The platform draws on eight years of research findings by the RMIT Healthy Liveable Cities Group, spatially displaying these findings and measuring liveability across cities, council areas, suburbs and neighbourhoods.

By selecting individual neighbourhoods/suburbs/LGAs, values for each of the liveability indicators can be assessed.
Image: By selecting individual neighbourhoods/suburbs/LGAs, values for each of the liveability indicators can be assessed. (Image: RMIT Centre for Urban Research)

The Healthy Liveable Cities Liveability Index considers 9 health and wellbeing indicators – liveability, walkability, social infrastructure, transport, food, alcohol, public open space, employment and housing.  

Indicators Description/Rationale Factors/Considerations Measures
Liveability · High liveability provides economic, social, environmental and health benefits to communities.
· Liveable communities can be considered to be “safe, socially cohesive, inclusive and environmentally sustainable”. This may come in the form of access to employment, education, shops/services, public open spaces, social, cultural and recreational facilities through public transport and walking/cycling infrastructure. It should also include affordable housing with public transport access to these destinations and services to ensure inclusivity.  
· Social Infrastructure
· Walkability
· Public Transport
· Public Open Space
· Housing Affordability
· Local Employment
Liveability Index – Composite Score based on:
· Street Connectivity
· Dwelling Density
· Access to Community, Culture & Leisure Destinations
· Access to Childcare Services
· Access to Public Schools
· Access to Health Services
· Access to Sport & Recreation Facilities
· Access to Fresh Food
· Access to Convenience Stores
· Access to Regular Public Transport
· Access to Large Public Open Space
· Low Housing Affordability Stress
· Local Employment Opportunities
Walkability · Local neighbourhood design, and walkability of a neighbourhood in particular, has been shown to influence physical activity, health outcomes, social connectedness and sustainability.
· Factors such as land use mix, services of daily living, street connectivity and dwelling density influence how people move around their neighbourhood to carry out daily activities.
· Land Use Mix + Services of Daily Living: The Urban Observatory labels this as “something to walk to”.
· Street Connectivity: This can be regarded as “a way to get [to the walking distance destination]”
· Dwelling Density: This measure is considered because it is believed that higher densities are better able to support local shops, jobs, public transport and other amenities/infrastructure.
Composite Walkability Index:
· Street Connectivity
· Dwelling Density
· Access to Services of Daily Living: Access to Supermarkets, Public Transport Stops and Convenience Stores within 1600m
Social Infrastructure · Social infrastructure cover community and individual support services and resources such as health, education, early childhood, community support, community development, culture, sport & recreation, parks and emergency services.
· The provision of well-planned social infrastructure promotes walking and community social interaction, and can lead to increased satisfaction in the area as well as improved physical and mental health.
· Community Centres
· Culture & Leisure
· Early Years
· Education
· Health & Social Services
· Sport & Recreation
Sum of Binary Indicators of Social Infrastructure within Threshold Distances:
· Community Centres – 1000m
· Culture & Leisure: Museum/Art Gallery – 3200m; Cinema/Theatre – 3200m; Libraries – 1000m
· Early Years: Childcare – 800m; Out of School Hours – 1600m
· Education: Government Primary Schools; Government Secondary Schools – 1600m
· Health & Social Services: Residential Aged Care Facilities; Dentists; GPs; Maternal, Child & Family Health Centres; Other Community Health Care Centres; Pharmacies – 1000m
· Sport & Recreation: Public Swimming Pools – 1200m; Sports Facilities – 1000m
Transport · Efficient and accessible public transport facilitates access to services, education and jobs for society, including individuals with limited mobility due to age/disability and low-income earners who may not be able to afford a car.
· Living close to public transport, especially within 400m (approximately a 5-minute walk), means that residents are more likely to walk, thus reducing car dependence.
· In addition to distance to a public transport stop, use of public transport may also be influenced by other factors such as service frequency, comfort, cost, directness of service, overcrowding, etc. Hence, this indicator also considers access to regular services1. · Average Distance to Closest Public Transport Stop
· Percentage of Dwellings within 400m of any Public Transport Stop
· Percentage of Dwellings within 400m of a Public Transport Stop with a Regular Service
Food · Access to fresh food supports residents’ healthy eating behaviours through access to nutritional foods
· Living within easy walking distance to fresh food stores encourages walking/cycling instead of driving2.
· Areas with limited access to food can lead to reliance on motorised transport. This especially impacts people with limited mobility or in low socio-economic status areas where people may not be able to afford a private car.
· Access to healthy food is considered for this indicator. For the purposes of this research, a healthy food outlet is considered t be a supermarket or a fruit and vegetable grocer.
· Access to fast food is considered since regularly eating fast food can have negative health impacts. Close proximity to fast food retailers, including those trading from food courts, may influence an individual’s diet.
· Average Distance to Closest Activity Centre
· Percentage of Dwellings within 1km of a Supermarket
· Average Distance to Closest Healthy Food Outlet (Supermarket/Fruit & Vegetable Grocer)
· Average Distance to Closest Fast Food Outlet/Food Court
· Percentage of Dwellings with no Food Outlets within 1600m
Alcohol · Excessive use of alcohol can have negative impacts on physical and mental health of individuals, families and communities.
· Excessive use can also lead to injury and death through accident, suicide and violence.
· Alcohol associated effects can be preventable, thus reducing the burden on Australia’s health care system.
· Access to on-licence and off-licence alcohol outlets. · Average Number of On-Licence Alcohol Outlets within 400m
· Average Number of Off-Licence Alcohol Outlet within 800m
· Average Distance to Closest On-Licence Alcohol Outlet
· Average Distance to Closest Off-Licence Alcohol Outlet
Public Open Space · Public open spaces such as parks, public gardens, nature reserves, civic areas, etc. provide places for people to meet, socialise, play and connect.
· These spaces allow everyone to visit without being excluded due to economic or social conditions.
· Access to these areas is associated with increased physical activity and improved mental health.
· Large open spaces are less limited, often appealing to larger sections of the community and have the capacity and facilities for more types of activities. Large parks can also promote biodiversity. Hence this indicator also considers access to open spaces greater than 1.5Ha. · Percentage of Dwellings Within 400m of Public Open Space
· Percentage of Dwellings Within 400m of a Public Open Space Larger than 1.5Ha
· Average Distance to Closest Public Open Space Larger than 1.5Ha
Employment · Long commute times may cause increasing levels of stress and decrease the performance and productivity of employees. This may in turn negatively impact the economy, the environment and the social fabric of communities.
· Long commute times can negatively impact work-life balance, contributing to negative effects on family and other social relationships, thus increasing workplace stress.
· Employees living close to work have reduced dependence on cars as they are more likely to use public and/or active transport. This reduces traffic congestion and has environmental benefits.
· This indicator measures the proportion of people living and working within the same SA3. Employees living in the same SA3 as their workplace are less likely to have excessive commute times. · Percentage of Employed Persons Living and Working in the Same SA3
Housing · Secure, safe and suitable housing is important for an individual’s physical and mental health.
· Unaffordable housing may lead to difficulty affording food, healthcare and other basic necessities.
· Unsuitable housing due to location, overcrowding, tenure insecurity or unaffordability can have serious health impacts
· In this case, a household is considered to experience housing stress if it is in the bottom 40% of income distribution and spends more than 30% of household income on housing costs. · Percentage of Households in the Bottom 40% of the Income Distribution Spending More than 30% of Household Income on Housing Costs
· Dwelling Density

Table: List of Indicators and Respective Measures.

Lead investigator Dr Melanie Davern, from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research, said that the simplicity of the data can be a tool for policymakers, planners, developers and the community to develop a clear understanding of real liveability.

“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,” said Davern.

For policy makers seeking to encourage active lifestyles for residents, Davern explained that the platform allows them to easily access and understand key liveability factors to decide which areas and people need resources the most. They can also look at other neighbourhoods and suburbs to see what works well.

The Observatory can also help developers  - by looking at a suburb’s or neighbourhood’s indicators, they can more thoroughly understand the area of a potential investment.

“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 that each indicator has been selected due to its association with health outcomes and its connection 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,” said Davern.

The Observatory is a collaborative project between RMIT University, 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, the NHMRC funded Australian Prevention Partnership Centre and state partners. It was launched on the 5th of February at RMIT’s research and innovation event, Engaging for Impact 2020.

Cover Image: The Urban Observatory maps liveability measurements for easy study of various liveability indicators of a neighbourhood, suburb, city or LGA. (Image: RMIT Centre for Urban Research)

  1. In this case, regular service is defined as at least one service every 30 minutes on weekdays between 7am and 7pm.
  2. According to Gunn, King et al. in 2017, most people will not regularly walk distances greater than 800m-1km to destinations such as shops and services, especially if it involves bulky purchases (Australian Urban Observatory, n.d).