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Australian governments have linked programs and strategies addressing cities and urban issues to economic productivity and population policy. Over time, the focus of federal and state governments on cities and urban policies has been sporadic, and agendas have shifted considerably. Without any sustained policy development or implementation it is unclear what constitutes ‘cities’ policy in Australia.
This paper examines strategic policy documents relevant to cities policy in Australia from federal and state departments. It also presents a review of cities policy from 1991 onwards. The study is based on a content analysis of relevant policies providing a preliminary insight into what currently falls within the remit of ‘cities’ policy in Australia, the eight themes identified include: economy, community and population, environment, housing, infrastructure and transport, place, urban development and planning, and land supply and use.
Findings show the approaches of state and federal governments are inconsistent; themes and objectives are continuously revised, discontinued and disrupted. Interventions in cities are foremost fixed-term strategic projects drawing on intergovernmental agreements. These strategies are rarely underpinned by a clear consensus on the scope and objectives of cities policy. As Australia becomes increasingly urbanised and its major cities grow rapidly there is a pressing need to clarify the parameters and objectives of cities policies in Australia. Based on the analysis of strategic planning and federal government policy documents, the paper conceptualises the over-arching themes of cities and urban policies in Australia.