4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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How do family and community relate to individual wellbeing?

An individual's family is often their most fundamental source of emotional, physical and financial care and support. Individuals and families also receive support and care from the wider community. The immediate family and the wider community are the context for individual achievement in other areas of social concern. They are the arenas in which children become socially responsible adults, and individuals gain a sense of belonging.

How do family and community relate to the wellbeing of society?

Families and communities are core structural elements in society - basic building blocks of national life. The family unit takes on a large part of the burden of caring for people in society, and the vast range of services provided by groups, clubs and charitable organisations are a crucial adjunct to the institutionalised care provided by governments. The family's role in providing guidance on social values is at the basis of a civil society. Day to day interactions between people in a community build trust and reciprocity: the strength of a society's community bonds often determine its resilience and cohesion.

What are some key social issues?
  • Understanding how family circumstances affect individual wellbeing and how the various family types can best be supported in caring for their members.
  • Deciding how support and care responsibilities can most effectively be shared within families and between government, non-government and voluntary organisations.
  • Assessing the performance of family and community support programs and services including equity and access issues.
  • Understanding the characteristics of strong, self-reliant communities and encouraging the development of community capacity for self-help.
  • Encouraging voluntary work, cross-sector partnerships and other factors generating social capital.

What are some key definitional challenges?

A family is commonly thought of as a group of people who are related in some way, and who provide care, support and guidance to one another. When defining families for statistical measurement, it is practical to restrict this group to related people who live together. While this statistical definition may not identify extended family networks, or non-related persons providing care and support, it usually captures those people who are most significant to an individual, and it aligns with the concept of family that is the focal point for the administration of many social policy initiatives (e.g. government benefits and support services). The term community encompasses the wider care and support networks surrounding an individual. It can embrace formal support provided by government institutions; non-government care provided by volunteers and charitable organisations; as well as informal support exchanges e.g. assistance between neighbours.

What are the main measurement issues?
  • How to measure extended family and other people providing care functions
  • How to measure family formation and dissolution (including de facto relationships)
  • How to measure community wellbeing including social capital, social cohesion and social exclusion.

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