Developing the tools to map and measure urban liveability across Australia

Project title: Measuring and mapping urban liveability across Australia – developing tools for use by policy makers, practitioners and researchers to identify inequities and plan better cities

Start date: 1 July 2016

Estimated end date: 30 June 2018

What is the issue?

In 2013, the Prevention Centre funded the National Liveability Study to develop and validate a set of national, urban, policy-relevant, liveability indicators associated with chronic disease and health outcomes.

This was successfully achieved in 2015 with the delivery of a set of indicators (measures) covering five liveability domains: alcohol, food, public open space, transport and walkability and five different cities.

The final report from the first stage of the study recommended extending the coverage of the indicators to include all Australian capital cities and linking these to national health survey data. This will ensure the measures are disseminated and used in planning urban environments to achieve healthier, more liveable communities. This next stage is underway with the project team developing tools, including a national indicators database and online portal, for users to:

  • Access the indicators across each of the liveability domains
  • Visualise the indicators within a specific area such as where people live
  • Compare the liveability of an area for each of the liveability domains.

How is the project addressing the issue?

In consultation with external stakeholders, the project team is developing a national database of indicators for the liveability domains of walkability, transport, public open space, food environment, alcohol environment, housing affordability and employment.

The project team is consulting with external stakeholders and making the national database available to them through an online portal. Stakeholders will be able to upload individual addresses into the portal, and download the matching liveability indicators for each address. User feedback on the portal will help the project team plan the future direction of this key tool for analysing and visualising indicators spatially, before the tool is made available for wider use.

The team will also link national population health data to the liveability indicators in the database. This will allow new insights into the relationship between liveability measures and health outcomes, such as between walkability levels and body mass index. National health data will be drawn from the national surveys, AusDiab, and Ten to Men. They will also link the data to the 45 And Up Study.

Relevance for practice

The national liveability indicator platform will be made available for use by our stakeholders, such as state and local government, and policy and planning practitioners. It will help policy makers, planners and researchers to make comparisons both within cities and between cities, which will help determine inequities in liveability. Findings will be communicated to stakeholders through policy briefs, and through state, regional (e.g. Regional Management Forums) and national (e.g. State of Australian Cities, Planning Institute of Australia) planning and policy meetings, conferences and workshops.

What are the expected outcomes?

  • Liveability indicators produced across multiple domains at a national level
  • Further evidence that shows why health outcomes might vary in different locations
  • Tools to ensure the current indicators are used and useful, including a national database and online portal


Project lead:

Project collaborators:

  • Associate Professor Thomas Astell-Burt, University of Wollongong
  • Associate Professor Hannah Badland, RMIT University, Melbourne
  • Dr Paula Hooper, University of WA
  • Dr Jerome Rachele, Australian Catholic University
  • Dr Suzanne Mavoa, University of Melbourne
  • Mr Vincent Learnihan, University of Canberra
  • Dr Xiaoqi Feng, University of Wollongong

Project team:

  • Dr Jonathan Arundel, RMIT University, Melbourne
  • Dr Claire Boulange, RMIT University, Melbourne
  • Mr Stefan Cvetkovski, RMIT University, Melbourne

Project advisors:

  • Professor Adrian Bauman, University of Sydney
  • Assistant Professor Bryan Boruff, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Rachel Davey, University of Canberra
  • Dr Serryn Eagleson, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Chris Pettit, University of New South Wales
  • Professor Sally Redman, Sax Institute
  • Professor Gavin Turrell, Australian Catholic University

Systems investigators:

  • Kate Lynch, Cities Program Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Matthew Richter, ACT Department of Health
  • Associate Professor Sarah Thackway, NSW Ministry of Health
  • Ms Louise Sylvan, University of Sydney
  • Mr Mike Day, RobertsDay

NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities national advisors:

  • Mr David Williams, Planning Institute of Australia
  • Trevor Shilton, Heart Foundation of Australia

This project was funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Ministry of Health, ACT Health and the HCF Research Foundation.


NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Government Health, HCF Research Foundation, ACT Government Health, hosted by Sax Institute

  • The most up-to-date data sets on major fast food outlets, and major supermarkets have been compiled and are now available nationally. The data have also been used in an analysis of the food environment across Australian capital cities.
  • New national data sets for housing affordability, employment, transport and alcohol have been sourced and are being processed
  • An evaluation of similar platforms is underway, with a prototype platform recently commissioned
  • An analysis of the appropriate scales for the national measures has been undertaken, with a publication in progress
  • Linking measures with national health survey data has started, with the first wave of a major survey completed
  • Selected indicators generated for all capital cities will be shared with our stakeholders in August 2017, and will then be more widely disseminated after receiving their feedback
  • The team contributed content to the National Cities Performance Framework being led by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Presentations on the project were given to stakeholders in the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning