Despite most Australians living in cities, there is considerably less attention on food within city planning domains, a loose integration of food issues in policy (despite national commitments to international agreements), and a substantial degree of incoherence on food-related initiatives in cities. As a result, the capacity to anticipate and mitigate sudden and incremental risks (such as the rising burden of non-communicable diseases and climate change), as well as the opportunities for growth in the urban food sector may be hindered. The manifestations of the need for change are clear, and there is no better time for action than now, riding on the momentum of international agreements which have opened up windows for transition towards more inclusive governance of urban spaces and resources. Against this background, this discussion paper seeks to highlight the unique roles that local governments in Australia could play to mobilise change that integrates food security into urban planning and to leverage on a rising number of innovative but hitherto disjointed activities. This is the first in a series of discussion papers on urban food systems in Australia, with a particular focus on the risks, opportunities and roles of local governments in driving the transition towards sustainable urban food systems in Australia.