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. 

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge that systems of governance and law have always been present in the country now called Australia. We acknowledge the unceded sovereignty of the Woiwurrung and Boonwurrung / Bunurong speaking peoples on the land where we are located and respectfully acknowledge Ancestors and Elders in all of the places where we conduct our work.

The Critical Urban Governance program seeks to bring critical attention to how cities are governed and for whom. Both the scholarship and practice of urban governance have historically worked to obscure and deny Indigenous sovereignties. As a program, we commit to learning how to practice our scholarship and education on Country in relationship with Indigenous sovereignty.


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.

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.

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.

Regional 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.

Network of Integrated Study Sites


This project established 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Digital innovations, PropTech and housing – the view from Melbourne


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

Rethinking Research Impact

2019 (ongoing)

Researchers and research institutions are increasingly required to demonstrate research impact, but what exactly is research impact and how should we approach it, given the complex challenges the world faces?

Key People

Lead researchers

Professor Libby Porter

Professor Libby Porter

Director, Centre for Urban Research

Professor Wendy Steele

Professor Wendy Steele

Convener of Critical Urban Governance Program

Program Researchers

Higher Degree Research Students

Related Content

News & Blog

CUR Stories

State budget bounce-back: experts on where funding should go

13 May 2021

After undergoing the harshest lockdowns in the country, how should Victoria spend its budget to bounce back? RMIT academics share their expert view on where best to splash the cash for the state’s COVID-19 recovery.

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Three key takeaways ahead of the Victorian budget

19 November 2020

As Victoria turns the corner, economic, social housing and urban planning experts point to three key shifts in the upcoming Victorian Budget.

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CUR researchers among The Conversation’s leading thinkers

27 October 2020

Two of our RMIT CUR researchers have been recognised in The Conversation’s 2020 annual yearbook examining a life changing year and what comes next.

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How can urban and environmental planning shape a post-pandemic future?

04 October 2020

The adversities of COVID-19 have no doubt changed the way we think about our environments. Here, our teachers discuss the role urban, regional and environmental planning has in shaping a post-pandemic future.

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Melbourne tower lockdowns unfairly target already vulnerable public housing residents

06 July 2020

This week, the Victorian government unilaterally placed the residents of nine public housing towers in inner Melbourne under “hard lockdown” due to the “explosive potential” of increasing COVID-19 cases.

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A time to embrace the edge spaces that make our neighbourhoods tick

01 June 2020

As we emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns, it is timely to reflect on how the design of our neighbourhoods and the ways we interact with them affect our lived experience.

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Public land is being sold exactly where thousands on the waiting list need housing

27 May 2020

The need for public housing is greater than ever before – Australia has a shortfall of at least 433,000 dwellings. Using public land for public housing is a no-brainer. But, at the time of writing, the Victorian government is preparing to sell over 2,646 hectares of land.

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Victoria wastes potential for public housing on own land: study

03 May 2020

Victorian governments have wasted two decades of opportunities to address the state’s housing crisis, selling surplus public land that could have been used for 11,000 public housing units, new analysis reveals.

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Churches have legal rights in Australia. Why not sacred trees?

07 November 2019

In Australia, corporations such as Coles and Westpac and even some churches operate as legal entities entitled to most of the rights and responsibilities that individuals possess. Why don’t the Djab Wurrung sacred trees have legal standing?

Shh! Don’t mention the public housing shortage. But no serious action on homelessness can ignore it

10 October 2019

Today, October 10, is World Homeless Day. Next week the Council to Homeless Persons will convene the Victorian Homelessness Conference to discuss options for ending homelessness.

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How can we improve our homes to be energy efficient?

04 October 2019

With rising energy bills the new normal, we need to focus on improving Victoria’s housing stock to help householders adapt. New research in Moreland is exploring the barriers and opportunities householders face in improving their homes.

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

23 August 2019

What kind of world do we live in when freeways are valued as of greater cultural significance than the practice of the oldest living culture in the world?


Past Events

Postgraduate Master Class: Critical urban research for social change

24 August 2018, 1:00PM-4:00PM

We live in a time where the need for urban research that is critical in its questioning of relations of power and domination is strikingly clear. But what does it really mean to do ‘critical’ urban research?

Past Events

Eco-Suburbia: Low Carbon Futures

13 June 2018, 5:00PM-7:00PM

Join us for an evening with renowned Australian environmental designer and permaculture co-originator David Holmgren together with Professor Ralph Horne and Associate Professor Anitra Nelson as they posit model futures and intervene in the current debate.