemporary issues of human rights, social justice and conservation, this Program aims to evoke epistemological and ontological alternatives to those envisaged by current dominant modern thought.

Description of program

The program aims to understand indigeneity through meaningful engagement with indigenous peoples and others who relate to their lives. Our research therefore informs and is informed by those whose lives we study. Secondly, our research is concerned with policy and practice that gives rise to local and global processes of reconciliation—processes which improve the livelihoods, health and wellbeing of those whose alternate ways of life are being fractured by globalizing change.

We view indigeneity and reconciliation through various theoretical and practical lenses, including gender, health, sport, dance and cinema to undertake projects that afford new knowledge but most importantly honour and respect those who invite us into their lives. Ethical considerations are of paramount importance in the guiding principles of the program. As such, our research follows the cultural practices of Ngapartji Ngapartji to forge long-standing, ongoing research partnerships founded on principles of shared meanings and reciprocal exchange. From the Pitjantjatjara language this term translates as ‘I give you something; you give me something’.

Research themes

The overarching direction of the program is to create ethical relationships with indigenous peoples that impact their lives and the well being of their communities through the achievement of positive research outcomes.

1. Indigeneity and confronting modern change
Global indigeneity exists contemporaneous with the non-indigenous world and its claims to ‘modernity’, ‘post-colonialism’ and ‘globalism’.  The program seeks to document the multiplicity of ways that contemporary forms of global indigeneity engage with the non-indigenous social, cultural, economic and political world in their struggles to maintain difference.  The alterity embodied by global indigeneity offers non-indigenous peoples different understandings of reality and different systems to understand knowledge.  The program is deeply committed to communicating the value inherent in the alterity of global indigeneity and to explore ways that indigenous entanglements with ‘modernity’, ‘post-colonialism’ and ‘globalism’ might produce productive outcomes insofar as these uphold indigenous ‘tradition’ while also enhancing non-indigenous understanding of the world.

2. Aboriginal youth and sport
Sport is a high profile area of Australian popular culture where Indigenous people have a long and proud record of achieving excellence despite a history of socio-economic disadvantage and political discrimination.  Participation in sport creates opportunities for Aboriginal youth to develop leadership skills and make positive contributions to their individual well being of that of their communities.  The program seeks to explore the ways in which grass-roots participation in sport can empower Aboriginal youth to develop the skill set that will enable them to assume positions of leadership within their communities and beyond.  The program is interested in exploring how community level sports in Aboriginal communities can create, extend and enhance the breadth of life opportunities that are available to Aboriginal youth in achieving improved outcomes in the areas of employment, education and training.

3. Reconciliation
The program supports local and global efforts to promote communication, dialogue and enhanced understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous people worldwide.  Reconciliation in the context this program is fundamentally concerned with the building and enhancement of meaningful research relationships in ways intended to improve the social, cultural, political and economic wellbeing of indigenous peoples in their continued struggle to maintain independent and unique identities in the face of global forces of change.


For more information on Global Indigeneity and Reconciliation, please contact the Program Manager, Tim Butcher.


Climate Change Adaptation

Posted on: July 23rd, 2012 by stevenha
'City Waterfall' Melbourne by Melburnian, Flickr

Water from flooded Flinders Street in Melbourne running down to the Yarra River. Photo credit: 'City Waterfall' Melbourne by melburnian, Flickr.

How can cities and communities best plan for climate change?

This program seeks to understand future climate change risks and to explore how cities, communities and individuals can best adapt to climate change in the context of complex socio-ecological stress.

Research focus

The Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) focuses on how cities and communities might best respond to the complexity of global environmental change and adapt to the on-the-ground issues associated with a changing climate. The approach of the Program is based on the integration of quantitative, qualitative, and participatory methodologies. Its activity is deliberately multi-disciplinary, cutting across academic schools and disciplines, as well as being shaped by new forms of engagement between scientific, policy, and wider stakeholder communities.

Description of program

Whilst adaptation of the urban environment is the centre of research attention, the Program applies an analytical prism that enables research questions to be tackled according to different hazards, sectors, spatial scales and case-study locations. This allows us to gain wider insight into the conceptual and applied understanding of risk, vulnerability and adaptation. The geographical scope of the Program ranges from the local to the global, with the Asia-Pacific region a particularly important international focus for the program. In pursuit of this multi-level agenda, strong collaborative links are fostered both nationally and across the world. Darryn McEvoy, the Program Leader of CCAP also occupies the role of Deputy Director of the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR).

Research themes  

The overarching focus of the program is to explore and develop ways in which how cities, communities and individuals can best adapt to climate change in the context of complex socio-ecological stress.

1. Conceptual Research: Critical Analysis of Adaptation Processes

This theme involves critical assessment of what is meant by adaptation in different arenas and how decision-makers can support adaption in practice. Topics of interest include disciplinary framings, the use of scenarios, linkages between adaptation and mitigation.

2. Applied Research: Characterization and Assessment of Climate-Related Risks and Evaluation of Potential Adaptation Options

Here ‘systems’ analysis of cities, towns, and communities is central; as well as more detailed analyses of different ‘elements at risk’ in the urban environment including infrastructure, buildings, the space between buildings, and people.

3. Institutional Dimensions of Adaptation

Consideration of structural driving forces (political, economic, cultural and ecological) are crucial to understanding institutional adaptive management, as is understanding the barriers to (and opportunities for) change, and the importance of adaptation as a learning process. Of particular interest is the interaction and ’fit’ of bottom-up approaches (e.g., local narratives, equity considerations, and the building of adaptive capacity) with top-down structures and processes (e.g., international agreements and national strategies).

 4. Bridging the Science/Policy Interface

This theme focuses on the translation of conceptual and applied understanding of adaptation into best-practice guidance for a range of different policy and practitioner end-users. The theme distils knowledge from Research Themes 1 to 3 and integrates it with governance and urban-management processes to promote more strategic pathways to climate-resilient communities. Innovative aspects are also being explored—for instance, new ways of communicating climate change, cities as laboratories of innovation etc.

5. Capacity Strengthening in the Asia-Pacific Region

Here, we are interested in a combination of research activity and shared learning about adaptation and sustainable urban development in the Asia-Pacific region. We actively promote the sharing of knowledge and associated methodologies in order to contribute to the strengthening of local adaptive capacity. Special emphasis is placed on collaborative activities in Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Pacific Island nations


For more information on CCAP, please contact the Program Manager, Jane Mullett.


Human Security and Disasters

Posted on: July 23rd, 2012 by stevenha
HS_Mullaitivu Church_Sri Lanka

Hundreds of people were killed when the Catholic Church at Mullaitivu was hit by a tsunami on the morning of 26 December 2004. Rebuilt marble columns in the Church now bear the names of the dead. Researchers in the Global Cities Institute have been working with communities affected both by the tsunami and the war since 2004. Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka, October 2011.

How can cities harness their immense resources to cope with crises?

This program focuses on the pathways for recovering from conflict, for building resilience, and for reducing disaster-vulnerability.

Research focus

From the perspective taken by this program, security is human-centred. It focuses primarily on communities and persons rather than only on abstracted understandings of state sovereignty, military defence, or border security. Promotion of health, protection against violence and projection of sustainable environmental and economic practices requires reflexive policies that effectively build upon existing communal and political-cultural dynamics in order to foster resilience and harness creative and productive responses to crises and conflict.

The program focuses on pathways for recovering from conflict, building resilience and reducing disaster vulnerability. This can be achieved by understanding and building on the strengths of cities and working to reduce the forces promoting violence and vulnerability to disaster. For many cities in our region, and throughout the world, this is a key factor in any hope of sustainability.

Description of program

The program applies a broad definition of human security based on United Nations’ models of peace-building, development, community sustainability and resilience. The program conducts research on conditions which contribute to community vulnerability to conflict, crisis and natural disasters. The program also conducts research on emergency management, recovery and community resilience. Focusing on both local and international sites, our research is designed to contribute to public and scholarly discussion on human security and disasters, public policy, the effectiveness of agencies who work in disaster and human security in both the government and non-government sectors, and communities’ own capabilities, governance, peace-building, recovery and resilience.

Research themes

From the perspective taken by this program, security is human-centred. It focuses primarily on communities and persons rather than only on abstracted understandings of state sovereignty, military defence, or border security.  Promotion of health, protection against violence and projection of sustainable environmental and economic practices requires reflexive policies that effectively build upon existing communal and political-cultural dynamics in order to foster resilience and harness creative and productive responses to crises and conflict.

Through its expertise on people-centred security and globalization, the program is undertaking studies on:

  • Local and global conditions that contribute to community vulnerability to conflict, crisis and natural disasters;
  • Human security approaches to conflict resolution, peace-building, and development;
  • Disaster prevention, management, recovery and community resilience;
  • Organized crime and criminal violence;
  • Governance and political stability, particularly in crisis vulnerable locations and communities;
  • The cultural and communications dimensions of conflict, disaster management and recovery;
  • Health and sustainable development;
  • Effective management of human and natural resources in post-disaster conditions;
  • Disaster and conflict mitigation and prevention;
  • Justice, law and governance in post-conflict communities;
  • Reconciling cultural difference and other antagonisms that contribute to conflict and vulnerability;
  • The role of climate change and other environmental conditions that contribute to disaster and conflict.


For more information on Human Security, please contact the Program Manager, John Handmer.


Urban Decision-Making and Complex Systems

Posted on: November 23rd, 2011 by melissa
UDM_Singapore 2011

Diorama of the city of Singapore used for planning purposes. Singapore, September 2011.

How can technology assist in decision-making regarding such things as urban planning and risk analysis?

This is a cross-disciplinary program to use and develop advanced technologies in areas such as agent-based simulation to support urban decision-making.

Research focus

Many decisions in planning for our cities, involve an understanding of complex interactions between different aspects of the city—from its infrastructure, its buildings to its inhabitants and culture. This program focuses on leading-edge information technology and techniques, and how they can be applied to specific questions and issues in urban decision-making. One specific focus of the program is simulation, in particular agent-based simulation. There is a particular focus on developing a platform that supports integration of separately developed simulation modules within a larger whole, as well as re-usability of modules where possible.

Description of program

The program seeks to develop general approaches and tools that can be applied to a range of urban decision-making issues and questions. This involves the development and exploration of technologies and techniques to assist urban decision-makers in understanding the complex systems in which they are developing policies and infrastructure. The program aims to take specific questions and issues, and explore the use of leading-edge technology to contribute to addressing these questions and issues, with a view to building strong expertise in the interdisciplinary space between the social sciences and technology.

Research themes

The overarching focus of the program is to look at how advanced technology can support decision-making and risk analysis in complex urban systems. The current themes are:

1. Agent based simulation to support risk assessment, policy and planning
Agent-based simulation is a powerful tool for developing understanding of complex, multi-scalar, multi-actor systems. We are exploring a range of issues that will make this technology both more accessible to end-users, and also more reliable and more transparent. In order for government departments and other groups to be confident in using this technology, it is important that they are able to understand the underlying models and re-use models or systems that they already have and trust. It is also important to develop scientific understanding of how to use simulations to systematically explore risks and vulnerabilities, to gain a nuanced understanding of the system under consideration. It is impossible to explore all possible scenarios—but it is important to explore both a sufficient number, and sufficient combinations of key aspects. We are developing ways to support end-users in obtaining a principled set of simulations on which they can reliably base their understanding.

2. Participatory modelling of complex systems
Any computational system is only as good as the underlying model which it is based on. In modelling complex systems it is crucial to identify the key components of the system and how they interact. There is broad support for the idea that this is best done by actively involving the end-users and the subjects being modelled. One of the research themes of the program is how to best support participatory modelling, using the skills of a multi-disciplinary team involving both computer scientists and social scientists, as well as end-users of systems.

3. Computational models of human behaviour
One of the difficulties in agent-based modelling is that the approach to modelling humans and their behaviours is very simplistic, and is essentially just one off reactive rules. Social scientists typically find this far too restrictive for believable modelling of humans, leading to lack of confidence in simulation results. We are exploring integration of more sophisticated behaviour modelling, incorporating pursuit of multiple goals over time. We are also looking at how social science theories can be made sufficiently simple and precise (while still capturing essential elements) for implementation in a computational system. We will then explore to what extent this assists in facilitating the use of agent-based simulation technology in policy and planning situations.


For more information on Urban Decision-Making and Complex Systems, please contact the Program Leader, Lin Padgham.


Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures

Posted on: October 9th, 2011 by stevenha
Fitzroy Melbourne

Commission housing in Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia, 2011. © Tommaso Durante, The Visual Archive Project of The Global Imaginary

How can communities, cities and regions support the transition towards sustainable futures?

With the goal of ensuring the productivity, liveability and sustainability of cities and regions, the Program seeks to develop the evidence base for policies, strategies and tools for delivering planning productive cities and regions that are diverse, vibrant and affordable and in which the social capital and resilience fundamental to productivity are promoted.

Research focus

Cities and regional centres are the engines of economic and cultural growth. Some 80 per cent of Australians live in them, contributing over 80 per cent of GDP and associated economic and employment growth. However, this era of urban-based prosperity is being challenged by the side-effects of success, including regional disparities resulting from unequal and uneven development, the rising ecological footprints of cities, social unease, road congestion, resource scarcity and escalating living costs.

Description of program

The program advances the evidence base for policy, planning and decision-making for urban and regional development in ways that enhance community resilience, promote social well-being and increase productivity whilst conserving the natural resource base upon which all social and economic development depends.

The Sustainable and Urban Regional Futures (SURF) program is multidisciplinary, bringing together researchers from fields as diverse as geography, planning, cultural studies, sociology, business, architecture, media studies, economics and education in the common quest for solutions to the challenges facing cities, regional centres and communities. With an emphasis on the values of sustainability, resilience appropriate development and social inclusion, research in the SURF program is organised around 13 themes.

Research themes

With an emphasis on the values of sustainability, resilience appropriate development and social inclusion, research in the program is organized around 13 themes:

1. Urban policy and planning
Studies of urban policy and planning include a focus on questions of urban governance and political economy, development regulation, metropolitan strategic planning, peri-urban development, the need for and conflicts around urban consolidation and urban renewal, urban infrastructure and transport and urban mobility systems.

2. Place and health
In response to the increasing importance of creating ‘healthy places’ in the planning and design of new residential communities and revitalizing established ones, this theme investigates the production, experience and governance of health and wellbeing in urban environments in the context of climate change adaptation, sustainability and social inclusion.

3. Environmental management
This theme examines the diverse drivers of ecosystem change, particularly in urban and semi-rural environments. Its aim is to address the gap between conservation theory and real world practice in complex planning environments. Research includes studies of biodiversity planning, natural resource planning, water security and pollution control.

4. Housing studies
Research in this theme focuses on the areas of housing economics, housing policy, homelessness, housing and particular demographic groups (such as immigrants, the aged, etc.) and housing within the urban planning framework. Housing affordability is a critical focus for research as ‘housing wealth’ is a major determinant of social and economic wellbeing and governments are reducing the provision of public housing to only the most needy.

5. Sustainable built environments
This theme develops strategies and tools for sustainable construction management and procurement, environmental performance assessment and modelling of buildings, innovative building materials and fabrication, retrofitting for climate change, and building life-cycle assessment.

6. Urban metabolism and low-carbon systems
Research towards advancing sustainable production and consumption systems includes: closed-loop design, product stewardship, life-cycle assessment, eco-footprinting, environmental assessment and modelling.

7. Smart cities
This theme recognises the growing importance of collaborative informal learning and its contribution both to promoting balanced economic, social and environmental development in city-regions, and addressing urban challenges. New information and communication technologies are a particularly important resource in some smart city initiatives.

8. Resilient regions
Cities are reliant upon the regions that supply the resources necessary for human health, social wellbeing and economic productivity. However pressures from globalization, national development strategies and global environmental climate change are undermining the capacity of regions to contribute to supply the needs of cities. At the same time, other resource rich regions are experiencing “boom” conditions and the impacts of overly –fast, reactive development. Policies and strategies that support sustainable regional development and build resilience to the impacts of change are the focus of this research theme.

9. Urban education
Social learning is central to sustainable cities and regions. Research focuses on the processes of learning that underpin the cultural changes required to support sustainable and resilient communities and the importance of education and training in innovation and sustainability systems. Key emphases include the roles of schools, colleges and universities, as well as adult and community education, in building understanding and capacities in social inclusion, active and informed citizenship, international understanding, sustainable lifestyles and green skills.

10. Social change for sustainability
The challenges of sustainability and climate change involve significant change in the ways that we live, work and interact. This theme explores opportunities to facilitate social change that move beyond the current focus on individual resource consumption and behaviour to consider why and how people produce and consume from broader societal contexts. Sub-themes and concepts include: sharing economies, beyond behaviour change, sustainable consumption, de-growth and affluenza.

11. Green economy transitions
This theme emphasizes equity and justice in regional transitions to a low-carbon economy. This theme also focuses on the governance and management of transitions in social and economic development infrastructure systems and the policies and practices required for an equitable, just and low-carbon future.

12. Sustainable business practices
Sustainable logistics and supply chain management are fundamental to sustainable cities. This theme investigates these and related issues such as sustainable procurement, sustainability indicators and reporting, ethical governance and finance, corporate social responsibility, and carbon accounting and management.

13. Social innovation
The concept of social innovation describes a new approach to solving a shared problem or unmet demand where the returns or benefits of the innovation are realized at the social rather than individual level. Where the classic formulation of innovation focuses on business entrepreneurship, social innovations involve new processes, technologies or institutional partnerships that advance human needs and capabilities.


For more information on the SURF program, contact Gayle Seddon at or +61 3 9925 9013.

Globalization and Culture

Posted on: October 9th, 2011 by stevenha

President Obama depicted as The Joker, sold illegally outside the Metropolitan Museum. New York, USA, February 2011.

How can we understand the intensification and expansion of cultural flows through globalizing cities and their regions?

This program investigates cultural aspects of globalization in its local and global forms in cities across the world.

Research focus 

The program examines the tensions and complexities of transnational cultural flows in terms of homogenization, fragmentation, hybridity and commodification. Analysis is focused on urban arenas for cultural contestation and ideological dissent. The program envisages creative solutions to global challenges by encouraging long-term thinking and designing alternative global futures. This approach enables research in such areas as ethical global visions, global governance, and imaginaries of hope. It brings together theoretical enquiry with empirically grounded and socially engaged research. Program members use diverse methodologies in order to understand how globalization impacts upon cultural expression and how culture manifests in urban settings.

Description of program 

Culture is understood broadly as shared webs of meaning through which we experience and interpret the world around us. Culture manifests in symbolic acts, everyday routines, identities and desires. It shapes our social relations, built environments, and relations with the non-human world. The program investigates culture through a range of social phenomena, institutions and symbolic expressions.

Research themes 

The overarching focus of the program is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the ever expanding and intensifying cultural flows, both in, and between our cities and regions.

1. Transforming identities and subjectivities

This theme concerns the transformation of identities in Asian-Pacific cities through processes of globalization. Cities are nodes in vast global networks of people, governance, ideas and industry as well as distinctly local places that generate diverse responses to globalization. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, city-life shapes our sense of self in new ways. As we move between cities, we experience new modes of trans-local belonging. Accordingly, we ask how various global processes such as migration, economic development, or technological change manifest in cities and impact upon our subjectivities. This theme addresses the means through which identities are shaped and contested, from modes of governmentality to forms of artistic expression. The ideologically induced transformation of citizens into neoliberal subjects constitutes one potential area of inquiry. Of equal interest are the social movements and cultural currents that resist subordination to hegemonic norms and enact alternative subjectivities.

2. Culture and ideology
Key questions in this research theme include: what is the relationship between globalization, culture and ideology? How do social imaginaries, narratives, metaphors, symbols and myths contribute to ideological change? How do language and space intersect in the cultural milieus of Asian-Pacific cities? Hierarchies based on sharp distinctions between local, national, regional and global scales no longer hold in the global age.Established boundaries are defended, erased, or redrawn. Consequently, we investigate the transformation of our conventional cultural-spatial frameworks into multi-directional constellations and multi-nodal networks. The shifting grounds of discourse emerging in advance of clearly articulated ideological platforms are also key sites of inquiry. This theme recognizes cities as principal hubs for the construction, dissemination and contestation of cultural and ideological discourse.

3. Material cultures
This theme approaches material culture as an expression of the critical disputes and tensions characterising globalization and global cities. We investigate the conditions for the creation of new cultural spaces and the role of technology in cultural production. How do text and image, art and performance, media and communication combine to construct new cultural forms? Potential areas of investigation include critical analyses of artworks, urban screens, advertising, global-branding, media representations and alternative forms of communication.


For more information on Globalization and Culture, please contact the Program Leader, Chris Hudson.


Community, Migration and Development

Posted on: October 9th, 2011 by stevenha

Federal Elections campaigning outside Desa Mentari flats, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, April 2008.

How do communities shape, and how are they shaped by processes of globalization and the use of information and communication technologies?

The study of communities is vital to understanding how cities can sustain themselves, given their unprecedented global growth. It is critical to think of community as a constant process of formation and reformation in response to ever-changing local and global conditions. We are increasingly interested in diasporic communities in the Asia-Pacific region and their influence on national identities and the changing nature of citizenship.

Research focus

The focus on communities connects lived urban experience and the traditional study of urbanisation which draws on demography, urban planning, infrastructure and development, transportation and affordable housing, environmental politics and citizenship. By reinvigorating the study of community formation and adaptation within changing city environments, particularly in the ‘global south’, we aim to establish a new theoretical and methodological agenda for addressing the big social challenges of city life.

Description of program

The program offers an important opportunity to rethink the question of community sustainability at local, national and international levels from multi-disciplinary perspectives; and aims to establish new theoretical and methodological agendas for addressing the social challenges of city from the perspective of the Global North as well as the Global South.

Research themes   

The overarching focus of the program is to study factors that influence, shape and mould our communities.

1. Negotiating the local global
This theme’s foci is on studying localities around the globe, seeking to determine if, why and how communities are negotiating transformations across the complex layers of social life from the local to the global; whilst addressing questions of the theoretical framing of cosmopolitanism, community or locally embedded social interaction, transnationalism and indicators of community sustainability. The research is engaged with multiple communities, ranging from the urban to the rural, and from those embedded in face-to-face communities to those which are closely integrated into global flows of exchange and information.  Research sites include Melbourne and regional Victoria, nationally around  Australia and globally, with a particular emphasis on the Asia-Pacific Region.

2. Building communities
In recent literature, there is a noticeable ‘turn’ to community in the context of global flux and uncertainty. Yet the word ‘community’ is often abused and it is often impossible to translate into languages other than English. This theme addresses the need for a more dynamic and normative conception of what the search for community represents. A foregrounding of the search for community in conditions of systemic uncertainty can help to challenge parochial and divisive claims about the character and identity of any particular local community and this, in turn, can give substance to rhetoric about ‘social inclusion’. This theme seeks to examine and contribute to understand contemporary and alternate ways of thinking about the formation of urban communities in the context of globalization.

3. Globalization, money and community
This theme recognises the transnational dimensions of community and the importance of personal and community remittances to the lived experience of migrants in cities. Key projects in this area address theoretical and methodological perspectives that link the macro-study of economic globalization with its lived experience at the community and personal levels; and examine the importance of transnational personal and community ties in global cities that co-exist with these relationships
in the host country.

4. Civic repair

This area deals with questions related to community wellbeing and governance from local to national levels and the intractable problem of homelessness in Australia. Projects in this area includes fault lines of violence, homelessness, planning and social impacts of local natural and built environments and urban inequalities and marginalization.


For more information on CMDP, please contact the Program Managers, Supriya Singh and Shahadat Khan.