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Redefining progress: global lessons for an Australian approach to wellbeing

Public service Policy Policy analysis Well-being Australia

Australians believe people’s wellbeing should be the guiding purpose of government. And the view is broadly shared by public officials – both elected representatives and bureaucrats – that government decision-making should advance wellbeing. Despite this, the tools available to decision-makers do not always readily account for the things that matter most to the people they serve, and Australia does not yet have robust, tested frameworks that ensure government decisions advance wellbeing.

This is far from unique to Australia. Countries around the world have encountered obstacles in their pursuit of a wellbeing approach to government decision-making.

The purpose of wellbeing frameworks is to optimise wellbeing itself, not to optimise the practice of measuring wellbeing, yet only a few countries have taken further steps to integrate wellbeing measures into decision-making. It is on this point – the translation of measurement and principles to practical policy – that we see wellbeing economy approaches stumble.

Governments that have placed a higher priority on this difficult question (such as Wales) have experienced the most success in delivering wellbeing approaches to government decision-making.

The production of explicit practical guidance for decision-making throughout the public service takes wellbeing beyond abstract rhetorical statements and connects it more directly to day-to-day policy design, decision-making and implementation.

In this report, the authors use the language of ‘wellbeing approaches’ and ‘wellbeing economies’ to refer to a wide spectrum of approaches within government and policy-making.

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