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Community Connections

What is a ‘good life’ in Canberra?

UC Associate Professor Dr Jacki Schirmer is asking the Canberra community how we can maintain a high quality of life in a changing ACT.

Like many parts of Australia, Canberra is growing and changing rapidly, and is expected to experience increased heatwaves, extreme weather events and droughts due to the effects of climate change.

Canberra is also known for its high quality of life, regularly appearing at or near the top of lists of the most liveable cities in Australia and internationally.

Maintaining a high quality of life in a changing future will be challenging in the ACT, as it will be around the world.

Associate Professor Dr Jacki Schirmer examines the wellbeing of communities through a range of projects, and leads the annual Regional Wellbeing Survey, which examines quality of life in communities across Australia.

Most recently, Jacki led a study funded by the ACT Government, examining how resilient Canberra residents are to climate change. The study found that one in three Canberrans will have significant difficulty coping with expected effects of climate change such as increasing heatwaves, droughts and extreme weather events.

In particular, many younger residents in Canberra were found to be highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, often living in homes that heat up fast and cool down slowly in heatwaves, and having little insurance for damage from storms or other extreme weather events.

The report also identified that most Canberrans are worried about climate change, but don’t feel confident they will be able to adapt to it.

This highlights the importance of identifying how best to support the wellbeing of people in the ACT as part of maintaining our status as one of the most liveable cities in the world.

Maintaining wellbeing, Jacki points out, is about much more than maintaining jobs, although the health of the local economy is a critical component of quality of life in the ACT. It is also about the liveability of a community, including how friendly it is, how easy it is to exercise and participate in recreational activities, the quality of public spaces and availability of services, amongst many other factors.

Jacki is a member of a group of researchers who are examining this critical question of what is important to ‘the good life’ in the ACT. The group formed in response to the announcement in January this year that the ACT Government plans to introduce a wellbeing index for Canberra, which will go beyond economics data to examine the many different factors that determine quality of life in the ACT.

The group of researchers from UC and the ANU are asking Canberra residents what they think is important to their wellbeing and quality of life in the ACT.

From 28 March to 18 April, people who live and work in Canberra can have their say by going to and completing a short survey.

The findings will be published in a public report later this year together with recommendations from an expert workshop drawing together experts and public servants to discuss how the government can best measure what is a ‘good life’ in the ACT.

Jacki will also be one of three UC experts speaking about the evolution of Canberra at the launch of the University’s new public online platform, UnCover. All are welcome to this event.

Event: Public launch of UnCover 

Topic: The Evolution of Canberra: Blessing or Curse?

Date: Thursday 28 March, 6.30 p.m.

Venue: The Loft at the Duxton

Admission is free.

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