Is this the Australia we want? An article from Pro Bono News.

In an article for Pro Bono newsletter dated 7th May, Maggie Coggan writes:

Australia is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to tackling growing incarceration and suicide rates, charitable giving, and sustainability levels, according to new analysis.

The Community Council for Australia’s (CCA) Australia We Want report, released on Tuesday, provides a benchmark of how the nation and each state and territory is performing against values determined by 60 charity sector leaders.

The values, which were outlined in detail in the first report on this topic in 2016, include just, fair, safe, inclusive, equality of opportunity, united, authentic, creative, confident, courageous, optimistic, generous, kind, and compassionate.

Areas of concern in the latest report include that incarceration rates are twice as high as in most countries in Europe, suicide rates are higher than the national road toll, and the nation has slipped down on the scale of international generosity despite the increased wealth.

The report also said that despite claims by politicians, CO2 emissions were rising, and the gap between how safe women and men feel walking alone at night was one of the highest in the world.

CCA CEO David Crosbie said fundamental issues such as the high levels of suicide and incarceration rates seemed to be an ingrained part of what Australians accepted as normal practice.  “This report highlights how far Australia is slipping in achieving some very important values. It should be a wake-up call for all of us,” Crosbie said.

Key statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare were drawn on to inform the report.   Housing affordability and income distribution were flagged as needing improvements.   However volunteering, educational attainment, and female participation in the workplace all tracked positively, which meant that the national score improved slightly from the previous report.  But the report said that even in those areas, there was “scope for considerable improvements”.

When looking at the states and territories, New South Wales and the Northern Territory performed the worst, and Tasmania and Victoria performed the best.  The ACT slipped down the rankings, while Western Australia made the largest improvement since the previous report.

Crosbie told Pro Bono News that if Australians hoped to achieve the kind of community for themselves and their children they wanted, real work needed to be done to turn it around, including steering away from the constant focus on the economy.  “It’s like all that matters is the economy, but we’re all much more than single little economic units,” he said.  “We need to know that the values that are important to us are being enacted in all those communities.”

He said it was important the charity sector played a greater role in both promoting the discussion about the indicators, and in showing that charities could make a difference.  “We know that if we had better drug treatment programs, better mental health programs at a community level that was accessible, better support for kids struggling in schools, we would reduce our incarceration rate,” he said.

He added that Australia should look towards nations such as New Zealand, wherein the federal budget the parliament sets targets around improving lives.  “Why aren’t we setting targets around reducing our incarceration rates? How does having an incarceration rate three times that of Ireland make us a better society?,” he said.  “To me the government’s performance should be judged against what our targets are and what we are going to do about it, rather than just being judged against the economy.”