2017 reading group schedule

The governance of cities is consequential for all of the humans and non-humans who make cities their home.

Critical Urban Governance (CUG) aims to raise important questions, shape debates, create new knowledge and provide an inclusive space for discussion about the challenges facing contemporary cities.

Our key themes are:

  • Planning systems and reform politics
  • Urban renewal and displacement
  • Critical urban infrastructure
  • Policies for a just city
  • Emergent modes of urban governmentality
  • Comparative urbanism at the international scale
  • Urban planning theory, methodology and praxis


The Critical Urban Governance research program encompasses projects and initiatives which seek:

  1. To produce innovative research by:
    1. Providing an intellectual and empirical heartland for the theory, methodology, pedagogy and praxis of critical urban governance;
    2. Critically engaging with contemporary challenges confronting urban planning and governance in Australia and beyond;
    3. Being at the forefront of contemporary urban scholarship
  2. To build capacity in research by:
    1. Creating an active, engaged and inclusive research space;
    2. Building critical momentum by attracting other researchers; and
    3. Develop research capacity through funding, writing and other activities
  3. To foster active networking and communication by:
    1. Facilitating conversations with urban governance and planning researchers across Australia and beyond
    2. Building meaningful ongoing relationships with policy, industry and community around identified program aims and sub-themes
    3. Communicating our questions, ideas, achievements and outcomes to research, practitioner and community audiences

Our annual activities include:

  • Bi-monthly reading group and research collaboration forum
  • Visiting scholar seminar and workshops
  • National Urban Theory symposium
  • International workshops
  • PhD and early career researcher seminars


Possibilities and practicalities of more inclusive urban governance

Research on the governance of selected wicked problems in Melbourne, Bristol and Mannar (Sri Lanka) aim to flesh out a workable understanding of emergent, inclusive and multi-scale governance.

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Network of Integrated Study Sites

This project aims to establish a network of integrated urban greening study sites to understand, quantify and qualify the multiple benefits of urban greening, including for biodiversity outcomes and for human health and wellbeing.

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Urban Systems for Liveability

This project investigates the impacts on the lived experience of people in major Australian cities, focusing on the effects of land-use, diffuse air pollution, transport, urban heat and the interconnections between them.

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Australian Environmental Justice: RMIT– FoE (Australia) partnership

Exploring and enhancing environmental justice (EJ), including contributing Australian case studies to the international EJ atlas.

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Planning for Co-Existence? Recognising Indigenous rights in planning

This project looked at what happens when demands for recognition of Indigenous rights meet planning systems in Canada and Australia.

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Seeing the good from trees: remotely sensing the urban forest

We are trying to understand how to efficiently measure the benefits of the urban forest in Australian cities.

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Who owns the Sustainable City?

Cities are central to achieving sustainability, yet urban redevelopments – often justified as sustainable – have displaced 15 million people. This research asks how we can find socially sustainable paths of urban development.

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Key People

Lead researchers

Professor Libby Porter

Professor Libby Porter

Principal Research Fellow

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Associate Professor Joe Hurley

Associate Professor Joe Hurley

Program Manager, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies

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Associate Professor Wendy Steele

Associate Professor Wendy Steele

Associate Professor

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Program Researchers

Higher Degree Research Students

Related Content


Unsettling Notions of Planning Competence: Lessons from Studio-Based Learning with Indigenous Peoples in Manitoba

Most, if not all, urban and regional planning programs in former British settler-states (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) struggle to design curricula that attend to the interface between Indigenous peoples and professional planners and consider the possibilities for decolonisation. This presentation considers how studio-based learning and the formation of robust community partnerships […]

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Triangle Wars: Free Screening at RMIT

They Saved Paradise….Including the Parking Lot! Set in the seaside suburb of St Kilda, politics, big business and communities collide in a battle over controversial plans to transform ‘triangle’ terrain between iconic landmarks Luna Park and the Palais Theatre into a high residential and commercial complex. Spanning over four years, the documentary directed by Rosie […]

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Book Launch: Planning for Coexistence?

Planning is becoming one of the key battlegrounds for Indigenous people to negotiate meaningful articulation of their sovereign territorial and political rights, reigniting the essential tension that lies at the heart of Indigenous-settler relations. But what actually happens in the planning contact zone – when Indigenous demands for recognition of coexisting political authority over territory […]

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Community gardens as transformative spaces: a relational approach

This seminar responds to research on community gardens which has tended to take one of two extreme points of views on their potential to enhance inclusion and sustainability. Scholars either optimistically represent these sites as inherently good and transformative or have sceptically dismissed them as exclusive and perpetuating neoliberal logic. Visiting PhD student Ellen van Holstein from […]

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Urban Citizenship and Participation – is there a crisis?

Urban Citizenship and Participation – is there a crisis? is the first symposium as part of the Urban Theory Symposium Series is the jointly funded initiative of the Urban Geography Study Group of the Institution of Australian Geographers and the Australian Cities Research Network.  The series will explore critical theoretical issues, conceptualisations and analytical tools emerging […]

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Moving beyond conflict in planning: Towards a critical consensus politics?

Planning decisions are often the artefact of locally situated political struggles to attract, resist or prepare for the impact of change (Gualini et al, 2015; Gualini, 2015). These decision processes shape the physical city, but can unsettle normative framings of citizenship and belonging, values and ethics, and also expose a democratic paradox of planning praxis. […]

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Whose City? Memory and Representation

You are invited to join us for the second event in the RMIT Centre for Urban Research’s (CUR) bi-monthly Justice in the City seminar series. Seminar 2: Whose City? Memory and Representation How do urban memorials shape experiences of city space and enact forms of justice? Which sorts of bodies are given space, and how might a memorial’s form shape its social effects? […]

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Just Encounters – Bodies, Spaces and Places

You are invited to join us for the third event in the RMIT Centre for Urban Research’s bi-monthly Justice in the City seminar series. The Series has been designed to build a conversation and develop a community of researchers and practitioners in this interdisciplinary urban area. See the full listing of the 2015 Justice in the City seminars here. Seminar 1: Just […]

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A City in the Making: Arts Philanthropy and Urban Development in Los Angeles

RMIT University’s Centre for Urban Research is pleased to invite you to Dr Pablo Fuentenebro’s seminar: A city in the making: arts philanthropy and urban development in Los Angeles. Seminar Brief In recent years an increasing number of scholars have drawn our attention to the “geographies of the super-rich” (Beaverstock et al; Hay and Muller; Pow). From enclaves […]

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Planning for Coexistence? The Pitfalls and Possibilities of Indigenous Recognition Through Planning Systems

Dr Libby Porter, Centre for Urban Research RMIT University’s Centre for Urban Research is pleased to invite you to Libby Porter’s seminar: Planning for Coexistence? The pitfalls and possibilities of Indigenous recognition through planning systems. Seminar brief What happens when Indigenous demands for recognition of coexisting political authority over territory intersect with land-use planning systems in settler states? […]

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Spatialising Urban Justice – Knowledge and Practices

Seminar Series: Justice in the City You are invited to join us for the fourth and final event in the RMIT Centre for Urban Research’s Justice in the City seminar series. Seminar 4: Spatialising Urban Justice – Knowledge and Practices How might we reveal situated (in)justices through teaching and research? Sen (2009) argues that our understanding of justice ‘cannot be indifferent to the lives […]

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News & Blog

Sustainable cities? Australia’s building and planning rules stand in the way of getting there

Australia’s building and land-use policy settings fall well short of what’s needed to make meaningful progress toward creating sustainable cities.

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Poor policies block green housing goals: study

Australian states are failing to deliver sustainable housing because of poor building and land-use planning policies, and a lack of enforceable standards, according to a new RMIT University report

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Low-energy homes don’t just save money, they improve lives

Household energy use is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions. International policy is firmly moving towards technology-rich, low- and near-zero-energy homes.

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Indigenous people and planning: How Australian planning practice has miserably failed

While planning is undoubtedly important in creating better places for people, the connection between people and place, for Indigenous people globally, in all their diversity, is even more profound and central to everyday life.

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Decolonising Settler Cities Symposium — call for participants

This event is the joint initiative of the Urban Geography Study Group and the Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledges and Rights Study Group of the Institution of Australian Geographers.

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We must plan the driverless city to avoid being hostage to the technology revolution

As with Uber and the taxi industry, public sector planners and regulators will be forced to respond to the anger of those displaced by the new products the IT and automobile industries will bring to the market. But can we afford to wait?

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How do we restore the public’s faith in transport planning?

This is the third article in our series Making Cities Work. It considers the problems of providing critical infrastructure and how we might produce the innovations and reforms needed to meet 21st-century needs and challenges.

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What’s critical about critical infrastructure?

This is the first article in our series Making Cities Work. It considers the problems of providing critical infrastructure and how we might produce the innovations and reforms needed to meet 21st-century needs and challenges.

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High school students’ innovative urban solutions rewarded at RMIT

RMIT’s Urban Futures competition has showcased Victorian high school students’ best and brightest ideas to improve the liveability and sustainability of cities.

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New book connects urban planners to Indigenous communities

A new book revealing the critical role planning plays in delivering land justice for Indigenous peoples will be launched today at RMIT by Wurundjeri Tribe Council Elder, Uncle Bill Nicholson.

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Memorials for drug overdose victims create a place for grieving and inclusion

Memorials serve important social, political and spatial functions that go well beyond personal or collective mourning. In doing so, the design and location of a memorial can be just as important as its subject.

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How can we meaningfully recognise cities as Indigenous places?

The return of land to Indigenous custodians in Australia over the past 20 years is a dramatic shift in Australian land tenure and management. Yet this revolution has, as yet, barely touched urban Australia.

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Victoria needs a big-picture transport plan that isn’t about winners vs losers

There has been no shortage of ideas about how to spend the A$9.7 billion the Victorian government will receive from selling a 50-year lease for the Port of Melbourne.

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Why ‘green cities’ need to become a deeply lived experience

Enthusiasm for urban greening is at a high point, and rightly so. Green space is increasingly recognised as useful for moderating the heat island effect. Hence, this helps cities adapt to, and reduce the consequences of, climate change.

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Cities in the sky: how do we decide where this urban journey is taking us?

We shape the city and it shapes us. The idea of “the city” looms large. There are, it seems, no limits to the prospects and possibilities of technology and human entrepreneurship.

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Community politics remains central to transport planning: study

A new study by RMIT offers valuable lessons for community participation in controversial transport projects, examining how citizens respond to the politics of transport decision-making.

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How urban planners are creating cities for the future

Well-planned cities can encourage people to spend more time outside, commute more sustainably and connect with their communities. Good planning is central to making cities liveable and sustainable.

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Urban researcher awarded prestigious scholarship for environmental justice research

RMIT urban researcher Lisa de Kleyn secures a coveted Victorian Environmental Assessment Council Scholarship (VEAC) for her research on environmental justice and native forests.

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‘30-minute city’? Not in my backyard! Smart Cities Plan must let people have their say

The federal government’s Smart Cities Plan is framed around the “30-minute city”. In this city, journeys will take no more than half an hour, regardless of your location.

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Does higher-density city development leave urban forests out on a limb?

Greater recognition of the benefits of urban forests is focusing efforts from all levels of government to defend and improve them.

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Leading RMIT academic examines the challenges of Italy’s urban life

An RMIT researcher has recently spent three months in Italy studying one of the country's most neglected neighbourhoods and the challenges it presents for its people.

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Students re-imagine sustainable cities

RMIT’s Urban Futures Competition showcased the ideas of Victorian High School students surrounding the development of vibrant, liveable cities.

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