Trauma-related stress generates massive costs in mental health, criminality, drug and alcohol use, family disruption and lost productivity. The scope and scale of the problem are immense and it touches the lives of millions of Australians.
The concept of mindfulness has pervaded popular culture as an antidote to our increasingly fast-paced, tech-heavy lifestyles. But its application has far more potential than in colouring books and inspiring Facebook memes. Australia21 is contributing to groundbreaking research in this area.
The essay collection “Who speaks for and protects the public interest in Australia?” is the first stage of a project on strengthening consideration of the public interest in Australian policy decisions. The collection includes the ideas of 39 leading thinkers, policy makers and activists. The essays touch on a wide range of topics including the public interest in asylum seeker policy, Indigenous futures, the environment, education and inequality. They also look at what is ailing in Australian democracy and suggest some people focused remedies.
Attempts to control drug use through the criminal justice system have clearly failed. Our research and discussion forums amply demonstrate that there is no single magic bullet or solution for the management of this complex problem. But drug law reforms urgently need to be considered by all Australian Governments.
From a nation which in the past has prided itself on our classlessness and equity, Australia is now ranked fifth highest among 23 wealthy countries in a measure of financial inequality. Inequality does not have to be an inevitable consequence of social progress. There are several levers available to policy makers to arrest the detrimental changes which have recently been most evident in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia and which have been largely avoided in the Scandinavian countries and Japan.
The dominant perspectives on population-health research and policy have significant gaps that are limiting public health’s role in public policy. Most public-health initiatives focus on individual risk factors associated with physical health. From a health perspective, this emphasis neglects the importance of mental health; from a prevention perspective, it under-estimates the importance of social and environmental determinants.
The health of young people is not only important in its own right, or for their sake; it is crucial to assessing the overall state and future of Australian society. The health and wellbeing of young people should be a focal point in the larger context because the health of young people shapes the future health of the whole population and, in a broader social sense, the health of society.
Australia21 has had a long interest in how human progress is conceptualised and measured, particularly through the work of director Richard Eckersley. Richard has been researching and writing about progress and wellbeing for almost 30 years, and is a member of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ expert reference group for its project on measures of Australia’s progress.
Increases in the frequency and severity of violence in public places – a problem across all jurisdictions in Australia – led Victoria Police to commission Australia21 to explore issues of antisocial behaviour and risks to public safety. Most if not all of those who participated in the project agreed on the need for a multi-dimensional strategy spanning timeframes, social scales and government jurisdictions.