Suzanne Barker is a town planner and urban designer who has held senior positions in both government and the private sector for over ten years. She is a sessional member for Planning Panels Victoria, and a strategic planning project manager at Colac Otway Shire. Suzanne holds Masters degrees in planning, landscape architecture, and urban design and Honours degrees in psychology and German studies. Suzanne is currently studying for a PhD at BehaviourWorks Australia, Monash Sustainability Institute.
As part of an attempt to transform Australian cities to become more sustainable and walkable, urban infill (or increasing dwelling densities in established urban areas) has been a long-held policy by state and local governments across the country. This policy direction has often resulted in conflict with local communities opposed to changes in character to their local areas. Local governments in particular are increasingly committing more resources to community engagement processes in recognition that statutory driven community consultation processes are proving inadquate to manage emotive and conflict-filled situations with communities. Similarly, more conventional community engagement practices are not furthering deliberative democratic goals, which are gaining importance in many council plans. Many of these usual consultation practices are based on assumptions about human behaviour that do not always align with contemporary behaviour change research and evidence.
The application of the behavioural sciences - dealing for example with heuristics, place attachment and persuasion - may assist in designing community and stakeholder engagement processes that consider known behavioural influences. This research is drawing on the behavioural sciences and examining ways that they could be used to improve the effectiveness of community engagement practice and potentially increase constructive community participation in strategic landuse planning processes.