Let's Build a City You'll Want to Live In at CatalystWest

By Dr Andy Marks

In the late 1970s, Australian superstars, the Bee Gees made “stayin’ alive” cool. They also made it okay for blokes to use a hairdryer. That’s another story.

Flash forward 40 years and “stayin’ alive” is back; not on the disco floor, but the floor of parliament. “Liveability” has become the buzz word our politicians and planners use to describe a policy nirvana.

Liveable cities, we are told, are cities where a resident can live, work and play all within a thirty-minute radius. Liveability, the “experts” say, is when communities are active, healthy and creative. It is also the goal of a $170 million fund established under the Western Sydney City Deal.

But what is liveability? And does it actually make people’s lives better?

That’s a question that will be answered at the CatalystWest forum, 7 November.

Now in its second year, CatalystWest will see 350 people come together at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta CBD campus to take charge of their region’s destiny and come up with solutions to the West’s biggest challenges.

Join us

Last year, with a line-up of provocative speakers, innovative hacks and interactive displays, CatalystWest sold-out weeks ahead of the event. This year will be even bigger. Don’t miss out! Act fast to secure your spot.

Tickets $235 for corporates, government, industry and individuals. As per last year’s event, look out for a number of free and concessional tickets for students and community non-profits.

With the support of partners like The Daily Telegraph, KPMG, Landcom, South Western Local Health District, Campbelltown City Council, and the University of Wollongong, participants in CatalystWest will engage issues like urban heat build-up.

Nowhere is population and housing growth occurring at the rates we’re seeing across Western Sydney. A truly liveable approach to development would be one that uses design technology to reduce heat traps. 

This is a vitally important task. Take, for example, research indicating that plastic toys and playground equipment in direct sun can reach temperatures over 73 degrees Celsius. Our schools, childcare centres, sports and community clubs all contend with this issue, especially in the West where temperatures are regularly 3–5 degrees higher than Sydney’s coast.

What about our elderly? Those with limited mobility were among the most vulnerable to heat stress during last year’s heatwave – often unable to seek shade or the local pool, and equally unable to afford turning on the air conditioner.

Technology alone can’t solve these issues. All the talk of ‘smart’ and connected cities means nothing people aren’t able to access that technology. Think of people with poor educational outcomes, people unable to afford digital devices and those with low levels of digital literacy. A ‘liveable’ city wouldn’t leave them behind.

What do we do also to ensure people feel included? Can a city in which 80 per cent of women report harassment on a night out really be described as liveable, as inclusive and open? That is the reality in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. The challenge at CatalystWest will be to give meaning to the term liveability. If, together, we can achieve that, then Western Sydney’s cities will be world leading. 

Engaging these issues is not a simple task. But we can’t wait for Government to do it for us. With the help of initiatives like the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Fair go for the West’ and ‘Project Sydney’ campaigns, this region is no longer viewed as second best. Now it’s time to show it can be the best.

Western Sydney doesn’t need saving. But it does need your voice, your ideas and your commitment. That starts at CatalystWest 2019

If you'd like to be part of shaping our city, join us at our CatalystWest forum on 7 November.

Dr Andy Marks is assistant vice-chancellor at Western Sydney University
Twitter: @DrAndyMarks