Festival of ‘Future’ Urbanism

City Road is revisiting a number of panel discussions from the 2022 Festival of Urbanism.

The annual Festival of Urbanism is a series of conversations where researchers, practitioners, community advocates and industry leaders come together to debate the threats and opportunities facing our cities.

Cities and regions are at a precipice – from the climate crisis to rising social inequality and the ongoing global pandemic – the future has never seemed more uncertain. Unsustainable patterns of land and resource-use persist despite extraordinary technological advances over the past century. The pervasive rise of digital platforms has disrupted every facet of society from how we work, travel, shop and socialise to our experiences of home. Urban planning, as a future-oriented discipline, has often embraced new technological solutions at the expense of meaningful community engagement or systemic change. Yet the promise of the so called ‘smart city’, while often unrealised, brings with it a space to explore alternatives, and opportunities for more socially just and environmentally resilient places.

In this context, the 9th Festival of Urbanism asks how our future cities and regions will change, and what interventions are needed to address the mistakes of the past. From reinstating the voices of First Nations’ communities, to transitioning to zero carbon models of development and ensuring affordable homes for the many rather than rising housing wealth for the few, this year’s Festival of Urbanism engages with a wide range of topics through a combination of live and online events, podcasts and films. With diverse speakers and thought leaders from academia, industry, policy and advocacy communities, discussions at the 2022 Festival of Future Urbanism promise to inform, challenge and inspire. Join us to debate and define opportunities to bring about better urban and regional futures.

Saving Sydney: Ideas for the future metropolis

In this event inspired by Elizabeth Farrelly’s acclaimed book ‘Killing Sydney’ (Picador, 2021), we challenged creative thinkers, activists, and scholars from a range of disciplines to share their top-of-the-list solutions. Convened by prominent columnist, architectural critic and author Dr Farrelly, we invite you to join this frank and fearless conversation about Sydney’s future.

Has Sydney reached her tipping point? Following a series of existential threats – from the devasting summer 2020 fires and smog which enveloped the metropolis and surrounds to the urban exodus sparked by two years of global pandemic, from “faulty towers” to ongoing concerns about unbridled development – we must now ask: is it still possible to save the Sydney we love from rampant gentrification, environmental degradation, and climate catastrophe?


Michael Rodrigues, Investment NSW  

Kerri Glasscock, Sydney Fringe Festival  

Prof Chris Gibson, University of Wollongong 

Dr Lyndal Hugo, Urban food entrepreneur  

Prof Philip Thalis, Architect   

Prof Michelle Leishman, Macquarie University  

Dr Elizabeth Farrelly, Writer and Journalist 

Australia’s future housing system: Renovate or detonate?

Australia’s housing system is in crisis, and recent policy interventions have ranged from ineffective to counterproductive. From the deepening divide between home owners and renters, to unsustainable patterns of residential development and escalating climate risk – Australia’s housing policy framework needs an urgent reset. With new national and state housing initiatives on the table, this panel will debate whether it is possible to ‘renovate’ Australia’s housing system or whether radical change is needed to bring about a more inclusive and sustainable future.


Jenny Leong, Greens Member, NSW Parliament 

Rebecca Pinkstone, Bridge Housing 

Leo Patterson Ross, NSW Tenants Union  

Carrie Hamilton, Housing Action Network  

John Engeler, Shelter NSW 

Ben Spies-Butcher, Macquarie University  

Chaired by

Nicole Gurran, Professor, Urban and Regional Planning, Director Henry Halloran Research Trust, the University of Sydney

Reimagining Regional Growth

Fifty years after former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s short-lived attempts to foster decentralisation, this event, held in Albury, one of Whitlam’s flagship National Growth Centres, examines the prospects for future growth in regional Australia. With a diverse panel of regional leaders and experts, the discussion will canvas opportunities and risks confronting communities beyond the major cities and the priorities for contemporary government intervention.

For the first time in four decades, Australia’s largest cities – Sydney and Melbourne – witnessed population loss last year, while many regional areas have experienced an influx of new residents. Some analysts view this shift as a temporary, pandemic driven phenomenon which has only exacerbated the regional housing crisis, but others see rich and dynamic opportunities for sustainable growth beyond metropolitan Australia. Fifty years after former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s short-lived attempts to foster decentralisation, this event, held in Albury, one of Whitlam’s flagship National Growth Centres, examines the prospects for future growth in regional Australia. With a diverse panel of regional leaders and experts, the discussion will canvas opportunities and risks confronting communities beyond the major cities and the priorities for contemporary government intervention. 

 The Henry Halloran Research Trust would like to acknowledge the support of the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) in hosting this panel event.  


Aunty Edna Stewart, Wiradjuri Elder   

Andrew Boyd Barber, Urban Planner 

Dr Julie Rudner, La Trobe University 

Keynote address

Nicole Gurran, Professor, Urban and Regional Planning, Director Henry Halloran Research Trust, the University of Sydney

Chaired by

Michael Keys, Regional Growth NSW Development Corporation

Decarbonising the City

Many of the built environment’s peak industry associations recognise the need for rapid decarbonisation and have publicly stated their commitment. But what does it mean in reality? What are the barriers that we need to urgently address? How do we support innovation and accommodate rapid technological advances through our planning system? What opportunities should we leverage now and what preparation do we need for future changes? This Panel will focus on the practicalities and challenges facing those working towards zero carbon outcomes through the planning system, and the opportunities they see to advance this ambition.

This event has been co-organised with the Planning Institute of Australia


Peter Murrell, Senior Sustainability Advisor, Infrastructure, Strategy & Planning, VPA

Euan Williamson, Environmentally Sustainable Development Advisor, City of Yarra

Natasha Palich, Executive Officer, Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (MAV)

Ellen Witte, Principal & Partner SGS Economics and Planning


Jane Keddie, Director Hansen Partnership & Vice-President PIA Victoria.
Co-organised with the Planning Institute of Australia

Platform urbanism? From ‘smart’ to autonomous city futures

Cities and regions across the world have experienced profound disruption from the rise of digital platforms across all areas of urban life. From housing, to transport, shopping, and the way we work, global firms such as ‘Airbnb’ and ‘Uber’ typically evade local (place based) policy and regulatory settings. However, their impacts have large socio-spatial footprints which need to be understood and factored into future urban policy and planning. Understood within the wider prism of technological innovation and emerging forms of digital automation across the urban sector, this session engages critically with notions of the ‘smart city’. Will the future city be dictated by ‘techno-capitalist’ firms or are ‘smart’ and socially accountable forms of urban governance still possible?


Dr Niels Van Doorn, Amsterdam University

Dr Sarah Barns, Urban Strategist & Researcher

Dr Justine Humphry, University of Sydney

Rory Brown, Smart Places at Transport for NSW

Chaired by

Dr Sophia Maalsen, University of Sydney

Food Futures in Urban Places: Solidarity, Circularity and Transition


Climate-change threatens peri-urban agriculture and food security. This session explores innovative social practices that secure food futures: in Sydney an evolving system connecting urban organic waste to peri-urban agriculture, and in Bologna Italy cooperatives in emerging food solidarity economies. Each case demonstrates how trusting relationships ensure local food futures in urban places.


Dr Abby Mellick Lopes, University of Technology Sydney 

Gabriele Morelli, University of Milan-Bicocca 

Dr Michelle Zeibots, University of Technology Sydney  

Dr Stephen Healy, Western Sydney University

Chaired by

Dr Adrienne Keane, University of Sydney

Future Infrastructure: Innovation, Governance and Sustainable Transitions

Despite existing technological capabilities, deeply entrenched barriers to sustainable and equitable transitions often fall to questions of urban governance.


Associate Professor Tooran Alizadeh

Haruka Miki-Imoto, Operations Officer for the World Bank in Japan

Professor Tim Bunnell from the National University of Singapore

James O’Keefe, the Director of the Roads to Home Program in the NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Dr Aidan While, University of Sheffield, Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield.

Future Transport: How autonomous vehicles and smart mobility will transform Australian cities



From horse-drawn carriages to automobiles and mass transit, new transport technologies have historically transformed and disrupted cities. Today, autonomous vehicles and other forms of smart transport technology are predicted to remake transport networks and contribute to a new round of urban expansion. Are Australian cities preparing for a driverless future? This session explores how autonomous vehicles may impact Australian cities and how governments are preparing to address the potential challenges and opportunities.

Dr Allison Stewart is the Deputy CEO of Infrastructure Victoria (IV). She is a mega-project leader and strategist and led IV’s automated and zero emission vehicle infrastructure research.

Mr Damon Rao is a Senior Transport Planner in the City of Melbourne. He has been leading the City’s e-scooter pilot program.

Prof Graham Currie is a renowned international public transport research leader and policy advisor. He is researching the long-term impacts of autonomous vehicles on cities.

Dr Crystal Legacy is an Associate Professor in Urban Planning at the University of Melbourne. She has researched widely on the governance of disruptive transport technologies.

Dr Liton Kamruzzaman is an Associate Professor in Urban Planning and Design at Monash University. His research focuses on the nexus of transport and land use planning.

The annual Festival of Urbanism is an initiative of the University of Sydney’s Henry Halloran Research Trust and is hosted in partnership with Monash University.

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