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Is it time for a ‘wellbeing budget’ in Australia?

Happy woman outside
Photo: Priscilla du Preez, Unsplash

Opinion piece by Dr James Gordon

19 MAY 2023

The Budget is light on detailing its effect on community wellbeing and social cohesion, but some good policies are hiding in the details.

Unsurprisingly for a budget, the terms economic or economy appear 80 times over 63 pages in the Australian federal budget 2023-24. The word wellbeing on the other hand is only mentioned once. That’s an economy to wellbeing ratio of 80:1.

That one time wellbeing is mentioned? When talking about an initiative to help wealthy Australians engage in philanthropic (and likely tax deductible) investments to improve early childhood outcomes.

Let’s compare this to New Zealand’s 2022 ‘Wellbeing Budget’ which mentions economic or economy 370 times and wellbeing 266 times over 176 pages. A much more balanced ratio of about 1.4:1.

Yet, surely our government cares about our wellbeing and happiness and wants to see us do well as a society. From the budget, I can safely infer they intend to do that by making us wealthier. This means more payments for vulnerable Australians, lower taxes for wealthier ones, and policies to drive economic growth into the future. >>Read more

Federal budget: Boost of social enterprises and place-based initiatives helps communities most in need

A woman picking tomatoes
Photo: Adobe Stock
Opinion piece by Dr Babita Bhatt and Prof Israr Qureshi
17 MAY 2023
The federal budget has gained significant attention for supporting those most in need by delivering cost-of-living relief and strengthening Medicare. But the budget also recognises that the unique problems many disadvantaged communities across Australia face cannot be overcome with one-size-fits-all solutions. Significant funding allocated to social enterprises and place-based initiatives - programs that are developed and implemented by the people who live in the specific geographical areas - are a promising step in tackling entrenched community disadvantage.
The budget delivers a $199.8 million package to target entrenched community disadvantage. As researchers in the field of social cohesion, we were pleased to see the Government acknowledge the importance of social enterprises and place-based community initiatives in creating a fairer, more resilient, and cohesive Australia. >>Continue reading

Podcast: The current state of social cohesion with Dr. James O’Donnell

Podcast: The current state of social cohesion with Dr. James O’Donnell

22 DECEMBER 2022

In this episode of the Voices of Australia podcast, Dr. James O'Donnell shares his insights on the current state of social cohesion in Australia. 

Pandemic spike in social cohesion starting to decline

A crowd of people on the ANU campus
Photo: Jamie Kidston/ANU

23 NOVEMBER 2022

Social cohesion in Australia increased during the pandemic but is now declining due to a weaker sense of pride, belonging and social justice, according to a major study led by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) as part of a new partnership with the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute.

Lead researcher, Dr James O'Donnell from ANU, said Australians' sense of belonging and connectedness in our neighbourhoods has been high and growing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. >> Read more 

Good neighbours are good for your health

James O'Donnell
Photo: ANU

28 MARCH 2022

Neighbourhood relationships and social connections protected against loneliness, depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).   

The findings come from a nationally-representative longitudinal survey of more than 3,000 people, conducted over three waves between May and November 2020.  

"People generally are much less likely to report symptoms of depression, anxiety and loneliness if they have positive perceptions of their neighbourhood social environments," lead author Dr James O'Donnell said. >> Read more

Culture grows social cohesion beyond economic incentives

Office workers making a stack of hands


Social enterprises looking to build social cohesion in communities may find economic logic a useful starting point in program design, but for long-term gains, they should embed programs in a cultural context, Australian National University (ANU) research has found.

College of Business and Economics researcher Dr Babita Bhatt and her team worked with 20 social enterprises that focus on community projects across Australia to examine the mechanisms each was using to foster social cohesion in their jurisdictions. >>Read more

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