Urban resilience for local government

Transport on Swanston Street, Melbourne


Melanie Lowe, Sarah Bell, Jessie Briggs, Elissa McMillan, Merrick Morley, Maree Grenfell, David Sweeting, Alison Whitten and Nikki Jordan.

Published November, 2021.

Executive Summary

Urban resilience has emerged and rapidly developed as a concept to assist cities to respond to acute shocks and chronic stresses. This briefing paper, which accompanies a more detailed Issues Paper, provides an overview of the main concepts, definitions and qualities of resilience. We developed an urban resilience framework, based on the literature and researcher-practitioner workshops. The framework was designed for application by local governments in Australia, but may be relevant to other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally. Resilience focuses on system characteristics and processes, to ensure that cities can respond to growing ecological, economic and social uncertainty and change. Resilience thinking enables us to learn from past experiences as well as prepare for known and unknown future risks.

Key findings

  • Urban resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to adapt, survive and thrive no matter what kind of chronic stresses and acute shocks we experience, and to positively transform as a result.
  • Resilient urban systems have 10 core qualities: prepared, robust, spare capacity, diverse, reflective, integrated, inclusive, flexible, future-focused, and innovative.
  • Sustainable development provides a purpose for resilience, seeking thriving, equitable and ecologically robust urban outcomes.
  • A framework for urban resilience consisting of the definition, characteristics and qualities provides the basis for implementing resilience across local government policy and operations, and in partnership with communities and stakeholders.

Download the Briefing Paper

This Briefing Paper, and the accompanying Issues Paper, are outputs of the City of Melbourne
Chair in Urban Resilience and Innovation, which is an ongoing research partnership between
The University of Melbourne and the City of Melbourne.