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Snapshot shows Canberra is younger, less obese and more likely to volunteer

Canberrans are younger, less obese, and more likely to volunteer than most city dwellers elsewhere in the country, according to an Australian-first comparison of the nation's cities.

The data showed that Canberra was covered by more green space and had less socioeconomic disadvantage than every other area measured in the new national snapshot.

Australia's capital also had the highest percentage of students finishing year 12 (74 per cent) and university degrees (37 per cent), some of the lowest unemployment (3.93 per cent) and one of the highest workforce participation rates (70.5 per cent).

Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor will launch the federal government tool, known as the National Cities Performance Framework, on Friday. It compares Australia's 21 largest cities, plus western Sydney, on indicators covering jobs and skills, housing, infrastructure, liveability, innovation and planning.

Among capital cities Perth residents were also the highest direct emitters per capita of greenhouse gas emissions. Canberrans emitted the least.

Canberrans were the most ingenious – almost 56 people in every 100,000 had a patent approved last year for an invention. Canberra homes enjoyed the most access to green space, followed by Wollongong and Newcastle-Maitland.

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Just 58 per cent of Sydney residents can drive to work inside half an hour – the nation's worst score – followed by 60 per cent of Melburnians.

A car journey taken during the morning or afternoon peak in Sydney takes 68 per cent longer than at less congested times, followed by Melbourne at 57 per cent.

Mr Taylor said shorter commute times mean less time wasted, and more time for people to work, study and enjoy leisure activities, so "we need to move people around quickly and easily".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wants to create "30-minute cities" where jobs, schools and recreation activities are within half an hour from any home. However Mr Taylor said the data shows "there is still some way to go" on the goal, especially in larger cities.

Sydney and western Sydney had the lowest suicides per 100,000 people (9.8 and 10.2), while Mackay had the highest (19.5).

A person born in Melbourne or Sydney today is expected to live to 83.7 years – the longest life expectancy of any city and almost three full years longer than Albury-Wodonga (80.8).

About 61 per cent of people from the Sunshine Coast feel safe walking in their local area after dark, the highest national result. People from Cairns, Townsville and western Sydney felt least safe.

At 96 per cent, Ballarat residents were most likely to feel they could get help outside their household – from a friend, relative or support service – in a time of crisis. No city had a rate lower than 90 per cent.

Perth has the lowest obesity rate (23 per cent), while Toowoomba has the highest (36.3 per cent).

Melbourne households had one of the lowest rates of rental stress (when rent is more than 30 per cent of income). The city's business entry rate – the share of businesses that started trading over the past year – was higher than average, at 15.8 per cent of the total registered. Gold Coast-Tweed had the highest rate, followed by Sydney.

The data is designed to help governments, industry and communities to make better decisions. It will be updated each year.