THE HEADLINE DIMENSIONS LIVING TOGETHER
When measuring progress for Living together in our society, we consider three headline dimensions - Family, community and social cohesion; Crime; and Democracy, governance and citizenship. However, headline indicators are only available for the second dimension.
FAMILY, COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL COHESION
Family and community are important aspects of society, but the way in which they contribute to progress is difficult to define and measure, and so there is no single indicator that captures all that might be important. The effective functioning of families and communities depends on a wide range of factors. For example, the quality and strength of people's relationships and bonds with others - their family, friends and the wider community - are important elements which contribute to social cohesion. A more cohesive society is one in which communities are strong and inclusive, in which inequalities are reduced, and people have a sense of belonging and shared values. When the support offered by people’s families and communities declines or is absent, it can contribute to a range of social problems such as poverty, illiteracy, ill-health and social exclusion.
Children living without an employed parent may be at greater risk of experiencing financial hardship, and lack of employment within the family may also impact on children's long-term personal development. It is important to note however that children living without an employed parent do not always experience adverse outcomes (see Endnote 21). Since the mid-1990s, the proportion of children aged under 15 years living without an employed parent in the same household has been relatively steady at between 16% and 19%. In 2003-04, the number of children who lived without an employed parent was approximately 620,000 and around 67% of these lived in one parent families (see Endnote 22).
Crime takes many forms and can have a major impact on the wellbeing of victims, their families and friends, and the wider community. Those most directly affected may suffer financially, physically, psychologically and emotionally, while the fear of crime can affect people and restrict their lives in many ways. There are other costs as well, including the provision of law enforcement services by the police, courts and associated legal services, and corrective services.
The vast range of services provided within communities by groups, clubs and charitable organisations are a crucial adjunct to the care provided by families and the more formal types of support provided by governments. Community bonds can be strengthened through volunteering and donating money to groups and organisations in the community. Giving time to do some work for an organisation or group might be regarded as one of the stronger expressions of social capital, as it involves providing assistance, fulfilling needs and providing opportunities for community engagement. Between 1995 and 2002, the proportion of people aged 18 years and over who reported that they did some voluntary work during the previous 12 months increased from 24% to 34% (see Endnote 23). (Note: Data in this paragraph will be updated after release of the ABS publication: Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4441.0).
Although it would be desirable to have a single indicator of the cost of crime to society, one does not exist. Instead the headline indicators are two measures of victims of common criminal offences: 'selected household crimes' and 'selected personal crimes'. The former refers to actual or attempted break-in and motor vehicle theft. The latter refers to assault, sexual assault or robbery. Personal crimes are not restricted to crimes committed in the victim's home, and so include crimes at people's place of work or study and so on. The victimisation rates for selected personal crimes are for assault and robbery victims among people aged 15 or over, and sexual assault among people aged 18 and over (see Endnote 19). The victimisation rates for selected household crimes are for actual or attempted break-ins and motor vehicle thefts across all households.
DEMOCRACY, GOVERNANCE AND CITIZENSHIP
National life is influenced by both the wellbeing of individual citizens in terms of tangible factors such as income, wealth, health and education and by less tangible factors such as the quality of our public life, the fairness of our society, the health of democracy and the extent to which citizens of Australia participate actively in their communities or cooperate with one another. While these areas are important to the functioning of society, it is difficult to measure these aspects, and there is no single indicator that summarises this dimension of progress.
Though small, the victimisation prevalence rates for selected personal crimes showed an increase between 1998 and 2005 from 4.8% to 5.3%, the same level as in 2002. Most of these people were assaulted. Between 1998 and 2005, the proportion of households that were victims of selected household crimes fell from 9.0% to 6.2%.
It has been argued that a healthy democracy needs citizens who care, are willing to take part, and are capable of helping to shape the shared values and aspirations of a society. And so participation - whether through the institutions of civil society, political parties, or the act of voting - is seen as important to a stable democracy. In Australia, enrolment and voting in State and Federal elections is compulsory. In March 2006, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) estimated that 94% of eligible Australians were enrolled to vote in the correct division, a similar proportion to five years earlier (95% enrolled in June 2001). However, there were differences in the proportions enrolled among different age groups, with the most notable difference being for younger people where the AEC estimates that 77% of eligible 18-25 year olds were enrolled (Endnote 24).
Another principle underpinning a healthy democracy is that parliament should represent and express the will of the people. The representation of women in parliament is one indicator of the extent to which different groups in society are represented in our public institutions. The proportion of women in the Parliament of Australia has risen over the past 20 years. On 1 January 1987, one in twenty (5%) members of the House of Representatives were women, as were around 1 in 5 (21%) senators. By the beginning of 2007, the representation of women had risen to one in four (25%) in the House of Representatives and just over one in three (36%) in the Senate (see Endnote 25).