Melbourne – Australia

Melbourne has a diverse multicultural population of around four million people.  It has a densely urbanized and vibrant activities centre.  Its metropolitan footprint radiates outwards into a region of ever-stretching car-dependent suburbs, peri-urban zones of mixed use, and a hinterland of temperate dry-land farming.  It is a trading city with a global port, though its manufacturing base has steadily declined since the 1970s. It is a city with a well-educated population, and one with a growing and sophisticated public consciousness about climate change, recycling and water consumption issues, and yet the city is becoming less sustainable.For all the public sensitivity to ecological sustainability issues in Melbourne, resource-use and carbon emissions continue to grow, including land and energy consumption on a per capita basis. One of the few successes in this area has been a widely-supported political campaign to place legal restrictions on water-use. Nevertheless, a massive energy-intensive desalination plant is being built to supply freshwater to the city, and the entrance to bay on which the city sits has been dredged to allow ‘super-sized’ freight ships to import global commodities through Australia’s largest container port—both projects, paradoxically, are defended by the government in terms of environmental sustainability.

Melbourne has an extensive public transport system. Once publicly owned, the transport services are now all privately-owned, and like most public transport infrastructure, are operating at a loss. On the positive side, most of the city’s major attractions, including museums, galleries, cinemas and theatres, as well as its many major sporting facilities are accessible by public transport.  Due to population growth and rising fuel costs, demand for public transport services has increased in recent years.  Because of lack of public investment over the past few decades, public transport now faces a crisis of congestion and quality of infrastructure.

Melbourne is confronting the challenge of providing for substantial population growth in an economically, ecologically, politically and culturally sustainable manner. The approach to managing growth is sometimes characterized as an unhelpful choice between the extremes of ‘urban sprawl’ or ‘high density towers’. Within these debates, urban sprawl is sometimes characterized as being associated with poor transportation options, neighbourhoods that are not pedestrian-friendly, loss of valued non-urban land, and associated environmental impacts. Similarly, urban consolidation is characterized as ghetto-ization and even ‘un-Australian’. However, restricting land supply is also criticized for the impact it has on housing affordability and housing choice.

The area now occupied by the city had for about 40,000 years been inhabited by Aboriginal peoples, primarily of the Wurundjeri-Willam, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong tribes. Aboriginal Australians continue to have a presence in the city, especially in inner northern and western suburbs, but it is no longer a major visible presence. This presence is overlaid by a series of waves of settlements from elsewhere. In metropolitan Melbourne, nearly a third of residents were born overseas, with almost the same percentage of residents in metropolitan Melbourne speaking a language other than English at home (based on 2006 census figures).

Like Australia as a whole, the prevailing economic system in Melbourne is a regulated capitalist market, jointly overseen by the federal and state-level governments.

Given that the home of the Global Cities Institute is in Melbourne, it is natural that this involves engagement with many organizations in the city. One of those central partnerships is with the Melbourne City Council. The Council’s planning strategy for inner-Melbourne is called ‘Future Melbourne’ and the Global Cities Institute has worked in collaboration on this program and others. The City of Melbourne is a supporter of the UN Global Compact Cities Programme. Liz Ryan convenes the work of the Global Cities Institute in Melbourne.

A biography of money flows in the Indian diaspora in Australia and community

This project will analyse how life stage and migrant experience influence the meaning and flow of money between Australia and India among persons in the Indian diaspora in Australia. It will also explore how best we can begin to answer the question: How much money flows between Australia and India in family and community remittances, trade, business and investment? This involves surveying the existing methodologies for measuring transnational money flows. This project will contribute to the research at the centre of ARC Discovery application submitted for 2013.

Accelerating sustainable buildings in Local Government

The project commenced with the premise that local government practitioners can make changes within areas of their control to enable sustainable outcomes for their organisations.

Accounting for sustainability: developing an integrated approach for sustainability assessments

This is a cross-disciplinary project involving social science and computer science. It aims to develop a new approach to sustainability in our cities and organizations.

Adaptive learning networks for sustainable procurement

The project continues work begun in the School of Management to develop improved sustainable procurement (SP) outcomes in public and private sector organizations through a program of adaptive learning and networks.


The program publishes ‘AdaptNet’, a fortnightly bulletin of information and research related to urban adaption. (ongoing activity)

Agent-based modelling and emergency response

A multi-disciplinary project that is exploring the value of using agent-based modelling as a decision support tool for better informing responses to, in this instance, bush fires.

Australian launch: the International Centre for Housing and Urban Economics

To cement relationship with our partners Reading University, UK; Uppsala University, Sweden and Delft University, Netherlands

Australians’ attitudes towards factory farming

This study explored Australian attitudes toward factory farming and the consumption of factory farmed products in light of the impact of intensive animal agriculture on the environment, community health, animal welfare and its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Benchmarking social infrastructure: a guide for shaping communities for wellbeing

This project aims to assist in the delivery of responsive, flexible, well-resourced and timely human services for Victorian peri-urban communities to help avoid social problems that can lead to entrenched disadvantage in the future.

Beyond behaviour change

The Beyond Behaviour Change research area includes a cluster of projects based on the application of social practice theory to environmental policies and programs. Projects to date have sought to understand the socio-technical positioning of air travel in corporate organisations as an expected and normal way to meet, the ways in which smart metering demand strategies interact and intergrate with householders’ everyday practices of heating and cooling, and how aspirations and expectations for housing are changing on Melbourne’s suburban and coastal fringe.

Breaking the cycle: the role of housing and support in resolving chronic homelessness

This is a longitudinal study of formerly chronically homeless people who are residents in a supportive housing facility in inner city Melbourne.

Bushfire community safety

A suite of projects is directed at improving community education for bushfire preparedness among residents in high-risk bushfire areas. Focused on the question of “What works in bushfire community safety: how, for whom and in what settings?”, a nation-wide set of case studies conducted between 2005 and 2009 was used to develop an overarching framework and methodology for planning evaluating bushfire community safety and education programs.

Climate change adaptation toolkit: a comprehensive guide to planning for climate change adaptation in three steps

The Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit has been developed by the Net Balance Foundation in partnership with the City of Greater Geelong and RMIT University’s Climate Change Adaptation Program. The Toolkit has been developed to provide guidance on how to integrate climate change risk management into organizational processes and decisions (i.e. mainstream climate change adaptation) and support robust decision making in the face of various types of uncertainty.

Community sustainability indicators

Community sustainability indicators; citizen engagement; software decision-support tool.

Comparative regional policy: Europe, Asia, Australia

This project is a comparative study of regional policy in Europe, Australia and in selected Asian countries which aims to inform regional policy and program development in Australia.

Cultural precincts

This project is concerned with three inner-city cultural precincts in Lonsdale, Lygon and Little Bourke streets in Melbourne.

Dematerialising urban households for long-term greenhouse savings

To identify realistic strategies for reducing the amount of household commodities entering landfill.

Drivers, attitudes and barriers to ‘green’ investment by landlords of private rental properties

This research project has been undertaken in two stages. The research provides a body of knowledge regarding the practices of landlordism and the constraints and opportunities these present in retrofitting rental housing for climate change.

Education for sustainability

The project analyses the processes that can enhance inter-sectoral collaboration in lifelong learning for sustainability and develops and evaluates strategies for influencing learning for sustainability throughout Australia and, cross-culturally, within the Asia-Pacific region.

Exploring flood responses in an urban municipality using agent based simulation

Agent Based Modelling and Simulation to explore sandbagging options as a response to flooding in a particular municipality.

Exploring the influence of cultural background on first and second generation migrants’ use of energy and water in the home

There is a strong push from governments and environment organisations for households to reduce their consumption of water and energy, and to improve the environmental sustainability of their lifestyles.

Framing adaptation responses in the Victorian context

This project aims to develop and test an operational framing of climate change adaptation, which will act as a decision-making ‘roadmap’ to better inform policy and practice by Victorian authorities at the local and regional levels.

Global cities and human security: Melbourne

This project develops a nuclear attack scenario for the city of Melbourne, mapping such an event from the potential sources of the weapon and avenues for its entry into the city.

Globalizing indigeneity

This project supports the development of long-term strategic partnerships in the Pacific (The University of Hawaii) and North America (The University of Victoria, BC, Canada) to develop a network of scholars who share a passion and commitment in the exploration of Indigeneity in both local and global contexts.

Globalizing indigeneity: indigenous cultural festivals and wellbeing in Australia and the Asia Pacific

How do Indigenous cultural festivals contribute to community well being in the context of uneven globalization in Australia and the near region?

Household sustainability assessment tools

The Australian Greenhouse Calculator, developed by Adjunct Professor Alan Pears for the Environmental Protection Association (EPA, VIC), formed the starting point for development of Australia’s first comprehensive energy and water and greenhouse gas assessment tool for Australian households.

Households and consumption practices

How is the value of used domestic goods changing within Melbourne?
What is the relationship between formal economies and informal economies associated with domestic waste within Melbourne?

Housing supply bonds: a suitable instrument to channel investment towards affordable housing in Australia?

This research aims to develop a sustainable and low-cost private financing instrument, based on the adaptation of Housing Construction Convertible Bonds, in order to expand the supply of affordable rental housing and contribute towards Australian housing needs in the long term.

Human security and disasters: a dialogue

This project examines the possibility of synergy between human seucrity and disaster management methodologies. In particular it seeks to examine key concepts such resilience, security, vulnerability and insecurity in order to facilitate better civilian, government and military interaction after diastater or conflict.

Implementing tools to increase adaptive capacity in the community and natural resource management sectors

The project analyses the climate-change adaptation needs of three types of government service providers and funded agencies. It facilitates the implementation and testing of a number of adaptation tools, including an adaptation evaluation matrix to guide future decision-making and to ensure they are ‘fit for purpose’.

Improving housing outcomes for young people leaving state out of home care

The project is focusing on developing a new understanding of the housing needs of young people leaving care.

Industry education for sustainability (IEfS) project

The purpose of the IEfS project is to pilot the igreen and Y Green programs in selected organisations to support employment and educational career pathways in green jobs for young people in the City of Whittlesea.

Infrastructure scoping study: sustainable built environments in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

The proposed project is in conjunction with the Climate Change Adaptation programme of the Global Cities Institute and in partnership with the Viet Nam Green Building Council. VGBC-GCI research collaboration will speed the development of sustainable/adaptive engineering and architecture in Viet Nam. There are two initial Phase I elements which will produce peer-reviewed publications and lead to funding from a range of institutions, allowing continuation and amplification.

Integration of building assemblies and materials scorecard (BAMS) and Rating Tools

The BAMS methodology provides an opportunity to establish a definitive method and reporting format to assess the environmental performance of building assemblies.

Investigative panel on a socially sustainable housing system

Key outputs will be a final report detailing the collective views of panel members on policy options for reducing the negative impacts of housing market volatility on vulnerable households; a summary report and an AHURI seminar comparing the outcomes of the two studies (Australia and UK) and considering ‘lessons learnt’ in each country and their implications for each other.

Irregular migrants and political belonging in Global Cities

This project investigates the transformation of citizenship in four globalizing cities with respect to irregular migration.

J2SI evaluation (assisting the chronically homeless)

This project will conduct a randomised control study of two different service intervention for the chronically homeless.

Labelling for recyclability

This project reviewed recycling labels on packaging in Australia and recommended strategies to improve both their legal compliance and their effectiveness in supporting recycling programs. The review focused on labelling for mechanical material recycling of consumer packaging (primarily collected at kerbside).

Learning for carbon neutral communities

The project commenced with community based greenhouse assessments and renewable resource assessments to determine the technical potential for carbon neutral communities.

Learning for sustainability in higher education

This project aims is to identify influences and processes for promoting organizational learning for sustainability in complex organizations.

Learnings for adaptation from improved disaster management policies and planning

This project is reconceptualising the framing of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction to identify possible modifications to existing policy and planning tools.

Life cycle assessment of beverage container systems

This peer reviewed research project developed an updated life cycle inventory for aluminium cans, and also compares this beverage container system to other similar packaging formats (glass and PET) across their respective life cycles.

Lifetime affordable housing

The research develops lifecycle costing methods to provide an evidence base for low-carbon residential forms, designs, locational efficiencies and policies.

Living down the past: criminal record checks and access to employment for ex-offenders

This project examines the impact of police record checking by employers on ex-offenders and their rehabilitation.

Mapping the movies: understanding post-war cinema as a located example of globalization-in-process

How have the Australian film industries responded to demographic, social and cultural change?

Migration and diasporic communities

This is a study of the Indian diaspora in Australia, with a particular emphasis on family and community remittances and issues of identity and belonging. The study covers the experiences of first and second generation migrants, as well as recently arrived Indian students

Migration and Mobility Research Network

Migration and Mobility Research Network (MMRN) aims to bring together academics together with policymakers, people from NGOs and others interested in themes of migration and mobility.

Modelling humans in agent based simulation systems

This project is working on incorporating better models of human behaviour in agent based simulation systems.

National heritage and sustainability project: residential buildings

The aim of the project is to provide empirical research evidence in the form of a comparison between life cycle embodied and operational energy performance, greenhouse gas emissions, water and other environmental impacts of a range of heritage building designs compared to ‘improved’ retrofitted designs where heritage values are preserved.

On country: Australian football and youth well being in Papunya

This project supports the establishment of the Wilurarra Tjutaku Football League (WTFL). This League is an initiative of the MacDonnell District Sporting and Social Club Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal-controlled organisation based at Papunya in the Northern Territory.

On the margins: caravan park dwellers and boarding house residents

This study will investigate the social characteristics and housing situation of people living in caravan parks and boarding houses.

Online decision support toolkit for climate resilient seaports

The Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP), with the support of the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), is working with the seaports sector to create an online decision support tool to provide better information for climate risk management and inform appropriate adaptation strategies for Australian seaports and related industries. The project is a collaboration with the RMIT eResearch office and the CSIRO.

Online@Asia-Pacific: social networking systems and online communities in the region

One way to investigate the emerging forms of sociality, creativity and politics within networked media is through the relationship between emerging and remediated forms of user created content (UCC) and the social networking systems (SNS).

Opportunity spaces: community engagement in the planning, use and governance of shared school facilities

Opportunity Spaces is a three year project which will research the effective use of schools as community hubs. Current investment by Australian governments in school facilities is a key aspect of educational reform, local infrastructure provision and social policy. This project will focus on joint school-community shared use facilities in Victoria, locating Victorian developments within wider Australian and international policy and practice. The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is a research partner in the project.

Other countries’ policy initiatives to meet the housing needs of asset-poor older persons: implications for Australia

This study will conduct a systematic review of the international academic literature and policy documents concerning government and financial institution initiatives to meet the housing needs of asset-poor older citizens.

Partnership with City of Melbourne and Urban Innovations Institute, Netherlands

To enhance relationships with potential key research partners, the City of Melbourne and the Urban Innovations Institute, Netherlands

Pilot study: NRCL community development site

The aim of this project is to realize an innovative new form of sustainable development on Melbourne’s urban fringe.

Place-making applied research

This study is exploring the role of place-making in ensuring that urban renewal projects integrate economic competitiveness, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, in different urban settings (inner suburbs, middle-ring development, urban-fringe low density), but especially in relation to urban renewal.

Planning reform, land release and the supply of housing

This study aims to establish the link between land use planning policies and mechanisms and the form of housing supplied by examining details of both planning policy and housing supply in the state of Victoria over a time period covering two significant policy regime shifts.

Regenerating community: arts, community and governance

This project examined the role of community art projects in enhancing local government in Australia.

Remaking suburbia

What successful interventions can be made in overcoming institutional, social, economic and cultural barriers to enhance environmental performance of home improvements in Australia?

Resilient urban systems: a socio-technical study of community scale climate change adaptation initiatives

Resilient energy and water systems are required to reduce Victoria’s vulnerability to climate change, which if not addressed, could have serious impacts on health and wellbeing.

Resilient urban systems: a study of community-scale climate change adaptation initiatives

Resilient energy and water systems are required to reduce Victoria’s vulnerability to climate change, which, if not addressed, could have serious impacts on health and wellbeing.

School-community learning partnerships

School-community partnerships in peri-urban regions have the potential to contribute to the ‘community resilience trinity’ of social, human and natural capital. Eighteen case studies of successful learning partnerships have been conducted in and around Melbourne, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Cairns.

Selandra Rise: evaluating a master-planned community designed for health and wellbeing

In order to explore how and whether planning for health can lead to better outcomes for residents of new communities, this project explores the planned, emerging and accidental health outcomes of Selandra Rise, a master-planned community in Melbourne, Australia.

Socialising security: making space for people in global politics

This is a book project that seeks to develop an understanding of how people are implicated as subjects in processes of security. Drawing from this insight it locates each individual’s shaped subjectivity as the site for opposing unjust or counterproductive security and reconstructing a productive, more human security.

Spatial network analysis of multimodal urban transport systems (SNAMUTS): a comparison of Melbourne and Hamburg

To examine and quantify the efficacy of the land use-public transport interplay in metropolitan Melbourne and Hamburg at various points in time over the last 40 years.

Sustainable families

The project involves a collaboration between RMIT researchers and the Kildonan Uniting Care team. The project team is adopting a ‘social practices’ framework for understanding householder practices and to informing the types of responses required to assist householders live more sustainably.

Synthesis study of community expectations of emergency management

This project aims to establish an understanding of community expectations of emergency management in Victoria and indicate what is being done to meet them.

The city as a curated space

The research study is considering the current global and local social climate of the culture of cities and how this impacts upon the role of the visual artist in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Sydney. This research evaluates the current climate and will be important in documenting the current status of the methods which have been used to date in planning the city as a curated space. The study considers and rethinks contemporary issues in the area of curating art exhibitions in the urban environment and is intended to assist those working in the area of cultural planning in the future.

The corporate take-over of retailing in major Australian cities

The project has included compilation of data from the shopping centre reports produced by the Property Council of Australia which profiles corporately owned centres.

The environmental sustainability of Australia’s private rental housing stock

The Australian Government, in partnership with State and Territory and local governments, is currently committed towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, principally through the establishment of a Carbon Emissions Trading (CET) scheme.

The impact of the 2009 heatwave on Melbourne’s critical infrastructure

This research project focused on the impact of heat on the critical infrastructure of Melbourne; namely energy, transport, water, and telecommunications. It examined risks and adaptation measures for each part of the urban system, and concluded by outlining some of the challenges faced by these sectors in dealing with the effects of heatwaves.

The role of art for social and cultural transitioning toward sustainability

This project explored how the social and cultural transition toward a sustainable Australia can be facilitated through art by examining, through the lens of systems thinking, implementation and outcome of a regional arts program titled ‘Fresh & Salty’.

The role of the ‘Street to Home Program’ in providing pathways out of homelessness for adult rough sleepers

One of the headline goals in the Australian Government’s White paper, The Road Home, is to offer supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who want it by 2020. The Streets to Home program is being implemented in each jurisdiction in order to advance this objective.

The urban 45: ideas for Australia’s cities

The aim of the “Urban 45” is to produce brief and clear statements of the problems of Australian cities and possible public interventions that could be practically undertaken to move us further forward.

Think tank: adapting housing aspirations and expectations on the coastal suburban and regional fringe

The challenge for this project is to address directly how and why housing aspirations and expectations are changing in relation to house design, size, layout, fixtures and furnishings, and what impact this has on climate-change-adaptation issues and opportunities. The project will have a practical orientation, focused on identifying avenues for altering or facilitating adaptive expectations and aspirations.

Understanding the City of Melbourne’s heat island through time and space

This research activity is a pilot project which aims to create a temperature analysis for the City of Melbourne. The main objective is to gain a better understanding of the urban heat island phenomenon, using GIS and Remote Sensing methodologies to investigate heat variation both over time and according to different urban form.

Understanding the patterns, characteristics and trends in the housing sector labour force in Australia

This study aims to enhance understanding of the characteristics, patterns and trends of the housing sector labour market and to ensure the sector is better equipped to meet the future needs of the Australian housing system.

Urban Rivalry

In what ways do media and communication technologies play a role in the creation and dissemination of city identities, imaginaries, and senses of urban belonging?

Vietnam scoping study

To establish relationships of trust between RMIT researchers and urban authorities in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in order to be in a position to be a partner of choice and seek collaborative research projects funded by development agencies, ADB, etc. There will be an emphasis on sharing experiences between these Vietnamese cities, the City of Melbourne and Melbourne local councils in order to establish cross-city learning and capacity building.

Visual methods for the sustainability discourse

This project sought to broaden and contextualise the use of visual methods as a medium to generate knowledge and serve as a research tool within the sustainability context.

What works? Letting young people speak for themselves

Using new technologies such as podcasts this study seeks to understand what has helped young people make the transition from care to independent living.

Youth leadership for sustainable consumption

This project aims at further developing the community capacity building program called ‘otherWISE’.