For kids' sake: repairing the social environment for Australian children and young people

6 Sep 2011

The wellbeing of many children had deteriorated in the past 10 to 15 years.


For very good reasons, Australians of all ages, backgrounds and political persuasions are concerned about the environment. What we do now in terms of looking after the environment will affect the nation not only in the present, but for generations to come. Rightly, we are thinking about what legacy we are going to leave our children, and their children, in terms of the natural world on which we all depend.

However little attention has been paid to the social environment in which our children are growing up, and the dangers that the deterioration of this environment presents for the future. Indeed, many of us may not even be aware of how bad things are becoming.

One of the reasons is that any report card on the wellbeing of the nation’s children is likely to be mixed. Australia remains the Lucky Country in many respects. The wellbeing of Australian children has improved on a number of measures in the last decade or so, in particular in terms of physical and economic wellbeing. Yet overall levels of wellbeing, and even upward trends for the majority of the population, can disguise increasingly serious problems for many children. When the position of the nation’s most troubled children and young people is considered, there are indications that all is not well, and that on numerous measures, the situation is deteriorating at an extraordinarily rapid pace. There has also been a decline, more generally, in the psychological wellbeing of young people. As a society, we may be healthier and wealthier than a generation ago, but contentment has proved much more elusive.

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