2 December 2016

Building a more community-minded city

| Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
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Community. Photo: iStock

As we recover from a long and hard fought election, it is good to remember that a community is more than just its politics and economy.

The release today of The Australia We Want report by the Community Council of Australia provides a useful snapshot of some of the indicators that go into not only making a community function but also thrive. It provides us with some benchmarks to how Canberra is travelling against the rest of the country and an opportunity to reflect on areas where we may need to spend more attention on.

The great news is that on many of these indicators, Canberra is performing better than the rest of the country. We have higher incomes but less income inequality than other parts of the country. We have lower suicide rates, lower rates of incarceration, higher levels of educational attainment and better employment access than elsewhere. The report notes that we are one of the safest and most generous jurisdictions in Australia. However, there are still much that needs to be done. Like the rest of the country, our levels of volunteering are decreasing and we fall short when it comes to access to housing – a basic human right and essential for us all to live a life of dignity.

Through a process of extensive consultation, the report has identified areas that contribute to the success of communities and identified indicators to assist us in determining how well we are doing in these areas.

It identifies incarceration rates, the distribution of income and feeling safe as a way of measuring how well we are doing in creating just, fair and safe communities. It notes that low suicide rates, strong educational attainment, and good access to employment and housing combine to deliver inclusive, equal opportunity and united communities. It suggests environmental sustainability, consumer confidence, business confidence come together to deliver creative, confident, courageous and optimistic communities. Finally it recognises that levels of individual giving, volunteering and international development assistance build generous and kind communities.

The report also points out that in some of these areas Australia as a whole is not doing as well as comparable communities. It highlights the fact that we have much higher rates of incarceration than Ireland and rising, suicide rates higher than our road toll, and inequality is growing.

While its great for Canberra to be ranked on top in relation to these benchmarks, we need to be careful before we congratulate ourselves too loudly. We need to remember these are averages, look deeper and reflect how well we are doing to support everyone to thrive. While we have lower rates of incarceration than in other places in Australia, how do we explain that particular groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented? While our school performance averages look good, how confident are we of the support being provided to our most vulnerable students? While employment rates are strong, how do we reconcile the fact that for young people the unemployment rate is much higher? And are we comfortable that we still see between 20 and 40 Canberrans take their life each year?

We can all influence how well we continue to do in these areas and improve things even more. Simple things like volunteering at our local school, looking out for a friend going through a tough time or building our awareness around the homelessness crisis in Canberra can make a difference. So read the report, and see what you think and think about what we can all do o to improve outcomes for everyone in our community.

Copies of the report can be accessed via www.communitycouncil.com.au

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justin heywood8:17 pm 28 Oct 16

Hi Rebecca. The link to the report appears broken (404).

I think it’s a lack of tolerance that really limits our community. In fat, comfortable Canberra we have low tolerance for people who aren’t like us – whether it’s towards those not clever enough to get a degree, or the person struggling with depression who is afraid to speak, or the person who doesn’t drive or vote or look the way we think they should.

So many of us have had it so easy, we barely know anyone who isn’t like us, let alone interact with them.

I have noticed through life and travels that it is often those who have known real hardship who are the most compassionate and tolerant.
How many Canberrans (or Australians) have known real hardship?

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