Australian Bureau of Statistics
4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001
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Family, community and wellbeing
Australia's Welfare, 1997, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Families and communities are core structural elements in society - the basic building blocks of Australia's national life. Families take on a large portion of the economic and physical burden of care for individuals in society, particularly for children, aged people or people with disabilities. If it is operating effectively, the family, as a self-contained welfare unit, is therefore a crucial mechanism in the health of society as a whole. The family is a primary determinant of whether or not children grow up to be law abiding citizens who are able to contribute to the greater good, and who have the motivation to do so. Because of the fundamental role families play in educating children in a range of social and physical skills, society is highly dependent on positive family functioning. Where families are not able to nurture healthy, confident and socially responsible individuals, the community bears both the financial cost and the wider social consequences.
Local communities also take on caring functions, provide forums for socialisation and relationship building and support the education, sporting or artistic endeavours of their members. The community feeling generated in small towns or localities (e.g. when local athletes compete in State level competition) is often the basis for positive national identification. As self identity develops through a sense of membership of the community, individuals become aware of their responsibilities toward others, which enables them to identify when community norms are violated.1 Caring and support activities, undertaken by and within communities, deliver benefits to the community in several ways. Some individuals and families benefit directly (i.e. those receiving the food, shelter, care, etc.), and this decreases the burden on society overall. In addition, the processes and infrastructures that are initiated and developed in undertaking these functions, in and of themselves, engender trust and cooperation between people and thus strengthen communities. For example, fundraising events and committees, and other forums where groups of people interact and cooperate towards a social good outcome, have inherent value for the community.
Different types of relationships may be necessary to achieve optimal wellbeing for individuals and the community.2 For example, relationships within families and within social or cultural groups (which tend to constitute an individual's core community) can provide affection and friendship, and can support beneficial moral and social values. However, by itself, this type of network can promote narrowness, be oppressive for individuals, or can be exclusive and promote divisiveness in the context of the larger community. Thus these core relationships may need to be combined with looser relationships that range across a variety of social or cultural groups. These broader relationships may be work based, or created through activities people participate in. Such networks can promote tolerance and trust more widely in the community, build people's capacity to work together to achieve a common purpose, or assist in the rapid flow of information. Individuals may also benefit from connections with, knowledge about or access to people in positions of power. Without this kind of connection, it may be difficult for people or groups affected by disadvantage to take successful action to improve their wellbeing.
This page last updated 31 July 2006
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