Conference Tracks

City Economics

Track Chairs: Kirsten Martinus and Steven Rowley

Australian cities represent economic nodal points for the global economy with the well-being of the nation depending on their capacity to function efficiently and competitively. Whilst much wealth still relies on the production of resources – minerals, energy, agriculture, and farming, there are major emerging sectors of biotech, education and medical services. Maintaining our comparatively high wages relies on increasing productivity, shifting the national focus towards innovation and ‘the ideas boom’ to support productivity in all sectors. Fuelled by entrepreneurialism, the application of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and share economies, innovation is transforming cities. Economics, economic geography and urban planning to date has had limited engagement with the impact and influence of these transformative disruptions on our cities, with current frameworks providing only minimal understanding of what this means for our economic prosperity. This shifting economic landscape presents an opportunity for the application of novel methods and new theorising on contemporary models. For example, new construction innovations have the capacity to deliver significant changes to the way we build commercial and residential property and its supporting infrastructure. Similarly, the use of remote sensing and drone technologies can revolutionise production and our economic reach. Such disruption will generate unknown changes in how people live and work, presenting exciting challenges to urbanists, economists and economic geographers. This track welcomes papers across the broad research fields related to, but not limited to: (i) the economics of globalisation; (ii) innovation studies; (iii) global production networks; (iv) regional development; (v) geographies of finance; (vi) sharing economies; (vii) productivity studies; (viii) housing markets; (ix) behavioural economics and related policy studies. Authors are invited to address emerging economic challenges within Australian cities/regions, provide insights into how innovations may shape our urban/regional centres and the suburbs, model the economic impact of policy change and generally challenge conventional thinking.

City Environment

Track Chairs: Mohammed Swapan, Sayed Ifthekar (UWA)

Australia’s growing metropolitan population, especially in the outer suburbs, imposes significant pressures and challenges on the natural environment and sustainable living. Australian cities and regions have become increasingly exposed to dangerous weather events (flooding, bushfire, extreme heat island effects) as low-density development has spread outwards. As outlined in the 2015 State of Australian Cities report, population and economic growth are the key driving agents influencing biodiversity, infrastructure and consumption patterns – a more pragmatic and integrated policy approach is needed in order to shape a more habitable and sustainable future in urban Australia. This track seeks papers that shine new research light on the (i) the nature, extent and implications of the environmental challenges facing Australian cities/regions; (ii) the policy preparedness and responsiveness of Australian cities/regions to these environmental challenges; and (iii) the role of/for policy, technological and environmental disruption/innovation in ameliorating these challenges.  Papers should focus on, but are by no means limited to, issues such as: (i) climate change mitigation and adaptation; (ii) resilient built environments; (iii) sustainable growth management; (iv) low carbon development and lifestyle; (v) air and water quality; (vi)functional green space; (vii) urban agriculture; (viii) waste management and recycling; and, (ix) environmental management and performance.

City Governance

Track Chairs: Neil Foley, Clare Mouat and Shaphan Cox

Cities are paradoxical spaces. They are sites of innovation and disruption. Such contradictory impulses influence how our cities are governed. Innovation in the city invokes creativity, improvement and attraction, while disruption signifies subversion, disorder and anarchy. But who is the innovator and who the disruptor? For example, the building and construction of flagship developments gesture towards innovation and a promise to attract investment and wealth, but these developments also make politics. They disrupt local communities. They provoke debate with regard to the direction and flow of state resources. Questions emerge about the democratic efficacy of the public policy institutions and processes responsible for managing the development of our contemporary cities. Simultaneously, cities are sites of resistance characterised by social eruptions and demonstrations that assert different ways of being and belonging. Such disruptions are crucial to ensuring the continued development of a fair and equitable urban democracy and citizenship. Ultimately, notions of what constitutes innovation and disruption are often framed, defined, controlled and implemented by those who hold political and economic power. This track welcomes papers with a theoretical, empirical and/or policy focus that explore ideas of innovation and/or disruption within urban/regional governance as it relates to issues such as: (i) policy and political institutions; (ii) democratic and policy processes; (iii) social movements and urban citizenship; (iv) provision and management of urban services; and (v) the role of new technology, ‘big data’ and apps in urban/regional governance and policy-decision making.

City Structure

Track Chairs: Paul Drechsler and Julian Bolleter

The morphology of Australian cities reflects their colonial authorship; an instantaneous intervention without due regard to landscape and Indigenous culture. As settler economies, their ongoing transformation is a response to the events, evolving technologies and values over step-changes in time. The ability to ‘read’ contemporary cities requires both an understanding of their structure and the processes that have produced that structure. Interpreting their contemporary form is one thing, but how do we forecast their future in a way that is of value to decision-makers, in an era of change that is more rapid and volatile than ever before? Ours is an era where artificial intelligence (AI), automation, tracking technologies, big data, the internet of things (IoT) and ‘disruption’ unfold concomitantly with extreme population growth, the collapse of traditional value systems, wide-spread forced migration from population centres and Orwellian surveillance. In this context, how do we as urban thinkers, researchers, philosophers, voyeurs and leaders remain relevant through the vicissitudes that emanate from such wholesale, rapid change? And, how do we break from the over-reliance on theories of path dependence and ‘central place’ that still shape our urban policy settings today? This track invites papers that consider an alternative to the contemporary notion of ‘plan-and-almost-deliver’ paradigm of government directed city-shaping. Do we need to plan for cities and regions as self-organizing systems and models of complexity? Are cities now simply too complex to be comprehended by human intelligence alone? Should the planning of cities move away from a deep dependency on the 1950s analogic world of ‘grand plans’ and have a stronger alignment with second millennium information technology? Or, do the answers lie in science fiction and gaming for clues about alternative logic, experience and reality replacement in virtual cities?

City Movement and Infrastructure

Track Chairs: Sharon Biermann and Courtney Babb

Our cities and regions depend on urban infrastructure systems to function. This includes transport, power, water, sewerage and communications infrastructure. Population growth, the rapid emergence of new urban markets, services and technologies, and government fiscal restraint, have the potential to cause major disruptions to urban infrastructure and the social and economic systems they support. Innovation is needed to better understand the relationship between infrastructure and urban life, and the production, funding and management of existing and emerging infrastructure if we are to ensure the productivity, liveability and sustainability of Australian cities in the twenty first century. This track welcomes papers that address these innovation challenges. Topics include, but are not limited to: (i) new transport markets and technologies including ridesharing, car sharing, Mobility as a Service, and, connected/autonomous vehicles; (ii) innovative approaches to the measurement, analysis and evaluation of mobility and accessibility; (iii) public transport planning; (iv) smart cities and digital infrastructure; (v) water sensitive cities; (vi) ethics in new urban infrastructure landscapes; (vii) active transportation in new technology futures; (viii) freight and logistics; (ix) parking management; (x) infrastructure financing and funding; (xi) demand management; and (xii) managing risk and vulnerability in networked infrastructures.

City Social and Housing

Track Chairs: Mariana Atkins and Amity James

Australian cities and regions are home to diverse populations culturally and linguistically, from the first Australians to the most recent migrants. As the Australian population continues to grow and diversify we are challenged with the need to address an increasing array of social and housing issues, whilst ensuring that environmental and social outcomes are not compromised. As neoliberalism continues to roll out/roll back, the responsibility of care is being devolved to the individual and community or contracted out to private providers. Digital and technological change along with socio-political transformations are disrupting the status quo and creating opportunities and challenges for industry and policy. Our cities, therefore, need to respond to these shifting landscapes. The issues for housing and society are varied, such as: housing unaffordability and the pursuit of the rapidly fading dream of home ownership, especially amongst young people; increasing homelessness; shifts in social housing investment; continued urban expansion; and the ageing of the population. This track seeks papers that address (inter alia) the following key issues: (i) housing (un)affordability; (ii) urban sprawl; (iii) homelessness; (iv) growth, change and disruptions to the private rental sector; (v) shifts in social and community housing provision; (vi) new housing design and housing models; (vii) new tenure options; (viii) social/cultural diversity and community cohesion; (ix) social and territorial stigma; (x) residential (im)mobility; and (xi) housing and planning for ageing populations.

Healthy Liveable Cities

Track Chairs: Paula Hooper, Sarah Foster (RMIT/UWA)

Creating healthy, liveable and sustainable cities is a major challenge in the face of Australia’s increasing population growth and urban intensification and planning decisions made today will impact the liveability and health of the communities that inhabit our cities and neighbourhoods we construct for generations to come. This track will bring together health academics from urban planning, geography, sociology and population health along with policymakers and practitioners to explore how health research can be used to disrupt the status quo and provide the evidence needed by policy makers and professionals to ensure we are creating the healthy liveable cities, neighbourhoods and communities of the future. We are seeking a variety of contributions for the health track: not only academic scholarship on the issue, but also contributions focussing on research translation, illustrating engagement and collaboration with industry partners and government departments, and demonstrating the ways in which health evidence has been used to inform policies and practices to create the conditions for healthy, liveable communities.

Key Dates

Abstract Submission Opens:
Now open

Abstract Submission Fully Peer-Reviewed Abstract Closes:
8 March 2019

Abstract Submission Extended Abstract and Presentation Closes:
31 March 2019

PhD/ECR Symposium:
30 Nov – 2 Dec

SOAC Conference:
3 – 5 December

Hosted by

Track Sponsors



Structure (Design/Architecture)

Housing and Social


Movement and Infrastructure

Silver Sponsor

Lanyard & Name Badge Sponsor

ECR Scholarship Sponsor

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