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Arts & Culture

Canberra's (Ful)bright future

What makes Canberra such a liveable, lovable city? Urban planner Dr Sajeda Tuli created a knowledge cities index from 25 Australian cities. The Bush Capital was #3. Now, the 2019 Fulbright Scholar is going to gain knowledge from the US to see how we compare on an international scale.

In 2017, Tuli co-developed the knowledge city index, which ranks 25 Australian cities on different indicators such as knowledge capital and knowledge vulnerability to ‘future proof’ our cities.

“It relates to automation and the changing nature of work, the future of work and how that is affecting our cities—when half of the jobs will be redundant by 2050—how are our cities going to respond to those changes?”

And how does Canberra fare? According to Tuli, Canberra is an exception. It ranks incredibly well and is adaptable to the future.

“If you look at the top five cities, they are the big cities—Sydney was the top and then Melbourne—because, even though Canberra is small, it has a high proportion of knowledgeable, qualified people,” said Tuli.

“People say Canberra is just a public service city, but we found that it has a diverse economy nowadays, with a strong university sector, which ranks it ahead of bigger cities such as Adelaide and Perth.”

When she first arrived in the ACT in 2008 to complete her Masters degree at ANU, Tuli fell in love with Canberra’s planned beauty—Walter Burley Griffin’s man-made lake, green expanse and wide, tree-lined avenues.

“When I came to Canberra, I really loved it because it is a planned city, and I am an urban planner, so I feel like this is a good city for me to study. It is a passion, if you are an urban planner, this city is planned from scratch. It is perfect.”

In June, Tuli will depart for a six-month tenure at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a Fulbright Scholarship, investigating the interactions between knowledge capital and social vulnerability  through a comparative study on the US and Australian cities.

“I thought Fulbright would be a very good opportunity for me to continue my research. The methodology I used for the knowledge city index research is expandable to other cities.”

Tuli’s first experience of the impact of the Fulbright Scholarship occurred in Bangladesh, where she completed her first Urban and Regional Planning degree in 2006.Tuli was looking at how the garment industry affected the livelihood of low-wage workers in Bangladesh, before the building collapse brought international attention and renewed standards.

“I got an opportunity to work with a Fulbright Scholar, Kristin Boekhoff, who came to Bangladesh to work on low costing housing for women working in the garment industry. I personally interviewed 500 garment workers in the slums in Dhaka.”

“At that time, when I worked in Bangladesh, there was no minimum requirement and they made five cents for every garment, so it was very hard for them to access good housing, good health care, and make enough money to support their families. Although things have certainly improved recently.”

Tuli sees the impact of her work on policy changes and social issues, and has a particular interest in migration, having grown up in the small town of Rajbari in Bangladesh. She is focused on the positive effects of migration on cities—particularly in Australia—to show the impact that our cultural melting pot has on making cities grow.

Tuli completed her PhD on Migration and the knowledge city: a study case of Melbourne, Australia last year through the Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra.

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