Valuing healthy liveable cities – Phase 2

Project title: Benchmarking, monitoring, modelling and valuing the healthy liveable city

Start date: April 2019

Estimated end date: March 2021

What is the issue?

Liveable neighbourhoods have the potential to enhance public health, the economy, social inclusion and environmental and social sustainability. For this reason, federal and state governments have outlined visions of cities where 20- or 30-minute neighbourhoods are the norm, which could produce significant direct and indirect health benefits.

However, plans to realise these visions are hampered by a lack of evidence on where liveable neighbourhoods are currently being achieved, and the changes required to achieve them in the future.

In this project, we will provide that evidence for policy and practice, in the form of both data and research-validated tools.

How is the project addressing the issue?

Our primary aim is to improve our understanding of the relationship between built environments, people’s daily activities and their travel choices.

Building on our earlier national liveability indicator work, we will expand the coverage of our liveability indicators to include the 21 largest cities nationally – selected to align with the Federal Government’s National Cities Performance Framework and equating to just under 80% of the population. The resulting evidence-based indicators will be made available through a ‘virtual laboratory’ for use by researchers and policy makers.

We will then use these indicators in conjunction with other data to construct complex agent-based models of individual-level walking, cycling, public transport and private vehicle daily use for the major Victorian cities. This will allow possible interventions to be tested and benefits quantified.

Finally, we will assess the economic merit of specific interventions designed to create healthy, liveable communities, including their effect on health and wellbeing outcomes and health care expenditure.

Relevance for policy and practice

Even though there has been an increase in research on the built environment and health, much of it is never translated into policy.

This study will use evidence-based indicators, large-scale individual-level activity models and an economic evaluation framework to provide researchers, policy-makers and practitioners with a ‘virtual laboratory’ to identify and test prevention strategies.

The indicators and model outputs will be made available through the partially Prevention Centre-funded Urban Observatory at RMIT.

What are the expected outcomes?

The expected outcomes for this project include the following three sets of deliverables:

  1. Baseline liveability data for our 21 largest cities, available through an online portal, and including an analysis of where 20- or 30-minute neighbourhoods are being achieved
  2. A complex systems model simulating the daily activities and travel of all residents of large Victorian cities, serving as a ‘virtual laboratory’ for testing interventions
  3. An econometric health impact assessment evaluating opportunities to increase active travel, including an analysis of possible future autonomous vehicle scenarios.


Project lead

Professor Billie Giles-Corti, RMIT University


Dr Lucy Gunn, RMIT University

Project team

Alan Both, RMIT University

Carl Higgs, RMIT University

Afshin Jafari, RMIT University

Gus MacAulay, Thuser

Bec Roberts, RMIT University

Melanie Davern, RMIT University

Dhirendra Singh, RMIT University

Former project team members

Julianna Rozek, RMIT University

Dr Claire Boulange, RMIT University


This project is funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, ACT Health, Cancer Council Australia, NSW Ministry of Health, South Australia Department for Health and Wellbeing, Tasmanian Department of Health, and VicHealth.




June 2020

  • Liveability scorecards for 21 of Australia’s largest cities were released in March 2020 as part of the Australian Urban Observatory.
  • Ongoing publicity associated with the launch of the Australian Urban Observatory relating to liveability in these changing times, generating interest in the project’s research.
  • Developing and refining the Agent Based Model and Virtual Population.

March 2020

  • The Australian Urban Observatory was launched in February 2020 and associated publicity (The Age, Planning News, Conversation articles) relating to liveability in these changing times continues to generate interest in our research.
  • Liveability scorecards for 21 of Australia’s largest cities are being developed for release in February 2020 as part of the Australian Urban Observatory launch.
  • National liveability indicators for capital cities using 2016-2018 data have been calculated.
  • The Urban Observatory platform, which will house and allow dissemination of our liveability indicators, is in the development and testing phase. It is anticipated that access to the data will occur to the public in time for the development of the Victorian Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Planning, which is required under Victorian government legislation.

December 2019

  • The Healthy, Liveable Cities team has calculated a new indicator for measuring access to employment.
  • Liveability scorecards for 21 of Australia’s largest cities are being developed for release in February 2020 as part of the Urban Observatory launch.
  • Calculation of national liveability indicators for 21 regional cities is underway.




  • Davern M. Blue sky thinking on planning impacts post covid-19. Online webinar hosted by the Planning Institute of Australia. 15 May 2020.
  • Gunn L. Early, healthy and equitable delivery of transport in growth areas. RMIT Centre of Urban Research. February 2020.
  • Giles-Corti G. State of Australian Cities conference. 2-5 December 2019.
  • Giles-Corti G. Healthy Places, Healthy People Initiative, cross-government workshop hosted by the Queensland Department of Health. 11 November 2019.
  • Giles-Corti G. Good Urban Design Boosts Wellbeing forum, hosted by Renewal SA. 31 October 2019.
  • Giles-Corti G. Keynote presentation. Australian Walking & Cycling Conference. 24-25 October 2019. Adelaide.
  • Giles-Corti G. Planning Connects Program for NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. 9 October 2019.
  • Giles-Corti G. Monash University’s Festival of Urbanism, focused on equity and accessibility: lessons from the housing, health and transport nexus panel. 4 September 2019. Melbourne.
  • Giles-Corti G. Health in All Policies Forum: Working Together for the Health and Wellbeing of Tasmanians, hosted by the Premier’s Health and Wellbeing Council (at which the Tasmania Statement was signed by the Premier committing the government to creating healthy liveable communities for all Tasmanians).14 August 2019. Hobart.
  • Gunn L. Health Impact Assessments presentation. Healthy, Liveable Cities short course on Integrating Health into Planning, and to delegates at the Transport and Health conference. Bendigo, Victoria.
  • Gunn L, Davern M. Presentation to the Mitsubishi and Nikkei industries of Japan and to government representatives from Ho Chi Minh City. 2019.
  • Gunn L. Delivery of transport to industry representatives from Infrastructure Victoria. 2019.
  • Higgs C. Presentation to the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority. 2019.
  • Both A. Spatial analysis of urban health at the Integrating Health. Planning course, RMIT University. 2019.
  • Both A. How green are our cities? Mapping street trees using Google Street View photos. Locate 2019 conference
  • Boulange C. Measuring accessibility using indices. Victorian Planning Authority
  • Gunn L.  Presentation on the work related to the health and economic benefits of greenfield and brownfield sites. Infrastructure Victoria/Monash University co-hosted workshop on The Economics of Cities.