Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Is life in Australia getting better?

These are the sorts of questions we are asking the Australian public this year - to find out and help articulate the public's aspirations for Australia's national progress.

I work on a publication called Measures of Australia Progress (MAP) by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Our aim is to help people answer the question "Is life in Australia getting better?" While this may be of no interest to someone living in Denmark for example, the principles of what we do, can be applied to any country or community. And we hope that people use what we do for their community's progress and wellbeing.

This year we're hoping to create a public conversation on Australia's progress. We are asking Australians from all walks of life about their goals and aspirations for Australia's progress. What kind of country do we want to live in? We're calling this consultation MAP 2.0, as we want to update our publication with the feedback we receive.

Why are we doing this?
The reason we're asking for the goals and aspirations of Australians is if we want to know if Australia is progressing, we have to know what it is we are progressing towards. Once we know our progress goals, we can better measure how we're tracking towards them. It's our role, as statisticians to measure our progress, but it is the role of the community to determine what progress means. What is appealing about this process is that it applies to any level and any community. There can be national aspirations which a publication like MAP can measure, and there can be local community aspirations which local projects can measure. As the goals and aspirations of each community might be different, this approach allows to take in that diversity.

Progress so far... ?
We're hoping to generate a national conversation about Australia's progress, similar to the global dialogue that the Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi Commission called for. The ABS has been a leader in this field for some time. We first released MAP in 2002 and it was seen as a groundbreaking and somewhat controversial publication back then - raising the profile of environmental statistics. Now that has become the norm. The ABS would like to continue to be a leader in this field so we're having a fresh look at MAP. Plus there are many other projects that are looking at the progress and wellbeing of societies, so we'd like to learn from their experiences. We've created some maps, calling them "Indicator Land" maps to demonstrate the number of projects. They're not a comprehensive list of projects, more of a visual aid to demonstrate the explosion of interest in this field.

Blog to be released soon...
As part of our consultation, we're launching our blog on 29th August, with help from several prominent Australians to start a national dialogue. I won't tell you who they are as we're in the process of finalising the list. Our aim is that people will provide comments and share their goals and aspirations for Australia's progress on our blog. This post is a bit of shameless self-promotion by us :)

As part of the consultation we've already visited each ABS office in the state capitals in Australia and held workshops to collect people's goals for Australia. Also, we've gathered groups of experts to help refine progress aspirations for Australia. The aspirations we collect, along with the comments and feedback we hope to receive on our blog, will feed into a report and eventually a new version of MAP. We hope to release our report in time for the next World Forum in India.

If you can't wait for the launch of our blog and would like more information, you can read our submission booklet or the feature article in MAP 2010 to get a better idea of what we're doing.

Stay in touch!

Serhat Turut

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