ACCESS Seminar: COVID (Sub)Urbanisms and Regionalisms


Associate Professor Paul Maginn, University of Western Australia


The COVID-19 global pandemic has disrupted the normative socio-spatial structure and (sub)urban ways of living and working within Australia's major metropolitan regions. Much of the academic (and media) focus on the impacts of COVID-19 has been captured by "methodological cityism". That is, the analytical gaze has tended to focus more on the impacts and future role of the CBD. This is not surprising given the historical and contemporaneous significance of the CBD as the apex activity centre within the constellation of activity centres – capital city; strategic metropolitan, secondary, district, and neighbourhood – that characterise Australia metropolitan regions. The need to socially distance combined with government, corporate and organisational mandates that people work from home (WFH), study from home (SFH) and safeguard at home (SAH) have given rise to a spatial paradox wherein the CBD has become a peripheral space, and suburbia has become a peripheral centrality. This presentation ponders this socio-spatial re-ordering by providing an analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 on visitors trends to (i) retail/recreation; (ii) transit stations; and (iii) workplaces, plus (iv) time spent in residential spaces at the local government area level for metropolitan Australia – Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane – and major regional centres within WA, SA, Victoria, NSW and Queensland. The analysis provides insights at a range of temporal scales – yearly, quarterly, monthly and daily. Furthermore, consideration is also given to the relationship between COVID-19 cases and, population density and socio-economic (dis)advantage at the LGA level.


Paul J. Maginn is Associate Professor or Urban and Regional Planning at UWA in Perth, Western Australia, where he has been based since February 2007. He is the co-editor of/contributor to the forthcoming book, Suburbia in the 21st Century: From Dreamscape to Nightmare? (Routledge) which includes a chapter on COVID (Sub)urbanisms. Paul is also co-editor of/ contributor to (Sub)Urban Sexscapes: Geographies and Regulation of the Sex Industry (2015 Routledge) which won the PIA (National) Award for Cutting Edge Research in 2016. During the COVID-19 pandemic Paul used Twitter to engage in what he terms "public scholarship" by using Google Community Mobility Report data to provide updates on the impacts of COVID-19 on visitor trends to key spaces in cities within Australia and internationally (UK, Ireland, US and Canada). From this he published several articles for The Conversation in Australia and/or the UK. He also recently published a report on the impacts of COVID-19 on visitor trends in the Perth metropolitan region in partnership with the Committee for Perth.