The Critical Urban Governance (CUG) Program aims to shape public debate, create new knowledge and provide an inclusive space for discussion and the development of new governance practices to address the challenges facing contemporary cities. 

Our key themes/projects are:

  • Policies for a just city 
  • Emerging modes of urban governmentality
  • Critical urban infrastructure
  • Urban renewal and displacement
  • Social innovation at the local scale
  • Transforming climate governance
  • Eco-collaborative housing
  • Inclusive urban governance
  • Politics of urban greening
  • Biodiversity offset policy and decision-making
  • Transitions to a low carbon society
  • Co-design and biodiversity governance 
  • Urban governance and obligations to Treaty
  • Decolonisation and urban / built environments
  • Sovereignty and dwelling
  • An indigenous-led urban research agenda
  • Child-friendly cities
  • Smart city governance
  • Urban and planning theory, methodology and praxis

Researchers working in Critical Urban Governance aim to critically engage with the contemporary challenges confronting urban planning and governance in Australia and beyond. We do that by building capacity in research which we see as an active, engaged and inclusive activity; fostering new conversations, debates and collaborations; communicating our ideas to diverse groups of people by diverse media. 


Talking Country: Sharing Indigenous stories of place through mobile media


This project aims to investigate how media technologies can facilitate cross-cultural engagement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Digital innovations, PropTech and housing – the view from Melbourne

2019 (ongoing)

This research is concerned with the collection, digitisation and use of housing information in Australia.

Understanding the assumptions and impacts of the Victorian Public Housing Renewal Program


This research project aimed to evaluate the claims of the PHRP and its underlying model in order to establish an accurate evidence base and assess the anticipated impact of the model on public housing residents in Melbourne.

Willum Warrain Gathering Place: Connecting Country, culture and community


The Willum Warrain Aboriginal Gathering Place offers a space, in Hastings, south-east of Melbourne, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can come together to explore their goals, ideas and identity.

Climate Adaptation Australia


The project investigates the framings and practices of local governments, community groups and NGOs as they seek to create local adaptation strategies.

Possibilities and practicalities of more inclusive urban governance

2018 (ongoing)

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.

Network of Integrated Study Sites

2018 (ongoing)

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.

Urban Systems for Liveability

2018 (ongoing)

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.

Australian Environmental Justice: RMIT– FoE (Australia) partnership

2016 (ongoing)

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

Social innovation for local climate adaptability


This research critically investigates tensions and potentialities between risk-based assessments by local governance agencies and innovations by local groups and NGOs.

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.

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.

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.

Key People

Lead researchers

Professor Libby Porter

Professor Libby Porter

Convener of Critical Urban Governance Program

Associate Professor Wendy Steele

Associate Professor Wendy Steele

Convener of Critical Urban Governance Program

Program Researchers

Higher Degree Research Students

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News & Blog

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What kind of state values a freeway’s heritage above the heritage of our oldest living culture?

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Tackling urban heat

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Willum Warrain Gathering Place: Connecting Country, culture and community

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Assessing the evolution of Victoria’s environment portfolio

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Decolonising Settler Cities

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