Close to three in four (72%) Victorians support government diverting a higher portion of road spending towards local walking/cycling infrastructure, while a similar amount (75%) are in favour of a higher portion redirected towards public transport initiatives.
According to Heart Foundation research released today, this Victorian result was significantly higher than the national average, which found two in three (67%) Australians support these measures. In fact, Victoria is the state most in favour of these actions, as COVID lockdown fuelled a focus on local liveability.
The finding is part of “What Australia Wants”, a national survey of 2,895 people that measured community sentiment on what makes a neighbourhood desirable, liveable and healthy.
The survey asked Australians how important it is to live in a neighbourhood that allows them to be active locally. Almost 8 in 10 Australians (77 per cent) said it is “very” or “somewhat” important to them.
Among the states and territories, this sentiment is highest among Victorians, with 81 per cent agreeing that being active locally is “very” or “somewhat” important to them. This was particularly important to lockdown-living Melburnians (84 per cent).
“What Australia Wants” survey – Victorians rated these top 10 neighbourhood features as “somewhat” or “very” important
The survey asked people to rate the importance of 21 neighourhood-design features if they imagined a move to a new location. This revealed Victorians’ top 10 most important neighbourhood attributes to be:
- Convenient access to fresh food (91 per cent)
- A sense of safety (89 per cent)
- Facilities accessible on foot/bicycle (87 per cent v overall nationally 83%)
- Natural elements, such as trees and plants (86 per cent)
- Close to parks/open spaces (83 per cent v overall nationally 80%)
- Easy walking distance to parks/recreation areas (82 per cent v overall nationally 77%)
- Availability of properties with back yards (81 per cent)
- Council providing safe footpaths (81 per cent)
- Suitable for all age groups (80 per cent)
- Walking distance to public transport (80 per cent)
Significantly, Victorians rated being close to amenities and shops, facilities accessible by walking or cycling, proximity to parks and recreation areas and walkable access to public transport higher than any other state or territory.
Of particular note, those in Melbourne rated being close to public open spaces (47 per cent), council providing safe footpaths (47 per cent) and facilities accessibly by walking and cycling (53 per cent) as very important to them.
Heart Foundation CEO Victoria, Kellie-Ann Jolly, said after eight months of lockdown, Victorians feel very strongly that where they live should support them to be active and healthy.
“COVID-19 restrictions forced Melburnians and regional Victorians to take stock of their health, homes and neighbourhoods,” Ms Jolly said.
“Our data suggests that after essentials are covered – like convenient access to fresh foods and a sense of safety – Melburnians place great value on easy, walkable access to local amenities, parks and public open spaces that allow them to be active in their daily lives.
“For many people, COVID-19 threw a spotlight on communities that failed to meet these needs.
“We know the way our neighbourhoods are designed and built is closely connected to how much physical activity we do. Regular exercise and being active is one of the best ways to reduce your risks of heart attack, stroke and other chronic diseases.
“It’s clear Melburnians want to see more compact, mixed-use neighbourhoods that provide opportunities for education, employment, public transport, fresh food outlets and being active.”
Earlier this year, the Heart Foundation congratulated the Victorian State Government on funding three $120,000 grants to implement recommendations from the 20-Minute Neighbourhood pilot program in Strathmore, Sunshine West and Croydon South.
Following implementation of these recommendations, the Heart Foundation has called on government to review its success and roll-out more 20-Minute Neighbourhoods across Melbourne’s suburbs and regional centres in Victoria.
Ms Jolly, said the global pandemic presents a rare opportunity to fast-track healthy living initiatives, like 20-minute neighbourhoods, to get more Victorians moving,
“This investment is a win for healthy hearts as we learn to live COVID-normal lives. From our survey, it’s also encouraging to see people are prepared to back government investment that supports them to be healthy, active and socially connected.
“We all have a role to play; from local councils, planners, government, public health bodies and individuals to ensure equitable access to healthier environments.”
“What Australia Wants” complements other Heart Foundation initiatives promoting healthier built environments, including Healthy Active by Design and the Blueprint for an Active Australia. The Heart Foundation conducted an online survey of 2,895 nationally representative Australian adults between 15 August and 7 September 2020. The survey sample was sourced via the research only panel LightSpeed. Read “What Australia Wants” report here – healthyactivebydesign.com.au/waw