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1383.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2008 (Edition 2)  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/09/2008   
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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. 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 in a household without a co-resident 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 a co-resident employed parent do not always experience adverse outcomes (see Endnote 1). Since the mid-1990s, the proportion of children aged under 15 years living without an employed parent in the same household has varied between 15% to 19%, and has been 16% or less since 2002-03. In 2005-06, 607,000 children lived without an employed co-resident parent and around 69% of these lived in one parent families (see Endnote 2).

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 giving help and provides opportunities for community engagement. Between 2000 and 2006, the proportion of people aged 18 years and over who reported that they did some voluntary work during the previous 12 months increased from 32% to 34% (35% on a basis comparable to 2000) (see Endnote 3). While the volunteer rate increased, the amount of time volunteers gave decreased. The median annual hours contributed by volunteers fell from 72 hours per person in 2000 to 56 hours per person in 2006.


CRIME

Crime, Victims of selected personal crimes
Graph: Victims of selected personal crimes - 1998, 2002 and 2005

For technical information see Endnote 4.
Source: Crime and Safety, Australia, 2005 (cat. no. 4509.0).


Crime, Victims of selected household crimes
Graph: Vicims of selected household crimes - 1998, 2002 and 2005


For technical information see Endnote 5.
Source: Crime and Safety, Australia, 2005 (cat. no. 4509.0).

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.

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 personal crimes' and 'selected household crimes'. The former refers to assault, sexual assault or robbery. The latter refers to actual or attempted break-in and motor vehicle theft. 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 4). The victimisation rates for selected household crimes are for actual or attempted break-ins and motor vehicle thefts across all households.

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%.


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.

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. Participation - whether through the institutions of civil society, political parties, or the act of voting - is therefore seen as important to a stable democracy. In Australia, enrolment and voting in state/territory and Federal elections is compulsory. At 30 June 2007, 93% of eligible Australians were enrolled to vote, the same proportion as three years earlier (at the time of the Federal election in 2004). There are differences in the proportions enrolled among different age groups. The most notable difference was for younger people, with 80% of eligible 18-25 year olds enrolled at 30 June 2007 (see Endnote 6).

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 an indicator of women's political participation and the support for female candidates from political parties. The proportion of women in the Parliament of Australia has risen over the past 20 years. On 1 January 1988, around one in twenty (6%) members of the House of Representatives were women, as were around 1 in 5 (22%) senators. By the beginning of 2008, the representation of women had risen to just over one in four (27%) in the House of Representatives and just over one in three (36%) in the Senate (see Endnote 7).


ENDNOTES

1. See for example: Dawkins, P, Gregg, P, & Scutella, R 2001, The Growth of Jobless Households in Australia, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, viewed 4 March 2007; and Gregory, R 1999, Children and the Changing Labour Market: Joblessness in Families with Dependent Children, Discussion Paper No. 406, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, viewed 5 March 2007.

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007, ABS data available on request, Survey of Income and Housing 2005-06, ABS, Canberra.

3. The volunteering rate of 35% for 2006 has been presented on a basis comparable to data collected in 2000 and therefore differs slightly from the volunteering rate of 34% which is published in Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4441.0). For more detailed information, see comparison table A2 and the discussion in the appendix in Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4441.0). Note also that these estimates are from the 2006 General Social Survey. This survey was designed to provide a detailed account of volunteers and their volunteering activities. As such its results will be different (and more accurate) than those available from other sources including the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. The census data will be useful, however, for comparing the characteristics of volunteers at the small area level.

4. The victimisation rates for personal crimes are for assault and robbery victims among people aged 15 and over, and sexual assault among people aged 18 and over. Completion of the sexual assault questions for the ABS Crime and Safety Survey was voluntary, and some respondents chose not to complete them. For these respondents selected data items were imputed following a standard set of rules based on the assumption that the victimisation rates were equal for respondents and non-respondents alike within age groups and sex categories.

5. The victimisation rates for household crimes are for actual or attempted break-ins and motor vehicle thefts across all households (private dwellings).

6. These estimates were derived using Australian Bureau of Statistics population data and are sourced from Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) 2007, AEC Annual Report 2006-07, viewed 21 January 2008.

7. Information on women in parliament can be found on the following pages of the Parliament of Australia website:

REFERENCES

Family, community and social cohesion

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007, Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006, cat. no. 4441.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007, ABS data available on request, Survey of Income and Housing 2005-06, ABS, Canberra.

Dawkins, P, Gregg, P, & Scutella, R 2001, The Growth of Jobless Households in Australia, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, viewed 4 March 2007.

Gregory, R 1999, Children and the Changing Labour Market: Joblessness in Families with Dependent Children, Discussion Paper No. 406, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, viewed 5 March 2007.

Crime

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, Crime and Safety, Australia, 2005, cat. no. 4509.0, ABS, Canberra.

Democracy, governance and citizenship

Australian Electoral Commission 2007, AEC Annual Report 2006-07, viewed 21 January 2008.

Parliament of Australia 2007a, House of Representatives: list of members by gender, viewed 21 January 2008.

Parliament of Australia 2007b, Number of women in Parliament, viewed 21 January 2008.

Parliament of Australia 2007c, Women Senators, viewed 21 January 2008.


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