RMIT experts are available for comment on the upcoming 2021-22 State Budget

RMIT experts are available for comment on the upcoming 2021-22 State Budget

Experts from RMIT University are available to talk to media about next week’s State Budget and what should be funded in the arts/culture, transport, liveability, housing and mental health industries.


Meg Elkins (0410 323 057 or

Topics: Arts and cultural sector funding, cultural economics, public policy evaluation

“Cultural participation and being part of communities are pillars of wellbeing so this year’s budget should fund policies to bring back connections and interactions with each other.

“With winter just weeks away, we should keep venues like the NGV and State Library open until 10pm to create novelty and attraction that gets people out of their loungerooms, while generating indirect state income via hospitality, retail and transport.

“Initiatives such as ‘Libraries after Dark’ in the suburbs and regional areas have shown the unmet demand for safe public spaces at night.

“Creating an active and vital cultural creative hub often generates higher levels of innovation and tech growth too.”

Dr Meg Elkins is a senior lecturer in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University and the Behavioural Business Lab. Her research interests include cultural and development economics, wellbeing and public policy evaluation.

Interviews: Dr Meg Elkins 0410 323 057 or



Associate Professor Andrew Butt (0408 369 097 or

Topics: regional planning, regional development

“The State Budget provides an opportunity to address the changing way Victorians live and work, and catch up on regional and local infrastructure challenges.

“Mega-projects, such as the Suburban Rail Loop, Geelong Fast Rail, Melbourne Airport rail and a future Melbourne Metro 2 have city-shaping potential, but direct investment in local transport and infrastructure alternatives must not be overlooked.

“COVID-19 revealed population and job concentration in metropolitan areas is not the only way forward, and that Victorians would and can choose regional towns and cities to call home.

“This requires better support for local infrastructure and housing diversity to create liveable local places, not just dormitory suburbs and towns. 

“Existing state government strategies to create 20-minute neighbourhoods are examples of this, but investment is also needed in community infrastructure and the decentralisation of work, particularly in suburban fringe areas. 

“Opportunities for the decentralisation of work and better transport links (not only through road investment) are evident and now is the time for this investment, especially after the Federal Budget prioritised them.”

Associate Professor Andrew Butt is the Associate Dean of the RMIT Sustainability and Urban Planning program. His research includes investigations of the processes and practice of planning in metropolitan fringe and non-metropolitan settings.

Interviews: Associate Professor Andrew Butt 0408 369 097 or



Associate Professor Melanie Davern (0405 562 735 or

Topics: Health and urban planning, healthy cities, wellbeing, social planning

“We still have a long way to go before we move from COVID-19 recovery into social and economic recovery, but, when we do, liveability should be at the heart of it.

“COVID-19 has made Victorians rethink the liveability of their local area and emphasised the importance of 20-minute neighbourhoods.

“Repeated lockdowns in 2020 connected Victorians to their local area, with more people than ever visiting their local public open spaces, walking to shops and getting on their bikes. 

“Public open spaces need to be planned now for increasing populations and urban densification as our vegetated public and private spaces decline and temperatures increase. 

“Incentives should be provided to get people back onto public transport and increasing support and maintenance of walking and cycling infrastructure. 

“Our neighbourhoods must be liveable places that support the wellbeing of all Victorians, regardless of if they live in inner Melbourne, booming regional towns or outer growth suburbs.”

Dr Melanie Davern is Director of the Australian Urban Observatory in the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University. Davern has specific expertise in indicators and measurement of social, economic, and environmental wellbeing assessing the social determinants of health and translating this research into practice.

Interviews: Associate Professor Melanie Davern 0405 562 735 or



Professor Libby Porter (0487 177859 or

Topics: public housing, urban planning and development, public land use, relationship with First Nations peoples

“The number of households languishing on the waiting list for public and community housing in Victoria has grown from 33,073 in September 2016 to 45,698 last June. 

“This means there are more than 110,000 people - thousands of them children – who need houses now.

“This is unacceptable. Public housing must be an urgent priority in this year’s budget if we are to stop these numbers growing.

“The Victorian Government must directly build and invest in sufficient public housing to reduce the waitlist to zero by 2024.

“We need to abolish the long-standing approach of favouring private housing investors and stop the current policy agenda of whole-of-estate privatisation and redevelopment.

“We must fund an approach that recognises proper wide-scale public investment in public housing as essential social infrastructure.

“We must also mandate an annual budget line for the upkeep, upgrading and maintenance of all public housing to the standards expected of responsible landlords in Victoria.”

Libby Porter is Professor in Sustainability and Urban Planning at RMIT University and a researcher in the Centre for Urban Research. Her work is about displacement and dispossession in cities with a focus on housing and land justice.

Interviews: Professor Libby Porter 0487 177859 or


Dr David Kelly (0401 796 808 or

Topics: homelessness, the relationship between homelessness and social housing

“Most vulnerable Victorians are back on the streets, even if hotels provided relief during lockdown.

“To effectively address homelessness, we need a government-led, big public housing build on public land to increase supply in metropolitan and rural areas where it’s needed.

“We should also fund and adopt recommendations from the recent parliamentary inquiry into homelessness, including:

  • recognising community housing providers as public authorities 

  • amending the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act to consider whether eviction decisions for tenants in social housing comply with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 

  • incorporating the right to housing in the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 

  • legislating mandatory inclusionary zoning to ensure local government areas and developers commit to a percentage of new developments that are dedicated to social housing – ideally no less than 20% in urban areas.”

Dr David Kelly is a human geographer at the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University. His research attends to social policy in relation to remote Aboriginal housing, social housing, urban renewal, and the homelessness service system.

Interviews: Dr David Kelly 0401 796 808 or



Professor Katherine Johnson (0497 521 975 or

Topics: community psychology, mental health, LGBTQ+ lives, suicide prevention

“The impact of COVID-19 has reinforced existing inequalities experienced by many women, children and youth, migrant, LGBTQIA and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

“The State Budget should focus on addressing these inequalities through increased funding to community services that often step in to fill the gap.

“But, if we are to see real improvement in the quality of mental health services, we need to fund research to show what interventions work, when and why.

“Prevention and early intervention support for vulnerable groups is critical.

“We know that mental health issues start early in life and disproportionately impact those who grow up in high-risk environments.

“Interventions need to start early, involve schools, youth groups, community programs and health services, and they need to work within trauma-informed and culturally-appropriate approaches.

“The government should also champion alternative models of mental health support. For example, the social prescribing of community-designed, peer-led and participation-focused youth and adult support groups to build connections and resilience and reduce isolation through engagement in community spaces and parks.”

Professor Katherine Johnson is Associate Dean, Research, and Innovation for the RMIT School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. She is an established international researcher in the field of community psychology, psychosocial and sexuality studies, with a primary contribution to LGBTQ+ suicide prevention, transgender health, and early mental health interventions for LGBTQ+ youth.

Interviews: Professor Katherine Johnson 0497 521 975 or


For general media enquiries, please contact RMIT: 0439 704 077 or


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