Conference paper
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The Melbourne Principles for Sustainable Cities – developed through the United Nations Environment Programme and adopted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg – are presented as providing the holistic framework required for setting urban sustainability goals and attracting the participation and commitment of key stakeholders to achieve them. Because of the multitude of ‘actors’ and the inherent complexity in the structure, processes and interactions in a city, we can expect myriad pathways. Aiming for efficiency (i.e. shortest path and best use of limited time and resources) and effectiveness (i.e. sustained change over time), this paper proposes a ‘tipping point’ approach. Key conditions that lead to tipping point are discussed with examples from various fields and as related to urban sustainability transitions. Combining the concept of leverage points, soft system methodology and complex systems modelling, it will be possible to understand transformation drivers, investigate transition pathways and identify tipping point conditions for urban sustainability. Our cities are already in a state of overshoot; time is the ultimate nonrenewable resource. A tipping point approach that has the capacity to facilitate rapid rates of transformation is required.


The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.

This paper was presented at SOAC 3 held in Adelaide from 28 to 30 November 2007.

SOAC 3 was jointly hosted by the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

Themes and Key Persons

SOAC 3 focused on the contemporary form and structure of Australian cities.
The conference proceedings were grouped into six key sub-themes, each the focus of one of more conference sessions:

City Economy - economic change and labour market outcomes of globalisation, land use pressures, changing employment locations.

Social City – including population, migration, immigration, polarisation, equity and disadvantage, housing issues, recreation.

City Environment - sustainable development, management and performance, natural resource management, limits to growth, impacts of air, water, climate, energy consumption, natural resource uses, conservation, green space.

City Structures – the emerging morphology of the city – inner suburbs, middle suburbs, the CBD, outer suburbs and the urban-rural fringe, the city region.

City Governance – including taxation, provision of urban services, public policy formation, planning, urban government, citizenship and the democratic process.

City Infrastructure – transport, mobility, accessibility, communications and IT, and other urban infrastructure provision.

Paper Review Process

Conference papers published from SOAC 3 were produced through a process of integrated peer review.

There were originally 147 abstracts proposed, 143 were invited to submit papers and 107 papers were finally published.

Publication Details
Peer Reviewed: