UTC 3.0 Report: James Cook University – Urban Liveability in Tropical Australia Through Urban Diaries and Community Engagement

The final report of our Urban Thinkers Campus, hosted by James Cook University in Australia with full support from Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP)Planz Town Planning, Milford Planning, Cairns Regional Council and Townsville City Council is now available at the World Urban Campaign website.

The executive summary is below, and the full report can be downloaded accessible here.


Executive Summary:

This report provides a summary of the Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) held at James Cook University, Australia in June 2018. It includes details regarding the sessions, their outcomes and the next steps forward. With 105 participants, 29 partners, and representatives from 9 countries, the UTC entitled ‘Urban Health and Liveability in Tropical Australia through Urban Diaries and Community Engagement’ took place on the 8th June 2018 in Cairns and 15th June in Townsville.

The UTC drew on the participation of American author Chuck Wolfe, whose book “Seeing the Better City” (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2017), provides a new methodology to analyse the city. This was supported by the Fulbright Specialist Grant by the United States Fulbright Program and the Australian-American Fulbright Commission awarded to James Cook University and Mr Wolfe. The awarded grant had the objectives of: 1) help enable the UTC, 2) fund Mr Wolfe’s travel to Australia from the United States and, 3) support take an important part at Mr Wolfe’s cooperative role in the planning and implementation of the UTC in Cairns and Townsville.

This UTC was based upon the premise that urbanisation is an opportunity and can lead to a positive transformation toward sustainable development, improving public health. The event was divided in two days, one taking place in Cairns and one in Townsville. The event was based upon active discussions around the theme “Cairns and Townsville that we need”. The main objective was to use UTC act as catalysts of new ideas while emulating consensus among participants and partners in order to inspire and drive contributions to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda locally.

The discussions were focused on urban planning and design to promote public health, and based upon three main issues central to each of the Urban Labs:

– Urban Lab 1: Urban infrastructure promoting healthy lifestyles
– Round-table 1: What existing urban infrastructures and amenities promote or restrict active lifestyles?
– Urban Lab 2: Urban infrastructure promoting social inclusion
– Round-table 2: What existing urban infrastructures and amenities promote or restrict social inclusion?
– Urban Lab 3: Urban infrastructure promoting healthy eating
– Round-table 3: What existing urban infrastructures and amenities promote or restrict healthy eating?

The UTC was based upon discussion of existing issues during the morning sessions and possible solutions and action plan development during the afternoon. Data was collected in Cairns and Townsville through roundtable discussions, which informed ideas placed in an ‘Impact Effort Matrices’, which then informed the generation of ‘Value Questions’. These strategies for organising and analysing ideas were presented to discussion leaders prior to the event. The discussion leaders met between sessions to synthesise the themes that emerged out of the morning sessions in order to focus the activities for the afternoon. After the event, all data was summarised, classified and coded based upon interpretive categories according to emerging local issues and concerns.

Findings show that important concerns include the promotion of alternative modes of transportation, mixed-use developments throughout the cities, responding to local climates through planning and design and promoting evening lighting along pathways. Regarding social inclusion, the main concerns are to promote community engagement, listen and apply people’s suggestions, including elderly, youth and indigenous peoples, to design for activate city spaces and to support village like suburb hubs to support community values and connections. Finally, regarding healthy eating, the main issues identified require the implementation of a food strategy to provide incentive for the production and commercialisation of healthy foods while reducing fast food availability. These main outcomes are elaborated in this document. Results from Cairns and Townsville’s workshops show that although the concerns are similar, the cities have different priorities.

In summary, the “Urban Health and Liveability in Tropical Australia” UTC organised by James Cook University and partners and held in Cairns and Townsville (Australia) on 8th June and 15th June 2018 contributed to the following 9 of 17 Sustainable Development Goals:

(3) Good Health and Wellbeing
(5) Gender Equality
(10) Reduced Inequalities
(11) Sustainable Cities and Communities
(12) Responsible Production and Consumption
(13) Climate Action
(15) Life on Land
(16) Peace, justice and strong institutions
(17) Partnerships for the Goals

The event was intended to build consensus between partners and identify the role of each stakeholder group in addressing urbanization challenges and proposing solutions for urban futures. We were interested in what each group can contribute as key actors for change.

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