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 culture and leisure relate to individual wellbeing?

People's values and actions are influenced at all levels by cultural factors, which also provide a backdrop of meaning and tradition against which individual experience can be understood. People participating in various forms of cultural expression, such as the arts, are empowered through being creative, developing and using skills, and contributing to cultural identity. Leisure time gives people an opportunity to recover from pressures of work and other commitments, to bond with family and community members, to pursue their interests, and to reflect on their life direction and meaning.

How do culture and leisure relate to the wellbeing of society?

Culture determines many aspects of social life. Both culture and leisure activities assist in developing national identity and forming community networks and bonds crucial to social cohesion. Cultural products, e.g. art, film and literature, reflect and examine social events and trends, and heritage protection preserves social knowledge. Industries associated with culture and leisure are growth industries and are thus important to Australia's economic wellbeing. The culture and leisure sector also contributes to economic development through facilitating creativity, innovation, and self-reflection.

What are some key social issues?
  • Ensuring all groups in the population have adequate leisure time and access to a full range of cultural and leisure products, activities and facilities.
  • Understanding the effects - both positive and negative - of particular cultural or leisure activities on wellbeing (e.g. sports, arts, gambling, television).
  • Encouraging activities that build social capital and are life enhancing, and monitoring activities that have the potential to detract from individual or social wellbeing.
  • Preserving and protecting Australian cultural heritage, and ensuring all groups are able to fully understand and express their own cultural forms and preferences.
  • Ensuring responsibility for cultural and leisure funding is appropriately shared between individuals, communities, private organisations and the government.

What are some key definitional challenges?

Culture can be defined as the shared sense of meaning that determines a group's way of life. Following from this, activities that focus on defining, interpreting or expressing this meaning can be seen as cultural activities. However, it has often been considered that culture 'eludes definition', and that there is 'no universally accepted definition of its content' (United Nations Economic Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 1979). Similarly, leisure activities can be defined broadly as activities undertaken in free time, but there are many activities or situations for which this definition is not clear cut, and many alternative approaches to defining leisure. Both culture and leisure are multifaceted concepts, and definitions may need to be refined in the context of different research and data collection objectives.

What are the main measurement issues?

The culture and leisure sector is characterised by a large proportion of people who supplement their culture and leisure work with other paid employment, or who work without financial reward. Collections that do not collect information on second jobs, or on people who work without pay, may therefore underestimate the size of the sector.

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