Walkability in rural communities

A citizen science project to support walkability in rural areas: Supporting rural Australians to be active

Degree type


Closing date

6 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Regular physical activity plays an important role in maintaining good health and preventing conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Physical activity is lower, and rates of these conditions higher, in rural Australia. The built and natural environments where we live, work and play influence how active we are, yet research around environmental influences on physical activity is largely urban-focused. This urban research suggests more 'walkable' environments support physical activity, but currently little is known about how to measure walkability or what the key barriers and enablers to walkability are in rural communities.

The PhD project is situated within a Medical Research Future Fund project known as 'Communities for Walkability' (https://walkrural.com.au/). The Communities for Walkability project has developed an online audit tool to support rural communities to collect information about the walkability of their town. In each of 10 Tasmanian towns, data collected via the tool are used to inform a community workshop to identify key themes and priorities for action. Using citizen science and co-design approaches the research team work closely with local leaders and residents in rural Tasmanian communities during data collection, analysis, and interpretation to identify areas for change.

This PhD project will address some/all of the following research questions depending on the interests/skills of the successful candidate:

  • How is walkability measured in rural communities?
  • What are the biggest barriers to walkability identified by rural communities?
  • What are the most common priorities identified by rural communities that would support walkability?
  • How do rural communities use data generated through the project?
  • How usable is the online walkability tool?
  • What is the scale-up potential of the online walkability audit tool?

The project will involve a narrative or systematic literature review, and collection and analysis of data from qualitative interviews, focus groups, photographs, and policy documents.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Associate Professor Verity Cleland


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • A background in public health, health promotion, health sciences, allied health, community development, public policy, social sciences, or related field
  • An interest and willingness to build skills in qualitative research methodologies
  • An interest in working collaboratively with communities, stakeholders, and the project team to maximise research impact

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in qualitative research methodologies including collecting data through focus groups and interviews
  • Experience working with rural communities
  • Experience working with a range of stakeholders across sectors

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Associate Professor Verity Cleland to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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