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The Australia We Want Is Going Backwards – NFP Report

27 October 2016 at 9:12 am
Lina Caneva
A new national not-for-profit benchmarking report to be released in Canberra reveals that modern Australian life is heading in the wrong direction, becoming more selfish and inward looking.

Lina Caneva | 27 October 2016 at 9:12 am


The Australia We Want Is Going Backwards – NFP Report
27 October 2016 at 9:12 am

A new national not-for-profit benchmarking report to be released in Canberra reveals that modern Australian life is heading in the wrong direction, becoming more selfish and inward looking.

The Australia We Want Report is described as the first benchmark of how Australia and each state and territory is performing against values and goals prioritised by leaders from across the charity sector.  

These values include: just, fair, safe, inclusive, equality of opportunity, united, authentic, creative, confident, courageous, optimistic, generous, kind and compassionate.

However the report said: “Australia has become a more inward-looking, selfish country where inequality is growing and we are less prepared to offer assistance to our neighbours and to those in the world.”

The report highlights that:

  • Australia now has incarceration rates that are rising by 6 per cent a year and are three times that of Ireland and higher than any country in Western Europe.
  • Despite the fact that Australia is one of the richest countries in the world, inequality in income distribution is growing (higher than most OECD countries).
  • More than one in two women do not feel safe when walking alone at night – well below the OECD average.
  • One in five Australians aged 15 to 74 haven’t completed secondary education, and Australia has slipped down international scales in equality, corruption and international aid.
  • Suicide rates are increasing, in some states by over 20 per cent.
  • Levels of volunteering are dropping across the board.
  • Taxpayers are giving a lower percentage of their taxable income than they did 10 years ago.

Sixty leaders from across the not-for-profit and charity sector assisted with the production of the report with funding from the Equity Trustees Foundation along with assistance from the Centre for Social Impact.  The report launched at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday.

Chair of the Community Council for Australia and chief advocate for World Vision, Tim Costello, said it was time Australia looked beyond economic indicators and started focusing on the values that make Australia a great place to live.  

“We are all much more than passengers in an economy. We are part of families, workplaces and communities. Within our communities we want to live lives that are worthwhile and enact values we believe in. This report highlights how far Australia is slipping in achieving some very important values. It should be a wakeup call for all of us,” Costello said.

“Imagine an Australia where incarceration rates are actually falling, where the suicide rate is less than the road toll and where your postcode doesn’t define your chance of getting an education or a job. That is what this report is about.

“We want real innovation – not just in our arts but in our schools and communities. We want a humane sustainable Australia. We want a generous and kind Australia where we take pride in supporting the less fortunate. Ultimately we are all much more than passengers in an economy.  We must build the Australia we want.”

CEO of the Community Council for Australia and one of the authors of the report, David Crosbie, said the extensive findings painted a damning picture of current day Australia and revealed shocking data that should concern all Australians.

“The findings … tell us that if we are going to live in the kind of Australia we want for ourselves and our children, we need to work at changing some of these fundamental issues,” Crosbie said.

“We have to decide what Australia we want our children to grow up in. Values like just, fair, safe, inclusive, united, generous and compassionate are all words we agree with. This report card details how Australia and each state and territory is performing against these values that we hold as important. The report is a fascinating but alarming insight.

“Many debates about Australia’s future seem to have a one-eyed fixation on what kind of economy is going to be achieved.The fact is Australians are more than individual tax paying economic units.  The fact is our productivity and achievements are grounded in flourishing communities. In schools, workplaces, families and neighbourhoods.”

Equity Trustees’ spokesperson Tabitha Lovett said: “the report presented stark and troubling data, but it was within our ability to improve on these results.

“Equity Trustees distributes more than $70 million of philanthropic funds each year to charities and not for profits, so we see firsthand the desire on the part of individual and corporate philanthropists to tackle the issues that result in inequality, disadvantage and fear. This report helps us understand those issues better and target our response.”

“Our experience in working with hundreds of philanthropists during their lifetime and beyond, is that we must continually seek to understand what factors contribute to these troubling results, what works, what is broken and which interventions or initiatives will ultimately improve future findings?”

This is how the report summaries each state and territory in order of their scores:

Australian Capital Territory (scoring +7) ranks top of the jurisdictions it is where income levels are above average, but not at the cost of greater inequality. The ACT is one of the safest jurisdictions as well as being one of the most generous. The ACT however is let down by the high cost of housing, especially for those on lower incomes.

Tasmania (scoring +4) scored quite highly in several key areas making it the second best performing jurisdiction. On measures like cost of housing, fair distribution of income and perceptions of safety, it is one of the leading jurisdictions. However, educational attainment is the lowest in Australia with over a third of Tasmanians aged 15 to 74 not having completed secondary education.

Victoria (scoring +1) is ranked relatively highly mainly because it does very well in two key areas – incarceration rates are not increasing and remain well below most other jurisdictions, and Victorians are relatively generous in giving to others. Suicide rates have increased by over 20 per cent in Victoria and the gap between male and female participation in the workforce is the largest in Australia.

New South Wales (scoring -1) is the most generous in terms of giving, but is also one of the two states where inequality in income distribution is the highest in Australia. It is also a poor performer in areas like incarceration rates and levels of volunteering which have declined significantly.

South Australia (scoring -1) is a mid-ranking jurisdiction in many areas. Incarceration rates are above the national average and levels of giving are relatively low, but the distribution of income is fairer than most other jurisdictions and female to male workforce participation ratios are better than most others.

Queensland (scoring -1) has high levels of incarceration, the highest housing costs in Australia for the lowest quintile of income earners, and low levels of both volunteering and giving, making it one of the poorer ranking states. Queensland achieved a positive rating for the female to male workforce participation ratio and delivered a reduction in carbon emissions.

Northern Territory (scoring -3) has a very high incarceration rate – double any other jurisdiction and more than four times the national average. Suicide rates are high, housing costs are high, levels of giving and volunteering are very low making the Northern Territory the second lowest ranking jurisdiction in Australia despite scoring positively on female participation in the workforce and equality of income distribution.

Western Australia (scoring -7) has the highest suicide rates in Australia, female participation in the workforce is the second lowest, incarceration rates are 50 per cent higher than the national average, and carbon emissions are rising more than any other jurisdiction. Western Australians are also not particularly generous despite a few notable exceptions – the levels of giving are the second lowest in Australia. All these negatives make Western Australia the lowest ranking jurisdiction.

The report concluded that one of the important outcomes of the process was an acknowledgement that charities and not-for-profit organisations can and should play a much more active role in national policy debates about the kind of Australia we want to live in.

“The next challenge is to consider what role we can all play to achieve better outcomes for all Australians. There are clearly some major gaps between our aspirations and our actual performance. We need to not only own our own futures, but also pay due regard to the goal of delivering real benefits to the communities we live and work in,” the report said.

CCA said it would now proactively seek to engage broadly with the not-for-profit, business, government and community sectors to work collaboratively in developing and delivering a strategic policy agenda based on the values and measures outlined in the report.

“The Australia We Want will not just happen. What we do today, tomorrow and into our future, shapes our country and our communities. Whether Australia is a better place to live is up to all of us.”

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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One comment

  • “More than one in two women do not feel safe when walking alone at night…”

    This is a big issue reflecting a range of problems with communities + attitudes… thus it requires CHANGE in many areas to make lasting improvement.

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