Dr Tom Baker

Professor Anthony Capon

Professor Carey Curtis

Dr Lara Daley

Emeritus Professor Stephen Dovers

Dr Mette Hotker

Dr Jennifer Kent

Professsor Wendy Larner

Associate Professor Yolande Strengers

Professor Michelle Thomspon-Fawcett

Dr Blanche Verlie

Professor Iain White

Key Dates

Abstract Submissions

Now Closed

PhD Symposium

28-29 November 2021

SOAC Conference
1-3 December 2021



Senior Lecturer in Human Geography  |  University of Auckland

Tom Baker is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His research examines the politics and practice of policy-making and the governance of socio-economic marginality. In recent years, his projects have focused on the ways collective problems are being addressed through the use of socially-minded market 'solutions'.

Abstract: Urban governance innovation and COVID-19

Emergencies such as COVID-19 trigger calls for innovation and invoke forced experimentation. They can shift what is thinkable and thus licence social and institutional change, opening space wherein new sociopolitical arrangements might emerge. Cities are at the heart of the COVID-19 emergency, in terms of impact, management, and solutions. This commentary considers the implications of COVID-19 for urban governance innovation. Incrementally, innovation has become a “new normal” across multiple fields of social, economic, technological, and environmental endeavour as disruptive enhancements are sought to address complex problems: urban governance is no exception. In cities, diverse new ecosystems of innovative urban governance have been emerging with the potential to reshape the politics and parameters of urban decision making, produce new institutional settings, reconstitute cities' multiscalar relations, and invoke new forms of power. This presentation considers urban governance innovation in COVID times. Drawing from Australian and international examples, we reflect on the actors taking centre stage as cities' responses to the pandemic take shape and consider the governing mechanisms being evoked. As these innovations embed more deeply the distributed nature of urban governance, we close with thoughts on the risks and opportunities that COVID-19 presents for seeking inclusive innovation in the field of urban governance. The presentation draws on collaborative research with Pauline McGuirk (University of Wollongong), Robyn Dowling (University of Sydney), Sophia Maalsen (University of Sydney) and Alistair Sisson (University of Wollongong).



Director of Monash Sustainable Development Institute  |  Monash University

Professor Tony Capon is Director of Monash Sustainable Development Institute and holds a Chair in Planetary Health in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.  Tony has more than two decades of senior leadership and management experience in public health policy, research and education, and has consulted in many countries and for a wide variety of organisations.

Tony is an Advisory Board Member of the Global Health Alliance, a member of the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on Planetary Health that published its report Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch in 2015, and the International Advisory Board for The Lancet Planetary Health.

A former director of the International Institute for Global Health at United Nations University (UNU-IIGH), Tony has held professorial appointments at the University of Sydney and Australian National University and is a Foundation Fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine in the Royal Australasian College of Physician.

Abstract: Harnessing urbanisation in Australasia for human wellbeing and planetary health 

Urbanisation continues apace across Australasia. Urban land cover is increasing, in turn threatening biodiversity. The contemporary discourse of urban health has mostly focused on the social determinants of health, with less attention to ecological determinants. The cognate sustainable cities discourse has, on the whole, paid less attention to the human and social dimensions. It is essential to transcend these two separate discourses and strive for an integrative approach to healthy and sustainable urban development. Cities should reflect their unique geographies, histories, economies, politics, and cultures. The discipline of human ecology is useful in understanding urban health challenges and thinking through sustainable solutions. Systems thinking can help bring expertise from different disciplines together with local knowledge for effective urban governance. Importantly, urban development is a political process and addressing the maladaptive political economy of urban development is essential for the wellbeing of people and planet, for current and future generations. 



Honorary Professorial Fellow  |  University of Melbourne

Carey Curtis is Professor of City Planning and Transport. She holds Honorary positions at University of Melbourne and University of Western Australia, and in Sweden at K2 The Swedish Knowledge Centre for Public Transport/Lund University and at the University of Gothenburg. Her research experience spans four decades and has included over 50 projects in both academia and the planning industry, including six ARC grants. She has employed a wide range of both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Carey has published extensively in the areas of travel behaviour, transport and land use planning, accessibility planning, institutional barriers to sustainable urban development, and the governance of emerging transport technologies.


Carey is Managing Editor of the Journal ‘Urban Policy and Research’ and a research articles Editor. She is also a member on the international editorial boards of the Journal of Mega Infrastructure & Sustainable Development, the Journal of Urban Mobility, the Journal of Transport Land Use and a member of the Board of the World Society of Transport and Land Use Research. Carey is a member of the Planning Institute Australia.


Dr Lara Daley

School of Environmental and Life Sciences  |  University of Newcastle

Lara  Daley is a research associate in geography and environmental studies at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research focus is on learning respectful relationships with the urban as Country as an uninvited guest and as part of family, community and social movements. She is part of the Yandaarra Collective, led by Gumbaynggirr Elder Aunty Shaa Smith, which aims to shift camp together towards Gumbaynggirr-led, decolonising ways of caring for and as Country.

Abstract: Re-membering weather relations: urban environments in and as Country

In so-called Australia, there is an important and growing engagement with cities and towns as spaces of both historical and ongoing Indigenous presence and as Country (Behrendt, 2005; Cox et al., 2016; Fredericks, 2013; Porter, 2018): an Aboriginal English word for the human and more-than-human beings and agencies that co-become as place/space (Bawaka Country et al., 2016, p. 456). Yet, more work needs to be done and as Porter (2018: 244) argues, urban scholarship and practice ‘must be willing to allow our categories and theories, our practices and systems to be complicated and troubled by the underlying structure of settler colonial relations and the continued presence of Country’. On Gumbaynggirr Country (mid north coast NSW) coastal towns, like cities and towns across so-called Australia, are always already Country. In this keynote, I will share some collaborative and arts-based research led-by Gumbaynggirr Custodian Uncle Bud Marshall along with his niece and academic Fabri Blacklock and non-Indigenous geographer, living on Gumbaynggirr Country, Sarah Wright. Together we are engaging with weather agencies, presences and communications, such as winds and seasons, re-membering these as Country in and as changing and urbanising environments. Through these relationships, and my place within them as a non-Indigenous geographer living on unceded Awabakal country, I will attend to the ways that stories and presences of weathers both past and present call on urban scholars and practitioners to respond to the fact that no place in so-called Australia, no matter how colonised or urbanised, exists outside of, or separate to, Aboriginal relational ontologies and more-than-human sovereignties.

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Fenner School of Environment and Society  |  Australian National University

Steve Dovers is an Emeritus Professor with, and former Director of, the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University. A Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, he chairs the Science Advisory Committee of The Mulloon Institute, is a member of the Research and Technology Advisory Committee of the Australian Research Data Commons, and a Senior Associate with the firm Aither. His current research interests are mainly in disasters and climate change adaptation, and past works include the co-authored texts Environment and Sustainability Policy (Federation Press, 2nd edition, 2013) and the Handbook of Disaster Policies and Institutions (Routledge, 2nd edition, 2013). At ANU, he had the honour and pleasure of being a close collaborator and co-conspirator of Patrick Troy AC, including in the creation of the State of Australian Cities Conferences and the establishment of the Peter Harrison Memorial Prizes. 

Patrick Troy Lecture, State of Australian Cities 2021 

Abstract: An unequal Australia then, now and when: the persistence of policy hopes and failures 

The land of the fair go, Australia, is not that fair. It is an unequal society, and many measures of inequality have widened in recent decades. The prospects for serious policy reform to address inequality seem distant and dismal, with few genuinely new ideas, and a persistent record of existing, good reform ideas being smashed on the rocks of modern politics, rank populism, and vested interests both large and small. In this lecture, I will recite an inevitable litany of statistics demonstrating inequality and inequity – not just now or soon, but also our handing on of un-prosperity and an unliveable environment to future generations. An important consideration is which inequalities are the most important, and which are open to systemic, whole-of-society measures as opposed to ones that are sectorally or geographically focused? Some desirable policy reforms are noted, recognising that the menu of options is rich and well-known. On future prospects, we can consider who and what gets in the way – the barriers and bastards – but also maybe look to factors that were critical when past policy reforms have succeeded. To that source of insights and guarded hope, I add the prospect of (real) conservatives recognising the global evidence that inequality and injustice, real or imagined, threatens the status quo. Some past conservatives, for various reasons, did worry about inequality. 



Senior Lecturer Sustainability and Urban Planning  |  RMIT University 

Mette is a member of the Centre for Urban Research and a Lecturer with the Sustainability and Urban Planning program at RMIT. She has a particular interest in teaching and research that focuses on sustainable urban environments and their socio-spatial structures. Her PhD (2020) explored the socio-spatial environments of electronic gaming machine regulation and the interrelationship between communities, government and gambling policy in Victoria. She is also curious about urban care practices and the potential they hold as sustainable planning praxis. 

Abstract: A Just Gambling City: An oxymoron?

We are all in the same boat- apparently. COVID-19 was to be the great equaliser. Yet some people are coming off the boat more bruised and battered than others. The pandemic has not only caused adversity – it has also exposed and exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities caused by unjust urban policies across social terrains. This plenary panel contribution considers the terrain of gambling with a specific focus on Electronic Gaming Machine (EGM) policy in Victoria and its contribution to everyday vulnerability of Australians. It argues that current EGM utilitarian policy is harmful, unjust and based on falsehoods. A new approach to EGM regulation is urgently needed; one that assesses the justice impacts of EGMs as well as the legitimacy of EGMs as social and economic infrastructure. Assessing EGMs through A Just Gambling City (Fainstein 2010) holds both promises and challenges as a future urban planning praxis for gambling.

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Senior Research Fellow  |  University of Sydney 

Dr Jennifer Kent is Senior Research Fellow in the Urbanism program at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning in Sydney, Australia. Jennifer’s research interests are at the intersections between urban planning, transport and human health. She specialises in combining quantitative and qualitative data with understandings from policy science to trace the practical, cultural and political barriers to healthy cities. Key issues examined to date include parenting and private car use, companion animals and transport, the links between health and higher density living, the interpretation of health evidence into urban planning policy, the health impact of extended commute times, and cultural and structural barriers to sustainable transport use.


Jennifer’s work is funded by external agencies, including the Australian Research Council, government land development agency Landcom and the National Heart Foundation. She has experience working across institutions, including with the NSW Ministry of Health and with local health districts and transport agencies across NSW on several projects examining translation of health evidence. Her findings are policy relevant and have been incorporated into State and Federal urban planning agendas around Australia. She publishes regularly in highly ranked scholarly journals across the fields of urban planning, public health and transport and her work is widely cited within these disciplines.

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Provost |  Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Professor Wendy Larner is Provost at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.  Wendy’s research is in the interdisciplinary fields of globalisation, governance and gender.  She has served as a panelist for the NZ Performance Based Research Fund, UK Research Excellence Framework, and German Universities Excellence Initiative.  Wendy is a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK), a Fellow of the New Zealand Geographical Society, and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  She is a recipient of the Royal Geographical Society’s Victoria Medal, New Zealand’s Women of Influence Award for Innovation and Science, and the New Zealand Geographical Society’s 2021 Distinguished New Zealand Geographer Award and Medal.

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Emerging Technologies Research Lab  |  Monash University 

Yolande Strengers is Associate Professor of Digital Technology and Society in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University where she leads the Energy Futures program. She is Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Faculty of Information Technology and an Associate Director (Consumers) of the Monash Energy Institute. Yolande's research investigates how digital technologies and AI are changing how we live and engage with each other. Her focus is on the energy, sustainability, health and gender equity outcomes of emerging technologies, such as smart grids, smart homes, automation, digital voice assistants, robots and Telepresence. As an interdisciplinary scholar, her work spans the fields of digital sociology, human-computer interaction (HCI) design, and science and technology studies. Yolande holds a PhD in Social Science (RMIT University), a Masters in Social Science (RMIT University) and a Bachelor of Arts (Monash University). Yolande is winner of the 2021 Women in AI Award for Innovation and the B&T Women Leading Tech Award for Education & Research. Her most recent book, The Smart Wife, was published with The MIT Press (2020) and co-authored with Dr Jenny Kennedy.

Abstract: Is an equitable and ethical future for AI possible? Insights from the homefront

As the world and our region moves through massive disruption and uncertainty, we are increasingly turning towards artificial intelligence (AI) to ‘solve’ a host of complex socio-technical problems. Within this age of ‘solutionism’ (Morozov 2013), which centres on usability assessments and cost-benefit analyses, we rarely step back to consider the broader implications of this reliance on AI in so many facets of our lives. This paper takes a closer look at the homefront, where AI is being brought in to address a range of social, cultural and political issues within the confines of the household, through devices that Strengers & Kennedy (2020) have labelled ‘smart wives’. These include digital voice assistants, housekeeping, social, assistive and sex robots, and smart home technologies that perform a range of ‘wifework’ (Maushart 2001) and are designed to solve the ‘wife drought’ (Crabb 2014) plaguing many nations due to gendered changes in employment, the unbalanced division of household labour, and changing expectations of care and intimacy. Drawing on these examples, the paper asks whether AI-enabled robots and devices are taking us towards more equitable and ethical futures. These questions are explored with reference to the work of gender, techno-feminist, and science and technology scholars, who have a long history of analysing the ways in which technology shapes social practices of labour, care and relationships. Key concerns raised by the expansion of these smart wives into our homes and lives include the reproduction and perpetuation of outdated gendered stereotypes embedded into the design of some ‘advanced’ technologies, their potential to undervalue and undermine caring and domestic labour which has been traditionally framed as ‘women’s work’, their emerging role in facilitating domestic abuse and exacerbating already unbalanced gendered power dynamics, and their far-reaching and unevenly experienced environmental and labour impacts from the extraction of minerals through to rapidly rising e-waste. Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive overhaul of the ways in which AI is imagined, designed, manufactured, produced, marketed, used, discussed and ultimately retired.



School of Geography  |  University of Ontago (Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo) 

Michelle Thompson-Fawcett teaches and researches in geography and planning. Her focus is on fostering Indigenous approaches to culturally sustainable environmental futures. The research has a provocative conceptual nature, a commitment to Indigenous methodologies, and an emphasis on issues of Indigenous self-determination. Her work with colleagues and communities has created opportunities in evolving Indigenous planning fields such as plan making, urban design, impact assessment, cultural landscape protection and kin-settlement development.

Abstract: Weaving our stories into the urban narrative

Our ancestors are master story tellers. They interweave our past, present and future for us. They deliver our genealogy, connecting people and their environment, conveying identity and obligation. Can you hear their voices in the city as you move through its paths and structures?  Or have their voices been planned out by colonisation’s harsh dispossessions, suppressions and relentless impositions? Urban planning has been a masterful tool of colonialism. Its practices have purged the rights of Indigenous groups to plan and participate in urban place-making and decision-taking on their ancestral land. Nevertheless, in recent decades there has been a resurgence of resistance to dominant Western planning praxis in settler-colonial cities through the use of Indigenous languages, knowledges, culture and stories. For some of us, there is a sense of optimism that comes from the success of initiatives that reassert the potency and integrity of Indigenous worldviews in the urban setting. Initiatives that contribute a richer story. In this paper, I explore how Indigenous-led urban strategies are serving to prize open a space for Indigenous stories in the settler-colonial city and thereby support Indigenous peoples to be and see themselves through the resulting reconnection to place, culture, history and kin.

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Department of Sociology and Social Policy  |  University of Sydney

Dr. Blanche Verlie has a multidisciplinary background, with environmentally-focused degrees in science, social science and education. Her research investigates how to better engage and support people in the wide ranging and complex challenges of climate change mitigation and adaptation. More specifically, she explores the affective geographies of eco-anxiety, more-than-human climate ontologies and epistemologies, and feminist climate pedagogies. Blanche taught in the Sustainability and Urban Planning discipline at RMIT University for nine years, before moving to the University of Sydney to complete a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Sydney Environment Institute. Her book Learning to live-with climate change: From anxiety to transformation is available as a free e-book.

Abstract: Ecological distress in and beyond cities

Climate change’s increasing shocks (e.g. hurricanes) and stressors (e.g. drought), as well as knowledge of these trends, are creating distress in people all around the world. This distress can arise through a broad range of processes; is expressed in a diverse range of ways; enrols people in changing interpersonal relationships; has significant personal, political, and ecological repercussions; and calls for a suite of public policy and community-based responses. Anxiety about sea level rise, post-traumatic stress from bushfires, anger at carbon-focused policies, irritation in heatwaves and existential dread about planetary futures may all materialise in changing distributions and dispositions of people throughout, across and beyond cities. The spatial, political, and ethical implications of these changing affective human-climate geographies demand careful responses and initiatives from urban planning and governance. This presentation will briefly explore how we can understand and respond to ecological distress. 



Division of Arts, Law, Psychology and Social Sciences  |  University of Waikato 

Iain White is Professor of Environmental Planning and the Associate Dean Research for Arts, Law, Psychology and Social Science at the University of Waikato in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He is committed to engaging beyond the discipline to researchers, practitioners and communities in ways that generate real world impact. This focus typically investigates critically the nature of the science-policy-practice interface, tracing theory and data through to policy and outcomes. In 2020 he won the Vice Chancellor's award for Research Excellence and in 2021 was awarded the New Zealand Planning Institute Award of Merit. He is the author of: Environmental Planning in Context (Palgrave, 2015), Water and the City (Routledge, 2010), co-author of Why Plan? Theory for Practitioners (Lund Humphries, 2019) and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Environmental Planning (Routledge, 2019).

Abstract: Moving beyond 'Documenting Decline': crisis, hope and activism in the academy

We live and research in a time of multiple crises. From climate change to biodiversity loss, from socio-demographic inequality to COVID-19. There is barely a field of research where crisis claims are not absolutely central to what it means to be an academic right here, right now. Many of these problems are not new and span the length of our careers. This is not due to a lack of scientific effort. Robust evidence has been gathered to understand phenomena, warnings issued, new institutions established. At the same time, the academy has sought to better link to politics, policy and practice by producing ever more knowledge, developing innovative methodologies to collaborate or co-produce research, or spending more time communicating research to diverse audiences in diverse ways on diverse media. Yet, in many cases crises are worsening and injustice increasing. It is understandable if many feel that our role is too often reduced to one of documenting decline, rather than stimulating action. Drawing upon case studies relating to Climate Change and ‘Build Back Better’ this talk will reflect critically upon the science-policy-practice interface, and discuss the importance of creating small revolts within our daily work that can foster hopeful events able to both sustain ourselves and create new acts of critical thinking.