Why we need to make liveability a conversation, not a destination

For those who work in infrastructure project delivery, it’s refreshing to see liveability becoming more central to our industry’s discourse on project objectives and benefits.

But what is liveability? And how do we incorporate it into the investments we make in rail lines and roads? Parks and stadiums?

Cambridge Dictionary provides the following definition for liveability: ‘The degree to which a place is suitable or good for living in.’

It’s an objective explanation for a term that is inherently subjective – at least once you get past the universally agreed must haves of shelter and sanitation.

At RPS, we work with clients all over the world to shape the best possible outcomes for infrastructure projects and the communities they serve. We know that getting infrastructure right means striking a balance between lots of factors. Projects are not developed in a vacuum.

As liveability becomes more central to our conversations about infrastructure, we need to embrace something that perhaps does not come naturally to our sector – subjectivity. To ‘achieve’ liveability outcomes through projects we must explore what liveability actually means to people.

It’s a topic that I will be exploring at this week's IAQ Infrastructure Assembly event in a session called ‘Liveability for all Queenslanders’. The key question my fellow panellists and I will be asking audience participants: What does liveability mean to you, personally?

In the preparing for the session, I took some time out to not only think about this myself, but to ask a few of my fellow colleagues.

Here are some of the answers...


Anna Mitchell

"Liveability means people have quality environments which are safe, promote health and wellbeing, are sustainable and add value to individuals and communities. People feel like they can thrive while there is also economic prosperity."

National Lead, Strategy and Transformation, Brisbane

Anna Mitchell, Director - Strategy and Investment, Brisbane, Australia

Trudie Parsons

"Liveability means enriching our quality of life through connection, diversity, health, safety and sustainability."

Team Lead – Communications and Engagement, Brisbane



Trudie Parsons, Team Lead – Communications and Engagement, Brisbane QLD Australia

Gary Cox

"Liveability means being part of a healthy environment and an inclusive community that provides opportunities for people to flourish and grow."

Executive Advisor - Social Advisory and Research, Sydney


Gary Cox, Executive Advisor

Penny Cooper

"For me liveability provides for a range of factors that make life easy and enjoyable. This includes access to good public transport, local open spaces, a vibrant local restaurant/café scene, a variety of education and health services and work opportunities. A strong sense of community is also important as is a range of housing types."

Strategy Lead - Great Places & Spaces, Brisbane 

Penny Cooper

And for me...

"Liveability is about having a choice and a sense of belonging. This could be as fundamental as being able to vote. To the quality of housing, I can afford. To how I contribute to my local community. Liveability is fundamental to my wellbeing and quality of life."

National Lead - Social Advisory and Research, Sydney

Vanessa Pilla, National Lead - Social Advisory, Sydney NSW Australia

There are common themes that run through our answers. But there are differences, too. And we’re hardly a representative sample. We’re all consultants who work in the infrastructure and development space. And we likely share similar views and experiences gained through that work.

For a single parent living in a small apartment, the true meaning of liveability might be a great park just down the street where they can take the kids after school. For an older person, liveability might be a reliable bus service to get to the local shops and the comfort of knowing that there’s a big base hospital nearby.

Liveability is all of these things. And as we add to and improve upon it, people’s perspectives of what it looks like moving forward will change as well.

It’s in this subjectivity that we can make a difference and pursue positive change. We just need to commit to asking the questions, and making liveability about conversation, not a single track journey towards an ‘end of the line’ destination.  


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