My Liveability Index – Australia vs the world

I like to take a helicopter view. A wider lens often shows the truer picture.

I find myself taking this stance more often – actually saying something like, “let’s take a step back for a second & take in the broader view” – the older I get.

And the Monocle Magazine has done just that.

Monocle has just issued its eighth annual Quality of Life Survey of the top 25 cities in the world.World

And as our Missive title suggests, three Australian cities have made the cut.

Firstly, Monocle is well worth a read. The July/August issue is their 75th. Go to to find out more.

Their app is also worth downloading – fantastic podcasts about urban issues, among other things.


According to Monocle the best cities in the world fall in this order:

Hong Kong
Portland, Oregon

The Monocle survey seeks to measure the quality of cities in terms of the intangibles that light up their communities, as well as the infrastructure that supports them.

Important criteria include safety/crime; climate, medical care, public transport, tolerance, urban design, architecture, government policy, business conditions, and access to nature.

What they think about us

Melbourne.  This year it is ranked 3rd; last year 2nd. Melbourne has proved, says Monocle, that coffee and cricket aren’t the only things it does well. Public transport upgrades, low crime, plus a compelling new weekend paper help to explain why the city has retained its top three ranking.

Melbourne’s cultural credentials are second to none – and the success of ‘Melbourne Now” – the largest exhibition in the history of the National Gallery of Victoria, has cemented the city as an art capital.

And it is home to a number of brands that have made Melbourne their first port of call in Australia. As Monocle concludes…Sydney may have the Harbour Bridge, but it still doesn’t have a Muji.

Sydney. This year it ranked 11th; last year 9th. Let’s face it, for many, Sydney is Australia. It is the world’s most popular destination for international students.

Monocle calls it Australia’s face to the world – pretty, and architecturally outstanding, with breakthroughs like the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club and One Central Park.

Downfall – public transport servicing Sydney’s suburbs.  Upside around the harbour – the $2 billion in planned infrastructure spending and ambitious vertical garden strategy that has already yielded 96,000 sq m of greenery.  

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Brisbane.  This year it ranked 25th; last year, not ranked. Here’s what Monocle has to say about the Sunshine City:

This year, Australia’s third-largest city steps out from behind the shadows of Melbourne and Sydney and into the spotlight, playing host to the G20 Leaders Summit.

Delegates will find a sun-drenched destination with a flourishing start-up scene; fine subtropical climate; and leafy parks which boast 906 council-operated barbeques.

The good stuff:  low cost of living compared to other Australian cities; a spacious inner city, which leads to an ease of doing business; an encouraging business environment; interesting cafes and thriving restaurants.

Downfall – Brisbane’s violent binge-drinking culture and the strict policing that comes with it.

What would Monocle fix?

Melbourne: the state premier’s promise of a rail link to the airport should come sooner rather than later.

Sydney: pick up the pace on the long-awaited second airport.

Brisbane: create a livelier city centre similar to Melbourne, as it is pretty unexciting outside of business hours.

More on Brisbane

Tolerance – around half of those Brisbane residents recently surveyed admitted to being anti-Muslim; while a quarter had anti-Aboriginal concerns. Yet, the city is hugely multicultural, with a third Brisbane residents having been born overseas.

Public transport – an efficient network, but expensive.

Libertarian paradise or stickler for rules?  Bit of a stickler, reports Monocle.

So what do others think?

Auspoll in Australia has also developed a subjective measure of city liveability for its MY City survey conducted for the Property Council of Australia last year.

A sample of residents from 11 different cities are surveyed on 17 attributes about liveability in their cities and their responses are combined into an overall liveability score.

My City Liveability Index

The latest My City study results are charted below.
Adelaide has consistently been rated the most liveable city, closely followed by Canberra.

Both Hobart & Newcastle ranked higher in 2012 than 2011 (3rd and 4th place), while Perth & Melbourne fell slightly in the rankings. Sydney & Darwin were ranked as the least liveable cities.

Brisbane falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.

The most important of the 17 attributes that make up the liveability index were:

  • safety – a safe place for people & their property
  • cost of living – affordable for a good standard of living
  • health – good health care services
  • employment – good employment & economic opportunities
  • quality of the environment – clean city, well maintained & unpolluted 

What do we think?

Well firstly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What looks crappy to some is fantastic to others.

I have just been to several of the cities that the My City survey suggests are Australia’s most liveable & well, let me say…I don’t get it.

But we agree with the My City results in that safety; cost of living; health; employment & quality of the environment are the most important aspects behind an area’s liveability. And I dare say, a property market’s overall performance.

Too much commentary – and we are very guilty of this too – is about economic things, new infrastructure & the hard elements like transport systems. It is very often the soft stuff that matters the most.

Also, it interesting to see how others have pigeon-holed us.

When it comes to Monocle & Brisbane, we don’t disagree – and particularly in view of the need to attract residents to the plethora of inner city apartment towers slated for Brisbane.

While there is a trend both in Australia and overseas to accept less private dwelling space in order live in a better location or place, the higher the density, the better the local amenity needs to be.

Or, as I often say – “density needs to be offset”.

The concept of trading “space for place” is incumbent upon an area being attractive and with a high degree of amenity and lifestyle offerings.

It is what Brisbane needs more of, and it’s a concept upon which our decision-makers and planners should focus.


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Michael Matusik


Michael is director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights. He is independent, perceptive and to the point; has helped over 550 new residential developments come to fruition and writes his insightful Matusik Missive

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