New digital platform maps liveability in our major cities

A groundbreaking new digital platform is set to transform how we map liveability in major cities across the country, in an Australian first.

The Australian Urban Observatory is an essential new online tool for government and industry – from policymakers wanting to improve the health and liveability of their cities to developers looking for the next suburbs to invest in.

The Observatory was launched today at RMIT’s signature research and innovation event, Engaging for Impact 2020, by Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

Developed by RMIT health and urban researchers, the Observatory is based on research knowledge about public health and urban environments and brings together critical data on easy-to-use maps the first time in Australia.

Director of the AUO Dr Melanie Davern, from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research, said the simplicity of the data could help anyone from policymakers, planners, developers and students to members of the general community develop a clear understanding of real liveability.

“Drawing on over eight years of research findings by the RMIT Healthy Liveable Cities Group, the Observatory maps liveability indicators across the country’s 21 largest cities and measures liveability across cities, council areas, suburbs and neighbourhoods,” Davern said.

“We’ve taken the data out of the tables and put it onto the map to display a real-world view of how this information exists in our cities and where we can change urban design and planning to really influence the health and liveability of Australian cities.

“Policy makers looking to encourage active lifestyles for residents can easily access and understand key ingredients of liveability – like walkability, access to schools, public transport, and public open spaces – to decide which areas and people need resources the most.

“They can even examine other neighbourhoods and suburbs across the country to find out what is working in comparable geographic areas.

“Developers looking for the next place to invest can find indicators for whole suburbs or narrow down to individual neighbourhoods.

“Using detailed liveability indicators, they can determine exactly which areas are the best places for new development or support future investment.”

The Observatory uses geographic information system (GIS) spatial maps to display public health data across key areas of liveability: walkability, public transport, social infrastructure and services, employment, food, housing and public open space.

The platform provides users with detailed information about their communities and the local factors influencing physical and mental health.

“Through the Observatory we are creating a new national resource of liveability indicators needed to identify, measure, monitor and target responses to critical social, economic and environmental challenges that are arising with Australia’s rapidly growing population,” Davern said.

“Each indicator in the platform has been chosen because it is associated with health outcomes and is connected to government policies.

“They have been designed so that all Australians can learn more about the connection between health and urban planning, and how they support the planning of healthy, equitable and sustainable cities.”

The development of the Observatory was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities, the National Environmental Science Program supported Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, and the NHMRC funded Australian Prevention Partnership Centre and state partners.

More information is available at

Story: Chanel Koeleman

  • Header image: The Australian Urban Observatory (AUO) officially launched at RMIT's flagship event Engaging For Impact 2020 with a panel featuring RMIT's Distinguished Professor Billie Giles-Corti, Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp, CEO for Infrastructure Victoria Michel Mason, Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research Capability) and AUO director Dr Melanie Davern from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research. Photo by Matt Houston.