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Edition: May 2020

New book release: The Future of the Fringe

The RMIT Centre for Urban Research is pleased to announce the release of the new book The Future of The Fringe: The Crisis in Peri-Urban Planning, the first of its kind to examine Australian peri-urban issues in detail, exploring the history of peri-urban areas, international policy and practice, and related concepts by Emeritus Professor Michael Buxton and Associate Professor Andrew Butt.

Director's Note

Greetings to all friends and supporters of the Centre for Urban Research,

Who would have thought disruption could be so disruptive? Two months ago CUR shifted to a working-from-home arrangement in line with RMIT University’s COVID response, along with much of the world. I’ve been amazed by the way researchers in CUR have adapted to the adjustments posed by this changed environment. The life of the Centre has continued out of bedrooms and lounges across not only Melbourne but around the globe. Among this I’ve been especially impressed at the extraordinary work that CUR colleagues employed in the Sustainability and Urban Planning program have done to shift their teaching to an online mode. And I also recognise those grappling with balancing research demands with home schooling or other caring duties.

Urban issues have been thrust to the fore of the COVID experience and questions of how to build liveable cities for pandemic conditions are now pressing. CUR members are among more than 100 public health, transport and urban planning experts who called called for urgent measures to support greater provision for walking and cycling during and after the COVID restrictions (see the story below).

Despite the disruption we’ve continued our programs of research responding to the critical challenges facing Australian cities. This issue of the Urban Observer is replete with new insights we’ve contributed.

Highlights are the new book authored by Professor Andrew Butt and Professor Emeritus Michael Buxton examining planning on the fringes of Australian cities. It’s an incisive examination of the planning and sustainability issues posed by continued urban expansion and recommended to all metropolitan planners.

We’ve also had granting success. Professor Ralph Horne has been funded by AHURI to investigate the experiences of apartment dwellers under the COVID social isolation regime. And Professor Billie Giles-Corti and the team have received a joint Australia-UK funding to model and test the benefits of sustainable transport planning for healthy liveable cities.

I’d also like to mention the work undertaken by Liam Davies, PhD scholar in CUR which has revealed that the Victorian Government has sold 578 hectares of public land over the past two decades and that could have supported a further 11,000 public housing dwellings. At a time when safe and secure housing has suddenly become a major policy issue it’s great to see PhD research showing the opportunities missed by poor policy.

Lastly, I’d like to note the appointment of Associate Professor Hannah Badland to the role of CUR Deputy Director in late March. Hannah has a long record of research into public health for liveable cities and I’m pleased to have her leadership supporting the Centre.

I hope you enjoy reading the current Urban Observer.

Best wishes, 

Jago Dodson
Director for the Centre for Urban Research

Top stories

Australian and UK urban experts partner to build better cities

A new NHMRC project led by Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti and RMIT Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Belen Zapata Diomedi brings together Australian and UK urban experts to virtually model and test the benefits of transport planning in creating healthier and sustainable cities across both countries.

For more information, contact Billie Giles-Corti

New project investigates how COVID-19 impacts housing stress

RMIT urban researchers have received funding from AHURI  to investigate COVID-19’s impact on housing stress in Melbourne.
For more information, contact Louise Dorignon or Bhavna Middha

New digital tool provides green solutions for city planners

A European funded research project has released an online decision-making tool to identify suitable Nature-Based Solutions according to a city’s specific environmental challenges.
For more information, contact Thami Croeser

Urban fringe critical to future food supply

The COVID-19 crisis reinforces the vital need for cities to protect food-producing rural areas on the urban fringe to retain options and avoid the risk of future shortages, RMIT urban experts warn.
For more information, contact Michael Buxton or Andrew Butt

Bringing offices to suburbia is the next step post COVID-19

Creating new co-working office spaces in our suburbs could enable 97% of Melburnians to ride or walk to work, helping manage risk post COVID-19, finds new RMIT research.
For more information, contact Thami Croeser

Victoria wastes potential for public housing on own land: study

Victorian governments have wasted two decades of opportunities to address the state’s housing crisis, selling surplus public land that could have been used for 11,000 public housing units, new analysis reveals.

For more information, contact Liam Davies

Australia’s most liveable regional cities revealed

Victoria is home to Australia's most liveable regional cities – Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong – according to new research that for the first time maps health and liveability across the country’s 21 largest cities.
For more information, contact Lucy Gunn

Centre for Urban Research welcomes new deputy director

The RMIT Centre for Urban Research is delighted to announce the appointment of urban health expert Associate Professor Hannah Badland to the role of Deputy Director.

Risky driving accelerates crashes among Vietnamese motorcycle taxis

New research shows almost one-third of app-based motorcycle taxi drivers in Vietnam have had a road crash, with an astounding 80% attributing the cause to their own risky driving.
For more information, contact Chris De Gruyter

The impacts of active transport: A multi-disciplinary research and practice field [Webinar]

Learn from practitioners and decision-makers what evidence and tools are useful to support investment in active travel from the international transport community.

What studying Global Studies, Sustainability & Urban Planning will look like in 2020

Learn how studying Global Studies, Sustainability & Urban Planning programs at RMIT could open up your professional opportunities and help you contribute to a just and sustainable world.

Mapping Australian Housing Stories

The pandemic starkly reveals the importance of a safe place to dwell as fundamental to human life. CUR and the University of Sydney want you to share your experience of home and housing in relation to the pandemic context.

Community engagement in urban development

Do you lives, works and/or study in the inner Melbourne council areas of Melbourne city, Maribyrnong, Stonnington, Port Philip and Yarra? We want your opinions and experiences of governments engaging with the community on urban development processes.



4 ways our streets can rescue restaurants, bars and cafes after coronavirus

As Australia re-opens, the bars, cafes and restaurants that give life to our streets face a tough ask: stay open and stay afloat with just a fraction of the customers. Here are four proven ways to quickly reconfigure street space. We might even find them nice enough to keep.

Public land is being sold exactly where thousands on the waiting list need housing

The need for public housing is greater than ever before – Australia has a shortfall of at least 433,000 dwellings. Using public land for public housing is a no-brainer. 

Physical distancing is here for a while – over 100 experts call for more safe walking and cycling space

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically shifted our lives and the ways we move about our cities.

Coronavirus reminds us how liveable neighbourhoods matter for our well-being

We are witnessing changes in the ways we use our cities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The liveability of our local neighbourhoods has never been more important.

Australia had rent control in wartime. War on coronavirus demands the same response

In this coronavirus “war”, governments should take inspiration from the past and again implement rent control.

How nature might respond as coronavirus keeps humans indoors

COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on humanity, and this is nothing to be celebrated. But as Australians stay at home and our streets fall quiet, let’s consider how wildlife might respond.

The average regional city resident lacks good access to two-thirds of community services, and liveability suffers

The way our growing cities are planned and built is becoming ever more important in building healthy, liveable and sustainable communities.


Amati, M., 2020. 15 Virtual borders in the online world. Planning Across Borders in a Climate of Change, p.7.

Buxton, M. and Butt, A., 2020. The Future of the Fringe: The Crisis in Peri-Urban Planning.

Butt, A. and Davies, L., 2020. 50 years on: Melbourne transportation plan. Planning News, 46(2), p.19.

Cook, N., Taylor, E. and Hurley, J., 2020. 12 Competing processes of border-making. Planning Across Borders in a Climate of Change.

De Gruyter, C., Truong, L.T. and Taylor, E.J., 2020. Can high frequency public transport put the brakes on new Melbourne residential apartment car parking?. Planning News, 46(2), p.26.

Dekker, K., Brouwer, W. and Colic-Peisker, V., Suburbs with a higher concentration of Muslim residents in Sydney and Melbourne: Spatial concentration, community, liveability and satisfaction.

Edwards, F., Bohn, K. and Viljoen, A., 2020, February. Mapping landscapes of food urbanism. In Borders, borderlands and bordering.

Ford, J., Ison, J., McKenzie, L., Cannizzo, F., Mayhew, L.R., Osborne, N. and Cooke, B., 2020. What ongoing staff can do to support precariously employed colleagues. Australian Universities' Review, The, 62(1), p.57.

Hooper, P., Foster, S., Edwards, N., Turrell, G., Burton, N., Giles-Corti, B. and Brown, W.J., 2020. Positive HABITATS for physical activity: Examining use of parks and its contribution to physical activity levels in mid-to older-aged adults. Health & Place, 63, p.102308.

Kroen, A. and De Gruyter, C., 2020. Funding projects through the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution (GAIC): Do we need a more strategic approach?. Planning News, 46(2), p.21.

Lamker, C., Dieckhoff, V.S., von Schönfeld, K.C., Rydin, Y., Schulz, C., Xue, J. and Nelson, A., 2019. Post-growth from international planning perspectives.

Nguyen-Phuoc, D.Q., De Gruyter, C., Nguyen, H.A., Nguyen, T. & Su, D.N., 2020. Risky behaviours associated with traffic crashes among app-based motorcycle taxi drivers in Vietnam. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 70, pp. 249-259. DOI:

Porter, L., Hurst, J. and Grandinetti, T., 2020. The politics of greening unceded lands in the settler city. Australian Geographer, pp.1-18.

Rose-Redwood, R., Kitchin, R., Rossi, U., Rickards, L., Apostolopoulou, E., Buckley, M. and Crampton, J., 2020. Reflections on the first decade of Dialogues in Human Geography and the road ahead.

Saunders, A., Duncan, J., Hurley, J., Amati, M., Caccetta, P., Chia, J. and Boruff, B., 2020. Leaf my neighbourhood alone! predicting the influence of densification on residential tree canopy cover in Perth. Landscape and Urban Planning, 199, p.103804.

Sinclair, S., de Silva, A., Kopanidis, F. and Thomas, S., 2020. Housing and Ageing Well. In Measuring, Understanding and Improving Wellbeing Among Older People (pp. 211-236). Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

Vahanvati, M., 2020. Unpacking the meaning of resilience: The Tarnagulla community definition comparing to the literature. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, The, 35(1), p.29.

Woolfenden, S., Galea, C., Badland, H., Sheedy, H.S., Williams, K., Kavanagh, A.M., Reddihough, D., Goldfeld, S., Lingam, R., Badawi, N. and O'Connor, M., 2020. Use of health services by preschool-aged children who are developmentally vulnerable and socioeconomically disadvantaged: testing the inverse care law. J Epidemiol Community Health.

Zulkefli S, Barr A, Singh A, Carver A, Mavoa S, Scheurer J, Badland H, Bentley R. (2020). Associations between public transport accessibility around homes and schools and walking and cycling among adolescents. Children, 7: 10.3390/children7040030. Q1 Scimago Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health. ARC LP140100680.

Meet the women helping to improve how we live in cities and with nature
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Meet Jodie Boyd: Expert in cultural history and policy


We at the Centre for Urban Research and Sustainability & Urban Planning acknowledge the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct our research, teaching and service. We respectfully acknowledge Ancestors and Elders past, present and emerging who have always been caring for Country. We pay our respects to Country, the lifeworld that sustains us all.

Our research, education and service are already in a relationship with Country and the people of Country, here and in all the places we undertake our business. As mostly non-Indigenous people, we acknowledge our obligation in this relationship: to uphold the ngarn-ga [understanding] of Bundjil and practice respect for community and culture. Though there is much we still need to learn, especially about ourselves, we affirm our dhumbali [commitment] to that work. We hold as central to our business, dhumbali to a shared future with Indigenous peoples everywhere and especially Kulin Country and peoples.

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