I think most Canberrans would agree that poverty is the anathema to any just society – especially ours. I also believe that most Canberrans understand that poverty is a form of social humiliation that leaves people not only hungry or homeless but unwanted and uncared for.
According to a recent OECD report, entitled OECD Regional Wellbeing, the ACT experiences the highest levels of wellbeing compared with the other states and territories of Australia. The report ranks and scores 362 regions across the member countries of the OECD based on ten indicators such as employment, health, and income. The danger of reports such as these is that they serve as simplistic analyses that appeal to the lazy minded and socially apathetic.
Please understand that I appreciate the need for such reports as well as the data that composes them, and that my opposition to this report is not based in self-righteous anti-intellectualism; in fact quite the opposite. My opposition to this report is twofold. The first is intellectual and the second is humanitarian.
What arrogant methods of inductive reasoning have resulted in the report claiming the word ‘wellbeing’? The report is a comparative study of ten indicators of living standards, and is only useful in determining the allocation of funds and policies. Why on earth the authors assume that they can determine my entire sense of contentment in life is beyond me. In fact, just reading the title lowers my sense of wellbeing immediately.
My second point is a little more tangible than the last.
Nothing ruffles my feathers more than when it is suggested that people who live in Canberra are somehow less human than other Australians. Poverty and pain exist in the ACT, and to think that someone’s adversity is somehow diminished in the context of an overall affluent society is an intellectual impoverishment.
There are six-hundred homeless people in Canberra, and hundreds more who will never admit it. There are thousands of people looking for work knowing that many Canberrans are paid more in sick leave than the annual income of Newstart and Austudy. There are artists, students, workers, and tens of thousands of us who are not the most educated and highly paid in the country.
It is easy to be forgotten in Canberra, and, for some, Canberra can be a lonely place. Rather than be guided by simplistic statistics, let us be guided by a sophisticated sense of humanity afforded to all Canberrans – especially those in need.
Our newest contributor Steven Bailey is the First Officer and Team Leader of The Australian Sex Party – Canberra. Through theatre, music, education, and politics, Steven believes we can make stronger communities and a better world.