Reflecting on our legacy

A final letter from our Hub Leader

Dear stakeholders,

As we conclude six years of research at the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes (CAUL) Hub, we would like to take a moment to reflect on our journey.

The CAUL Hub began in 2015 as a new research consortium with a focus on practical research to improve urban environments in Australia. Our mission was twofold: to undertake multi-disciplinary research for practical outcomes, and to highlight Indigenous perspectives in urban environments. We planned and delivered a body of research, engagement and outreach activities that has changed the way people think about cities in Australia and beyond, and opened new possibilities for making them better places for their human inhabitants and for nature.

In addition to our primary stakeholder, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), the stakeholders of our Hub and end-users of our research have comprised a much broader group including all levels of government, urban practitioners, community groups and the general urban-dwelling public of Australia. We have created partnerships with many different agencies and organisations to pursue applied research that has already contributed to making our air cleaner and our cities greener, more biodiverse and more liveable.

The CAUL Hub’s work has provided an evidence base for the state of cities in Australia today, spanning outdoor air quality, indoor air quality, urban vegetation cover and its relationship with urban heat, the liveability of our neighbourhoods in capital and regional cities, urban greenspaces and their many benefits, urban biodiversity, and the complex relationships between people and their environment. We have also made space for Indigenous voices in cities, emphasising that all cities in Australia are Indigenous places where First Peoples’ deep connections to land, water and sky continue. Below we explore the impact of just some of our outstanding research projects.

It has been an honour to work with former Hub Leader Peter Rayner, Deputy Hub Leader Joe Hurley and the CAUL Executive team to lead such a committed group of researchers over the past six years. It has also been an honour to work with the broader family of CAUL’s many stakeholders, collaborators and supporters, including DAWE, our Indigenous Advisory Group and Hub Steering Committee. I thank all of you for your enthusiasm, dedication and outstanding contributions. While the CAUL Hub’s research has already changed cities in Australia for the better, its true impact will be measured in the years and the decades to come.

– Professor Kirsten Parris

New e-book: Cities for People and Nature

Urban environments are among the most important environments in Australia. More than 90% of the Australian population – or around 22.6 million people – lives in cities. This is where we experience the environment on a daily basis, from the air that we breathe to the park where we walk, the frogs we hear calling or the green roof we may see from our office window. As our cities continue to grow, how can we make them better places for people and other urban dwellers?

The Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub has released a free e-book, Cities for People and Nature. The e-book showcases the hub’s findings following six years of research. It follows five key themes: cities are Indigenous places, air quality, urban greening, urban biodiversity and future cities. It also explores the impact that the Hub’s research has made on the sustainability and liveability of our urban environments.

Readers can interact with the multimedia elements, including video and audio, and find links to useful resources, such as apps, factsheets, reports and more. It also features beautiful illustrations by Dixon Patten of Bayila Creative.

The launch of the e-book follows an exciting month of activities for the hub. The hub hosted a series of #CitiesPeopleNature events, including a panel discussion at the MPavilion and a showcase webinar featuring its e-book authors.

Bridging disciplinary boundaries: the roles of governance for urban green-blue spaces

Urban green (and blue) spaces, such as parks, waterways, wetlands, street trees, gardens and nature reserves are essential elements of resilient and liveable cities. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, these spaces provide many functions and benefits for people and the other species that call our cities home. They cool our cities, treat air and water, provide space for recreation and connection, and habitat for biodiversity.

There are many different types of green-blue spaces in cities – and many different models for their governance, planning and management. Hub researcher Dr Judy Bush has investigated new approaches to governance and policies to support the creation and retention of healthy, multifunctional green-blue spaces.

The hub has released a series of new factsheets that provide an overview and definitions of ‘governance’, and how governance and policy for green-blue spaces can contribute to retaining and maximising resilient nature in cities.

Photo: Merri Creek, Melbourne by Judy Bush

Indigenous plant use

Spring has arrived and the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub has a new booklet to inspire your garden plans. The new Indigenous plant use booklet, by Barkandji woman Zena Cumpston, explores the cultural, nutritional, technological and medicinal use of indigenous plants.

Chocolate Lily (Arthropodium strictum) is one of more than 50 indigenous plant species featured in the booklet. Chocolate Lily gets its name from its purple flowers (appearing in spring), which on sunny days emit a smell of chocolate and sometimes also smell much like vanilla and caramel. Chocolate Lily has grass-like leaves with edible root tubers, which are white inside and are roasted before being eaten.

The plant information in the booklet is displayed on labels that you can print, laminate and use in your own garden. These labels provide an opportunity for people to learn on Country and connect with Aboriginal knowledge of plant use. It has been designed for any individual or group interested in indigenous plant use, including schools, community groups, greening practitioners, home gardeners and their families.

Supporting a cooler, greener Melbourne

Creating a greener and ultimately cooler Melbourne is a priority for the Victorian Government. Plan Melbourne 2017-2020 will enhance the city’s urban forests to create more liveable and climate-adapted communities. To support this work, the Clean Air and Urban Landscape Hub partnered with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, RMIT University and the CSIRO to map and analyse vegetation and assess its relationship to land use and urban heat.

As cities grow and change, tree, shrub and grass cover are often lost in the process. These maps will allow planners to precisely measure the area of vegetation at a local level, understand the relationship between urban vegetation cover and urban heat island effects, and track changes over time.

This evidence can inform greening targets, identify areas where investment is needed most, and provide a baseline to track the progress of greening strategies. Researchers also produced a vulnerability assessment to identify the areas with communities most vulnerable to heat waves.

Image: Urban greening in Melbourne CBD, photo by Briena Barrett.