1370.0.00.002 - Measures of Australia's Progress - Aspirations for our Nation: A Conversation with Australians about Progress , 2011-12  
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Prominent Australians

In order to generate interest in the MAP consultation and the MAP 2.0 Blog, the ABS invited several prominent Australians to write about or record their thoughts on Australia’s progress. The following individuals contributed (in alphabetical order):

  • Richard Aedy (former host of Life Matters – ABC Radio National);
  • Eva Cox AO (social commentator);
  • Mark Donaldson, VC (Australian soldier – awarded the VC in 2009);
  • Richard Eckersley (researcher on population wellbeing);
  • Lauren Jackson (professional basketball player);
  • Dick Smith AO (entrepreneur); and
  • Michael Stutchbury (former economics editor of The Australian).
These well-known Australians contributed not only by generating interest in the consultation, but also through the comments they made about Australia’s progress. Their contributions are summarised below – their full contributions are available at the MAP 2.0 blog: http://blog.abs.gov.au/blog/mapblog2010.nsf

Figure 2.1: Lauren Jackson – prominent Australian contributor.
Image supplied by the Canberra Times
Figure 2.1: Lauren Jackson – prominent Australian contributor.

Richard Aedy

Richard Aedy is a notable Australian journalist, radio presenter and media personality. As a journalist, he has covered a range of topics across science, crime, aviation, industrial affairs, health, technology, education, economics, epidemiology, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, social change, the media and contemporary Australian life.

In his contribution to MAP, Richard Aedy talked about many aspects of Australian life, from education, transport and cultural openness, to the challenges posed by climate change and the value of technology. He touched on the difficult experiences people may face in their lives; and spoke about the positive cultural change he has observed around interpersonal relationships; his own experience of fatherhood; and the complexity facing young people.

‘It’s clear that people are the greatest of all resources ... Nobody should leave Year 12, including kids who are planning to go into trades ... because all of them are growing up into a world that requires more understanding of complexity.’

Eva Cox, AO

Eva Cox is an Australian writer, feminist, activist and social commentator. Her areas of interest have included women’s rights, civil society and social and ethical business practice. She was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia in 1995 for her services to women’s welfare.

Eva Cox discussed the importance of relationships, community interactions and other non-material aspects of life. These include how people feel, how they interact with one another and their control over life decisions. She argued that an over-emphasis on monetary exchange has led to an undervaluing of family, caring and community. She said increasing our understanding of the importance of social connections also contributes to a wider appreciation of the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ views on land, culture and relationships.

‘Without wanting to turn back the digital clock, I suggest that the quality of our social bonds need to be included in any measures of progress, because they are the basis for trust relationships that make the social (and economic) possible. These are the centre of what makes human society.’

Mark Donaldson, VC

Mark Donaldson is a corporal in the Australian Army. For his gallantry and courage in Afghanistan in 2008, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia. In 2010, he was named Young Australian of the Year.

Mark Donaldson spoke about the idea of national progress as understanding where we want to be in the future, rather than focusing on short term goals. He felt it was important to aspire to physical and mental health, as these equip people to make positive changes in their lives and in society. He also emphasised the value of helping not only individuals to succeed, but also groups and communities, and of investing in young people, particularly in the area of education.

‘[Progress means] where we were and where we are now, but probably more importantly where we are going to be in the future; not just in the prosperity of the country but across all the facets of Australian life… I think to be well equipped, both mentally and physically, and focusing on the future, as opposed to the instant gratification of the present would be an important aspiration.’

Richard Eckersley

Richard Eckersley is an eminent social researcher and writer. Influenced by his travels across Europe, Africa and Asia, Richard Eckersley has written about national progress, human development, sustainability, culture, health and well-being.

In his contribution to MAP, Richard Eckersley spoke about the well-being of young people and was concerned about the ‘sexualisation, “adultification” and commodification of childhood’. Richard Eckersley noted a decline in the quality of life of young Australians, pointing to rising rates of diabetes and mental health disorders among this group as issues of concern. Richard Eckersley argues that improving the way we measure progress can help change this situation.

‘Rather than taking the prize when it comes to material progress as we pursue it, [young people] are paying the price. This price goes beyond the future impacts of climate change and other threats. It is not a question of discounting future costs against present benefits; the price is already being paid. If young people’s health and well-being are not improving, it is hard to argue that life overall is getting better.’

Lauren Jackson

Lauren Jackson is an internationally acclaimed Australian basketball player. She has played in four Olympic Games with the Australian Opals (captaining them in 2008 and 2012), and in national basketball leagues in the United States of America, South Korea and Russia.

Lauren Jackson’s contribution to MAP focused on the importance of relationships and social harmony. She talked about how a supportive family can help people achieve and succeed in life. She noted that through learning about Australia’s history and participating in sports people can develop a greater awareness of diversity and learn to value and create a supportive society. She also said that she would like to see more unity and acceptance of difference; an Australia where people are able to work and live together peacefully.

‘Having a good family environment where you are really supported and able to grow up in an environment that allows you to be who you want to be; and where you have the resources for education. I think that’s the most important thing really.’

Dick Smith, AO

Dick Smith is an Australian entrepreneur, businessman, aviator and political activist who has contributed to Australian life in many ways. He was selected as Australian of the Year in 1986, and in 1999 was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to the community, charity and business.

Dick Smith said that he, like many others, had previously understood progress in terms of Gross Domestic Product. He said that this present economic system, which requires perpetual growth in the use of resources and energy, is not sustainable. He described the importance of other factors, such as quality of life, environmental sustainability and efficiency. He thought that these could be achieved through improved waste management, planned reduction of working hours and stabilising population growth. He expressed faith in the resourcefulness of the capitalist system to encompass such changes within fair government regulation.

‘Just as capitalism has coped with laws on environment... I see we could have sustainability laws. So nothing could be marketed, could be sold, unless it’s produced sustainably ... as long as there is an even playing field for capitalism, which is an incredibly versatile system.’

Michael Stutchbury

Michael Stutchbury is a respected journalist and economic editor, with over 25 years’ experience examining economic and corporate issues in print and other media.

Michael Stutchbury said that Australia had become one of the world’s richest nations; the truly Lucky Country. While this demonstrates Australia’s progress, he also called for sustained economic prosperity beyond the bounty created by the mining boom and Chinese investment, and in the face of inevitable global change. He argued that to achieve this sustained progress, Australians will need to be open to the opportunities that come with change to industries, regions or professions.

‘Restructuring the economy toward its most profitable pursuits will make Australians richer. And richer Australians will spend more on all sorts of services, from entertainment and travel to better health care in their old age and educating their kids at the world’s top schools. To make the most of these opportunities, however, we need to better understand, better measure and be more open to them.’