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Australia’s heading in the wrong direction… but do we have to be?

19 June 2019 at 5:38 pm
Maggie Coggan
Cross-sector collaboration will be the key to stopping Australia’s drift towards a future of economic, social and environmental decline, community sector leaders say.   

Maggie Coggan | 19 June 2019 at 5:38 pm


Australia’s heading in the wrong direction… but do we have to be?
19 June 2019 at 5:38 pm

Cross-sector collaboration will be the key to stopping Australia’s drift towards a future of economic, social and environmental decline, community sector leaders say.   

The comments follow the release of a major CSIRO report, published on Tuesday, which brought together over 50 leaders from organisations such as ClimateWorks Australia, NAB, UnitingCare Australia and academia, to model alternative futures of Australia in 2060.           

The report identified six main challenges: The rise of Asia, changes to technology, climate change and environment, changing demographics, declining trust in institutions and governments, and a decline in social cohesion.     

The report found that Australia will drift into a “slow decline” if the major challenges are not dealt with. But it said Australia would reach its full potential through pulling policy levers in urban, industry, energy, land and culture shifts.

This included exporting low-emission energy sources such as hydrogen. It also found the electricity grid could be powered by almost entirely 100 per cent renewables by 2050, due to declining costs and market forces.

For jobs and productivity, technology should be embraced to boost existing industries, and to prepare workers for the future of work. The report also said Australia needed to find new sources of economic growth such as advanced manufacturing and low emissions energy.

Living standards could be 33 to 36 per cent higher and wages 90 per cent higher in such an outlook, with people paying up to 64 per cent less on their energy bills.

Claerwen Little, national director of Uniting Care, told Pro Bono News that working on the report alongside representatives from so many different sectors demonstrated what could be achieved by different minds coming together.

“If we all work together then we can actually make the change, but it will take work,” Little said.

This is the second outlook report CSIRO has released, but it is the first time the impact of social inclusion and environmental sustainability on the future economic output and prosperity of Australia has been considered.     

Little said that having community sector representatives contribute to the report on these issues was “fundamentally important”.

“Community organisations are an incredibly important part of society. We see the issues on the ground, we see the results of poor economic decisions and we see the results of poor policy,” she said.   

“So it’s really important that we’re there because we have a voice for many people who sometimes don’t have a voice.”

Rob Kelly, the ClimateWorks Australia programs manager, told Pro Bono News that everyone could play a role in shaping Australia’s future.  

“It’s not something that is the domain of government alone,” Kelly said.     

“This process of putting together business, civil society and research does show that there can be common agreement found, and the more alignment we can get around these plans the more effective we can be to ensure we’re all on that right path.”

He added that solving these issues was vital for Australia as the issues in the report were highly interconnected, particularly when it came to renewable and low emission energy sources.

“Energy is becoming a bigger expense as part of the weekly or monthly budget of low income people,” he said.

“By effectively transitioning to renewable energy…you can substantially reduce the cost of energy for many households.”

Little said that civil society groups could contribute in their own way by breaking down the solutions within each level of their organisations, and by connecting with others to further their impact.  

“What are they doing about their environmental sustainability? What are they doing about inclusion within their own space?” she said.

“How can they form coalitions to address these things together? Community organisations know how to bring people together, and they know how to collaborate.

“It’s really important to do that if we actually want to bring about the change that we see.”

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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