AURIN Investment for Impact: The Park Life Project

AURIN has funded new critical eInfrastructure for open space research, generating new, nationally consistent, data and improving existing analysis and visualisation tools. This will enable Australia’s research community to address complex urban and regional planning issues in Australia and find solutions that create positive impacts for our towns, cities and communities.

Public open spaces are vital for Australian communities. Research shows that living near a public open space increases wellbeing and mental health, improves air quality and biodiversity, and benefits the economy by creating property uplift.  With high levels of population growth in urban areas, researchers and decision-makers are in critical need of a high-quality national-scale open space dataset.

While several publicly available open and green space datasets exist, these differ in scale definitions, resulting in a difficult-to-use, piecemeal representation that cannot be suitably analysed. Additionally, current planning standards in Australia, lack of knowledge of urban residents’ preferences for, and use of, parks and few research studies exploring the benefits of parks identify the spaces respondents actually use.

Through our High Impact Projects program, AURIN is partnering with the Australian Urban Design Research Centre (AUDRC) at the University of Western Australia to develop a new high-quality, nationally standardised dataset of public open space. Led by Dr Paula Hooper, the team at AUDRC will work with key stakeholders in the research community to curate the national dataset and conduct a national survey of park use.

“The high impact project grant from AURIN has provided us a unique opportunity to undertake this nationally important work and develop an open, high quality and much needed nationally consistent spatial dataset of parks and public open spaces across Australia. The funds will also allow us to deploy our Park Life survey to conduct a first of its kind national investigation into community use of parks and public open spaces.

The results of the Park Life Project will improve our understanding of the role of parks in urban areas and provide important data on community preferences and health impacts to consider when developing future open space policies in order to optimally plan for resilient and healthy places and spaces that also meet community needs. This had the potential to impact real on-ground outcomes that will positively impact communities across Australia”.

Dr. Paula Hooper, AURDC


The term “public open space” encompasses a variety of different outdoor spaces (land areas) within the urban environment that have been reserved and designated as readily and freely accessible for community use.

The focus of this project is on the provision and use of green public open spaces defined as: all areas of green publicly accessible open spaces designed for, or able to cater for, a range of active and passive leisure or recreational activities. These spaces included parks, reserves, landscaped, ornamental, and manicured gardens, as well as publicly accessible (i.e. free-to-use) recreation spaces, playing fields, ovals, and sports surfaces.

The open space data collated through the Park Life project will be available to researchers through the AURIN API and Map. Access via the AURIN Map is also available to the general public, allowing citizen scientists to view and download aggregated data alongside a suite of other national demographic and indicator data across many domains.


The AUDRC team will also further develop their existing Public Open Space (POS) Tool. Currently, this tool can help with planning decisions through the assessment and visualisation of the spatial distribution of public open space (including parks, nature and bushland) across the Perth and Peel Metropolitan Regions and provides the capabilities to analyse summary data on public open space provision, park amenity, park catchment and assess gaps in current provision.  Researchers can analyse POS within an area of interest and “scenario test” future needs against population growth.

Through this collaboration with AURIN, the team will develop this tool for integration within AURIN’s eInfrastructure, which provides a suite of planning support and data summary and processing tools for researchers, policymakers and planners. This will allow researchers to easily assess and analyse public open space data alongside other datasets such as the ABS Census or their own data.

Through access to this enhanced data and POS analysis tool, researchers are empowered to work across disciplines and help solve the great challenges faced by our growing urban and regional areas.

Positive Places – the POS Tool from the Centre for the Built Environment and Health, University of Western Australia, funded by the Australian National Data Service.

This project builds on the work that AURIN began with the National Open Space Working Group (NOSWG) that was formed to develop a consistent data model for the capture and communication of open spaces. This allows researchers to leverage new conceptual and linked data techniques to deliver meaningful, ongoing results. The NOSWG consists of members from across research, practice and government, Dr Hooper is a member of this group.


The Park Life Project is funded through the AURIN High Impact Projects (HIP) program.  Through the HIP program, AURIN engages with Australian urban, regional, and social planning communities, including researchers, planners and policymakers from academic, government, NGO/NFP, and private sector organisations, through collaboration and co-investment in high-quality, high-priority, high impact projects.

The Park Life project will deliver new datasets, tools, services, and methodologies and demonstrate the value and potential of its use within the existing AURIN Platform. Through this, we can improve our understanding of how open space is allocated by our planning processes and used by our citizens.