Geography and Planning

Cutting-edge research balancing human development with the natural environment

The discipline of geography at UWA has a long and proud history, dating back 50 years, of producing high quality research and well trained graduates that have addressed some of the big economic, social, and environmental challenges facing Western Australia, the Indo-Pacific region and the world beyond.

Department Strengths

The defining and recognised strength of Geography at UWA is our teaching and research profile that emphasises the integration of the human and physical dimensions of place-based and engaged geographical and planning enquiry. Our work at the nexus of people and the environment is integrated across the social and physical sciences, with a scholarly commitment to social equality and environmental justice, resilience in communities and social-ecological systems, and societal transformation in a rapidly changing world. 

Areas of interest

Our areas of interest focus on topics of global concern including urbanisation, international development, climate change, conservation, migration and environmental management. The Department offers a range of exciting degree programs that enable students to develop their expertise in these areas, all of which are supplemented with a range of domestic and overseas fieldwork opportunities. Students are encouraged to develop skills of relevance to the workplace through activities such as writing consultancy reports, policy briefs and engaging in team-building and leadership activities. Our teaching is backed up with state of the art laboratory and analytical equipment and the latest GIS, drone and remote sensing technology.  


Employers have noted that the integration of the human and physical dimensions of inquiry and analysis in our teaching programs gives UWA geography graduates a particular comparative advantage in the job market. Our graduates develop exciting careers both domestically and overseas, working for governments, the private sector and NGOs in areas ranging from planning, environmental sustainability and resource management through to community development. 


Research strengths

As a Department, our research spans the following four research themes, which align in highly productive ways with the University’s strategic focus on the Indian Ocean Rim and globalisation, capitalising on our geographic location in Perth as a comparative advantage nationally and globally.
Enhancing resilience and facilitating societal transformation
Our research links the social and political with the ecological, to better understand how to foster resilient and inclusive communities and productive social-ecological systems, through transformational learning and an appreciation for human and non-human interdependencies.
Monitoring deep change and slow emergencies in our altered landscapes
Our researchers study the continuum of environmental and physical changes from the deep past to the present, with an eye to mapping, monitoring, predicting, and managing the complex science-policy challenges of our current and future world.
Pursuing structural and environmental justice in a rapidly changing world
To overcome inequalities, our engaged scholarship emphasises inclusive, collaborative, and sustainable planning practice and decision-making processes, community functioning, and empowerment, ranging from urban transport systems to global climate justice.  
Understanding and addressing social and spatial inequality
Our researchers examine disparity and disadvantage at multiple scales, to understand how pervasive inequalities and patterns of exclusion shape vulnerability, uneven development, and socially, economically and environmentally differential outcomes within society, both in Australia and the global political economy. 


Our students work alongside world-leading experts, exploring highly topical and relevant issues including:

  • climate change
  • regional planning
  • urbanisation
  • sustainable natural resource management
  • population growth.

Our teaching is designed to enable students to gain valuable workplace skills in data analysis, problem-solving, creative and focused writing, communication and teamwork. Students benefit from working in the classroom and in the field, broadening their experience through work placement and international fieldwork opportunities. Our undergraduate courses also lead into Master’s level programs specialising in urban planning, international development and environmental planning.  

Geography graduates are consistently in high demand by employers across a wide range of professions. We hold regular careers events to enable students to talk directly to graduates and potential employers and take great pride in the contributions our graduates make towards a better society and a more sustainable environment. 



Advisory Board

The role of the Board is to oversee the curriculum in order to ensure that workplace relevant skills and competencies are embedded across all undergraduate majors and postgraduate courses. 
Dr Genevieve Simpson

Government Relations Manager, Western Power; Honorary Research Fellow UWA

Genevieve SimpsonGenevieve sees energy service as deeply geographical - with energy networks being place-bound entities, interacting with local livelihoods and their role in place-based job creation.  She received her PhD from the University of Western Australia in 2017 for work examining perceptions of residential solar photovoltaic system adoption, including from the perspectives of government, industry and the community and accounting for regional differences. She now works in government relations for one of the state's largest energy utilities, facilitating conversations with government on implementation of energy policy and building advocacy for reforms in the energy space. Genevieve's insights into working as a geographer in the energy sector will help her guide the future UWA geography and planning curriculum with a focus on critical thinking and communications skills. 

Dr Sandie McHugh

Director, DWER

Mr Adrian Cagnana

Senior Place Planner, Roberts Day

Mr Clay Thomas

Project Director, Peet Limited

Clay ThomasGraduating from UWA in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science (Geography and Environmental Management), Clay began his career in Local Government town planning with the City of Mandurah. Moving into the private sector and into urban development, Clay has held Development Management positions with Frasers Property and national ASX listed developer Peet Limited, where he currently works as Project Director. In this role, Clay is a member of the Group’s Western Australian Leadership Team, and is responsible for the planning, project delivery and management of a significant portfolio of mixed-use urban development projects.

Mr Grant Arthur

Director Regional Services, Wheatbelt Development Commission

Ms Rebecca Didcoe

Planner, Taylor Burrell Barnett

Bec DidcoeBec completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science and International Relations in 2017 and graduated with a Master of Urban and Regional Planning in 2019, both through the University of Western Australia. Prior to working in urban and regional planning, Bec utilised her political science undergraduate background in a variety of jobs in Australia and the United States across both the public and private sector including campaigns, research and community based projects. Since moving into planning she has gained two years’ experience working in urban and regional planning in state government and an urban planning consultancy. Bec is currently employed as a Planner at Taylor Burrell Barnett.


Planning and Transport Research Centre

The Planning and Transport Research Centre (PATREC) conducts collaborative, applied research and teaching in support of policy in the connected spaces of transport and land use planning in Western Australia.

Centre for Regional Development

The Centre for Regional Development at The University of Western Australia focuses on understanding the major economic, social and environmental opportunities and challenges facing rural, regional and remote Australia.



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